When you read the title of this post, I’m sure you immediately thought of wedding vows. And that’s good, because that’s where I’m going with this.
However, I don’t think the phrase “in sickness and in health” carries the proper weight it should in marriage because it’s real meaning is missed by most of us.
I don’t believe it’s a matter of physical sickness and health. When a spouse comes down with a cold, sure it can cause the house a little friction while one person is under the weather and the other might have to pick up some slack, but it very rarely causes bursts of feelings to not love your spouse anymore or want out of the marriage. The same goes for major illness like cancer. I feel I can say with much confidence (even though I don’t have a firm “statistic”) that if we were to poll all the divorce lawyers in the world, they would not tell us that even 10% of divorces are because one spouse came down with a major illness. I’m not saying it NEVER happens. For all that’s worth, I’m sure somewhere along the way, someone has gotten divorced over every possible “factor” that we could think up simply because that’s how little we think of marriage and how easy divorce has become.
At any rate, I think our wedding vows, which are meant to last forever, include the phrase “in sickness and in health” to refer to our spiritual health.
There are all kinds of reasons why we become spiritually sick – and the divorce courts are FILLED with those reasons!!
Let me give you a few examples. And while you’re reading…. it might be good to think about if your spouse falls into any of these areas, or even yourself.
- An addiction (gambling, pornography, alcohol)
- Unforgiveness or bitterness (either of their spouse, or of someone else in their life)
- They have a messy friendship with someone that runs on negativity and gossip. This always spills over into every area of life and brings about more gossip, turmoil, dysfunction and conflict in all areas of life.
- Irresponsibility. Often times, one spouse in the middle of the tough years of raising little kids, will get a chance to go out and have fun a few times close together, and they get addicted quickly to the freedom. They then begin to be gone from home often and lose their call to responsibility in the stage of life they are in as a spouse and a parent.
- Solitude. They may have no spiritual friends or outlets.
- An affair (physical or emotional)
- Pride. They may feel like they are so much better than their spouse, and begin to look down their nose at the other person. (This happens OFTEN with women. And the more they think they sin “less” often or less severely than their husband, the more spiritually sick they become themselves.)
- Greed. This can play out in materialism, being a workaholic, or selfishness with time.
- Being unsaved. You can’t be anymore spiritually sick than if you don’t have a relationship with the Savior.
So what do you do when your spouse is spiritually sick?
You spiritually pick them up, carry them to alter, get on your knees, and GIVE them to the Lord. No matter what you do, you cannot heal your spiritually sick spouse. Mostly because, and this is important, You CANNOT play the Holy Spirit in your spouse’s life! The more you try to, the more you hinder the Holy Spirit from working.
There is no promise or guarantee that the moment you pray for your spouse, they are going to get spiritually well. If the Lord chooses to delay His answer, MORE THAN LIKELY – it’s because He is CHOOSING TO REFINE YOUR CHARACTER!!!
Trials in our lives (and the spiritual sickness of our spouse is a HUGE trial) are meant to develop perseverance. (Romans 5:3-4) God is refining our character and growing our faith. Just when you feel like you can’t pray one more time, or go on one more day, or forgive one more thing, you’re moved to dig deeper in yourself and trust God in a way you’ve never had to before. That strengthens us. It might be preparing you for something later in life where you’ll need more faith, or it might be so you can witness and share with someone else who needs the counsel of someone who has been there. Let me make one thing REALLY clear! GOD WASTES NOTHING! Our seasons of waiting, praying, crying, begging, being broken before the Lord, and trusting are ALL FOR OUR GOOD! We need to stop being the victim of our spouse’s spiritual sickness and start being the healthy one!!
I’m not suggesting that is easy. Growing in our faith is never easy. But as I’ve said before, when sin entered the world, easy left. The easy part is having a Savior who took the punishment for our sins and reconciled us to the Father. When we get to heaven, it’ll be freedom and ease like our minds can’t even fathom. Until then, it’s time to accept that it’s never going to be easy or fair.
Practical Application -
Recognize if the problems that arise in my marriage are because “I’m” spiritually sick. If so, pray for healing.
Recognize if the problems that arise in my marriage are because my spouse is spiritually sick. If so, stop playing the victim. Start holding up my end of the vow “in sickness and in health” and take them to the Father for healing. As well as, search my heart for the growing pains of being strengthened in my faith and thank God for preparing me for what is coming next and for making me healthy enough in the moment to rejoice and pray.
And ONE LAST practical application that is REALLY REALLY REALLY important. If you missed EVERYTHING I just wrote, and you skimmed to the bottom and you read NOTHING else today that will help your own marriage…. please don’t miss this.
If your friend is spiritually sick or has a spiritually sick spouse – and you see it, help them see it. If you are thinking your friend would be better off without their spouse or should get a divorce, (unless they are being abused) you are NOT really their friend and should NOT be giving them any counsel. End the relationship unless you can be FOR their marriage!