On our wedding day, one of the promises we make to our spouse is to be with him/her and “in sickness and in health”. It’s something we say but don’t really ponder for long because our wedding day is supposed to be happy, right? So, what does it really look like to live out this vow?
Sickness can run the gamut from a simple cold to a life-threatening illness. In either scenario, we have an opportunity to show great love, kindness, and patience to our spouse. The longer the illness, the harder it becomes.
I have seen the hardship of a serious illness nearly destroy the love and respect between a couple, but I have also seen couples come together with tremendous love, faith, and unity to support one another and overcome the sickness.
Some of you might be fighting a major disease right now. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family. No matter what the doctors or test results tell you, I want you to know that there is hope. I love these verses in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12,
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
As husband and wife, we are going to experience various trials throughout our marriage — many that we never see coming. However dire it may appear, we MUST come together and help one another. God gave us a great gift in one another, and HE is with us. This “cord of three strands”, as described in the verse, is you, your spouse, and God. There is tremendous hope when all three are tightly intertwined.
Whether you are going through a season of illness right now or you are both currently healthy, here are 7 important things to do when your spouse is sick:
1. Acknowledge the illness.
When our spouse is sick, the worst thing we can do is act like this problem doesn’t exist. We must acknowledge the pain he/she is in and the fear that one has when facing a major illness. We need to stay close and offer encouragement but also realize that the only way we can fight the illness is to first address that the illness exists.
2. Be there.
If at all possible, we need to try and be at all the major appointments…especially if our spouse has requested that we be there. Sometimes, it might not make sense to us, but we still need to do it. Our presence can bring peace if we let it. We can be there to physically take care of them, pray with them, hold their hand, console them, and even cry with them if they receive some bad test results. We need to be present to remind our spouse how much we love him/her and that we aren’t going to leave his/her side through this struggle.
3. Lighten the load.
When we are facing a dangerous upcoming surgery or intense treatment, the fear and anxiety that ensues can be overwhelming. No matter which partner is going through the illness, it can affect both. As the healthy spouse, we need to try and bear the load with our spouse as much as possible. When he/she is having a particularly hard day with pain and anxiety, we need to try and get him/her out of the house. Sometimes we just need to create a diversion like going to a movie, eating lunch at his/her favorite restaurant, or taking a walk outside to get some fresh air. It’s okay to laugh together. Laughter and smiles are good for the soul. Other times, we just need to listen…to their concerns, fears, details about the surgery or treatment, etc.. Whatever we do, our willingness to jump in and lighten the load will help our spouse to face this trial without being overtaken by the weight of it all.
For more on understanding your spouse’s anxiety, be sure to read “5 Things your ANXIOUS SPOUSE Wants You to Know”.
4. Honor his/her requests.
In an age of social media, we can let the entire world know about every little detail of our lives with a few clicks on the computer. Facebook is a great place to ask for prayers and even needs, but we need to check with our spouse first. Recently, some friends of ours have been facing a debilitating illness, and they have decided to only tell a few friends about it. They did this only because they didn’t want too many people showing up at the hospital or unannounced drop-ins at their house. This may sound harsh to some of you, but I get it. Sometimes we want to put the news out there and accept the help and prayers, but other times we just want our inner circle to know. And, that’s okay. We have to sensitive to what our spouse requests during this season.
5. Ask for help.
This is especially important when we are going through a long health battle with our spouse. If we face something like cancer, the treatments can last for months and even years. In order to maintain a job, family life, and some sense of normalcy, we are going to need help. We can’t be prideful and think that we can face all these challenges alone. We need to reach out to friends and family we trust, and sometimes, that means hiring a reliable babysitter, nurse, or cleaning person who can help out during this time. There is no shame in that at all, and in fact, the extra hands will allow us to spend more time with our spouse.
6. Talk about it.
Being there, day in and day out, with a spouse who is very ill can certainly take a toll on our own mind and heart. It’s important that we have “safe” people in our lives that we can talk to about what we are going through. This person can be a SAME-GENDER friend, counselor, pastor, or family member (unless a brother/sister or parent). He/she must be someone we can trust with the details of the illness as well as our feelings and someone who is encouraging and shares our faith. It’s important that this safe person is our same gender only to protect us against temptation and inappropriate relationships that could be harmful to our marriage.
7. Pray about it.
This might be the most important one of all. When we face a serious illness, so much is unknown. We need the power of God in our lives. He is our ultimate Healer. He can give us peace that surpasses understanding and a calm in the unpredictable storm. As spouses, we need to pray together and on our own. Pray for healing, peace, strength, good news, effective medicine, successful surgeries, and support. God hears our prayers and calms our hearts.
More than anything, we need to perceive this crisis of illness as an opportunity to honor our marital vow to love each other in both sickness and health. God will use this to strengthen our marriage and our faith if we don’t lose hope and stay strong together.
For more tips on how to love your family, you can preorder Dave Willis’ brand NEW book, “The 7 Laws of Love”, and receive a FREE chapter by clicking here.