Making Your Home a Stronghold in Marriage
Your daughter has cancer. Osteosarcoma is the most likely cause.
What does it mean?”
For her survival, we will likely have to amputate her limb.
In 2017, they made the diagnosis. Every parent fears this possibility more than anything else. The well-being of a kid was at risk, but so was much more. The marriage of Doug and Rochelle was in danger. They are convinced that if the diagnosis had come just a couple of years earlier, they’d be divorced right now. Their family story is a powerful testimony of why we need to keep our marriages growing strong, as none of us can anticipate the challenges we may eventually face that threaten to undercut the very foundation of our marriages. An emotionally detached marriage might survive an easy season, but what about when it feels like the walls are caving in?
When a crisis hits your household, one of two things will be true: your marriage will be part of the solution, or it will become part of the problem, thus becoming perhaps your biggest problem.
A Naïve Beginning
Doug and Rochelle met in college, got married young, and then promptly began growing apart. Shortly after their wedding, Doug finished up his schooling and got a teaching job while Rochelle started grad school. The result? “My life was very separate from his. In addition to attending classes, I was also working evening and weekend rehearsals and opera shifts. Daytime employment was Doug’s reality. Husbands who work during the day and wives who work at night or on the weekend are a recipe for a relationship that is doomed to failure. Thus started Doug’s sluggish descent into emotional isolation, which ultimately resulted in some very terrible choices on his part.
Worst Best Day Ever
Doug was “caught” about the time that their daughter, then fourteen, was given a diagnosis. Doug had lied to Rochelle for years, but now she had evidence that he had been unfaithful. Doug at first considered the day he was captured to be the worst of his life. He now considers that day to have been one of the happiest of his life since it was the catalyst for his deep and lasting rehabilitation.
He started seeing a certified therapist. He committed to attending and participating in twelve-step meetings. As part of his preparation, he listened to informative podcasts, read informative books, and consented to frequent clinical polygraph examinations during which Rochelle may question him anything. After a time of separation, during which Doug displayed true contrition, Rochelle was ready to forgive him and accept him back into the family.
Doug tells why it was so important for him to seek recovery before his daughter’s awful medical diagnosis: “God required me to get sober before she became ill.” Without my time spent in rehab, I would not have been able to fulfill my parental responsibilities to my daughter or my marital responsibilities to Rochelle. We were able to keep the marriage alive despite my lying when it wasn’t being tested, but there’s no way we could have made it through the stress of seeing our daughter through cancer treatment.
When my addiction was at its worst, I lived for the present. If I hadn’t conquered my addiction, I wouldn’t have been able to give my whole attention to my loved ones. I wouldn’t be the kind of dad and spouse I want to be.
We saw the other married couples on the cancer ward, and it wasn’t beautiful,” Rochelle says. An overwhelming majority of married couples do not survive a terminal cancer diagnosis. The nurses forewarned us that sadly, most marriages end in divorce. When your kid needs a stable environment to concentrate on becoming well, the house falls apart.
Please hear my appeal to couples: no matter how destructive the addiction or dysfunction is (porn, overspending, food, gambling, drug abuse, emotional affairs, or just indifferent distancing), it must be eradicated or the house will eventually collapse. You could “get away” with such dysfunction as long as the marriage is not under stress, but in today’s world, stress is inevitable. You can’t predict when, but you’ll definitely experience it soon. Building a solid marriage that can withstand the storms of life is a noble goal.
Doug was able and ready to do everything around the house that Rochelle used to do since Rochelle had spent so much time at the hospital with their daughter. I don’t know how Doug managed to be a spouse and a parent while having so many affairs. “His organizing abilities are over the roof,” Rochelle exclaims. But even he couldn’t have handled what happened next. Without his undivided attention, he couldn’t have kept the household operating well.
While Doug considers this, he says, “It concerns me to imagine what would have occurred, and how our daughter would have had to cope with divorced parents even as she struggled for her life.” It was uncomfortable to see other separated spouses in the hospital as they negotiated visitation schedules and other aspects of life as a single unit. What a blessing it is that our kid was spared that experience!
Their daughter had cancer and underwent ten months of therapy, including surgery; by God’s grace, she is now cancer-free and has retained her limb.
- First, if you want your marriage to be strong, you need to work on yourself.
Godliness is invaluable; as the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:8, it is more valuable than everything else.
As a person matures spiritually, they become more equipped to deal with a variety of challenges. Living a compromised life might leave you spiritually unable to weather the storms of life, as you may have depleted your reserves of personal strength, emotional stability, and social support. Because there will be moments when you need to rely on one other, a healthy marriage involves two strong people.
