Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Marriage, Chronic Illness, Christ, and the Church

Our wedding day in 2002

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 
Ephesians 5:22-33

Will and Rachel

Last week my husband, Will, and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. I look back with gratitude on the years we have shared together, and I thank the Lord for the blessings that we have experienced in our marriage affected by chronic illness.

I will never forget the wedding card given to us by a dear family that I babysat for as a teenager. In the card, they wrote, “We pray that God will bless your marriage such that it will be an example of Christ and His church.” Their prayer was a wonderful, biblical prayer. But, little did I know how God would so clearly answer that prayer!

When we married in 2002, I already had a chronic illness. At that time, I was still able to attend college, and after graduating I was able to work a part-time job for a while. However, less than two years after getting married, my health deteriorated to the point that I became disabled and homebound.

Suddenly, I needed my husband to do basic personal tasks and household chores that I previously could take care of on my own. I needed his help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping. I needed his help with transportation and maneuvering my wheelchair. There were even times when I needed help with personal care. And he was always faithful to help me.

Each day, Will sacrifices his comfort in order to care for my needs and perform the mundane household chores. As he faithfully serves me, he is an example of the sacrificial love of Christ. He shows me a small reflection of the great love that Christ showed me when He gave Himself on the cross for my sins. It is an incredible gift to be reminded day after day of the love of Christ through my husband’s service to me.

My husband has a high calling to display the love that Christ has for the church. I, too, have been given a high calling. As I respect and submit to my husband, I have the privilege of displaying the beauty of the church submitting to Christ. It is an honor to respect and submit to my husband as to the Lord.

Will and I are certainly not perfect, but I hope and pray that our marriage is a lovely picture of the gospel to those who see us. If our marriage can give a glimpse of the beauty of the gospel to a watching world, and if our marriage brings glory to the Lord, then all the difficulties of marriage with a chronic illness are more than worth it!

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. A godly marriage proclaims the gospel to the world. A chronic illness, or disability, in marriage does not mar that picture. A chronic illness or disability can, in fact, enhance the picture of the gospel!

How have you seen the gospel put on display through a marriage affected by a disability? If you are in a marriage affected by a disability, how does your marriage portray a picture of the gospel?

This article was originally posted on The Irresistible Church blog.

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