This weekend my husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. (You can read our "love story" here.) We took a much needed little trip this past week (the first time we had traveled just the two of us for pleasure since our first anniversary). While it was not a normal anniversary trip - I lied in the back of the car on an egg crate and slept while my husband drove and we were very limited on what we could do - it was surprisingly a good time of rest and encouragement for our marriage.
I've read several marriage books, blogs, and listed to speakers who stress the importance of weekly date nights and annual trips (or even more frequent if the couple can manage) away without children. But chronic illness often makes marriage very difficult - from the constant pain or fatigue to the financial struggles to the healthy spouse having to often fulfill both the husband and wife roles of the marriage - and date nights become just a distant memory. Marriage becomes more about surviving than intimacy, mutual support, or even just companionship.
Over the last couple of years I have frequented online forums with the chronic pelvic pain community and I have been so saddened by the number of divorces that have taken place. The healthy spouse basically gives up when life gets too hard, despite vowing to love and care for their spouse in sickness and in health.
Every time I see another spouse leave or stay with clenched fists and no support I realize that could be me, were it not for the grace of God. What keeps my husband committed to our marriage when our dreams of being missionaries overseas have been shattered and he is forced to work a low-paying job in a town he never wanted to live, when our intimate life is almost non-existent, when he often has to take over the domestic duties in addition to working a full-time job, and when there seems to be no end in sight to our troubles? God.
My husband is a great guy, but there is nothing in and of himself that would ever be able to withstand the hardships of our marriage apart from God working through him giving him love for me and helping him stay faithful.
Every night we read to our daughter from the Jesus Storybook Bible and through each story the author points the reader to "God's Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love". This is the kind of love we are to have for our spouse as marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Jesus gave his life for us and God will never stop loving and pursuing his children.
Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33), and marriage is not exempt from suffering. Our marriage is far from perfect and many days it is a sad representation Jesus and His church, but we press on by God's grace. We are not living our "best life now" but we have hope knowing "that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).
I am so thankful for my husband's faithfulness and commitment to me during these years of dealing with such a complex and difficult to treat condition. No matter what the future holds, I pray God will continue to keep us and strengthen our love for one another as we strive to stay married and serve God in sickness or in health.