Joe and Janell’s only kid died only a few months short of his twentieth birthday. During the first year of their marriage, Janell was so overwhelmed by her husband’s support that she felt like she was floating through life. She recalls that at first, “95% Joe and 5% myself” provided the power that kept them going. But in the second year after the catastrophe, Joe began to unravel, and Janell found herself saying, “75% me and 25% Joe” to explain how they were staying together.
Now is the time to take care of yourself. Seek assistance if you need it to break destructive habits or overcome addictions that are testing your faith. You want to be weak when your loved ones need you to be strong, right?
- Make room in your heart for God’s Word.
““God’s Word is Alive and Working” Scripture verse: Hebrews 4:12.
Until adversity arises, time spent in the Word of God may seem like a luxury rather than a need.
Janell is an incredible example of faith in the face of tragedy. She had been a Bible scholar all her life, so when she needed a verse to protect her from sinking into despair, she turned to 2 Corinthians 5:8: “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
To my ears, “God didn’t simply take Garrett from us,” Janell said with all her might. He reportedly summoned Garrett for an important meeting. If God so wills, Garrett is now enjoying eternal life. I think Garret Luce is doing a magnificent job of answering God’s call on his life.
The true promise of the afterlife That which the Bible gives us sustains Joe and Janell to the point that they may, in a way, see some good in Garrett’s death. For example, “I don’t have to deal with a difficult daughter-in-law or the various challenges that emerge for parents of adult kids,” Janell explains. I’ve seen people cry over their adult children’s difficulties, such as their bad decisions, rocky marriages, or grave health worries for their grandkids. Some people see their older offspring spiral into alcoholism or divorce.
When her husband’s company failed, causing financial hardship for her family, Emma found comfort in the Bible. She didn’t want to end the marriage even though she and her husband had lost their home. It’s common for couples to argue over money when bills come in before paychecks, but Emma found comfort in Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd; I will want for nothing.” She told me that she had faith that God would provide for her every need, not because her husband was successful in business, but because God is her shepherd. That protected Emma and Billy from turning on one other and being furious at God, and kept them going toward each other and dependent on God.
- Involve yourself in your neighborhood.
While it’s true that certain people may be easily dominated,
Fortification by two is possible.
Three strands of a cable cannot be easily severed (Ecc. 4:12).
Tell me about the process through which Rochelle learned to forgive. She says, “It was really helpful to have a group of individuals who could relate to what I was going through and with whom I could be totally open and honest.”
Doug observes that the church as a whole isn’t always ready or able to help troubled couples. “It is crucial for either the spouse or the addict to allow themselves to have a support group. It’s important to be open and honest on the road to recovery and healing, despite the fact that the shame-based nature of addiction may make it difficult to do so.
It’s concerning and maybe harmful that modern churches are lacking in interpersonal connections. Doug and Rochelle both spoke about how their connections with people in recovery became stronger over time. After some thought, Doug comments, “I know every man in my twelve-step group pretty well—where they struggle, character faults and strengths, history, and family.” But I may not know their first name, favorite team, or even their last name. The reverse holds true in a religious setting. I’m well-versed in the superficial details of life but not the deeper, more spiritual challenges that others encounter.
When word of Garrett’s death spread, members of their church rushed to their home, and Janell will never forget the outpouring of support they received. To one of her friends, she stated, “I know 70% of couples will have a divorce after they go through this.” She then clutched at her friend’s lapel. My kid is already gone. Please save my marriage from certain disaster.
Over the course of the next years, Janell would often get SMS throughout the day that included biblical encouragements and written prayers. Eighteen months after their kid was killed in an accident, Janell called a group of guys and said, “Ya’ll gotta go get him.”
Attending worship services is often treated as if it were mandatory. Since we don’t feel we “need” it when things are going well, we tend to show up less often than we should. For the sake of this post, let me point out that there will come a moment when you need a community of faith to wrap its arms around you. Church is vital for many reasons, not only when we need it. If you wait for a catastrophe to strike before attempting to form this community, it will be too late. Let us think about ways in which we might encourage one another to acts of love and good actions, as the Bible instructs in Hebrews 10:24-25. Let us not cease gathering together, as some have taken to doing, but let us build each other up, and do so all the more as we see the Day drawing near.
My wife, Lisa, and I just relocated from Houston, Texas, where there are only two seasons (hot and warm), to Colorado, where we can experience all four. Though the spring season may be a pleasant time for your marriage, you should not rest on your laurels. Soon it will be winter. There will be a storm eventually. Assess your current relationship status and ask yourself, “If an unforeseen storm strikes our family, will our marriage be part of the issue or the solution?”
Don’t let your loved ones down when they really need you because you haven’t dealt with a terrible habit that’s weakening you. Engage your heart and mind with God’s word. When things are rough, it will shield you from the falsehoods of the adversary and shield you with truth, healing, and encouragement.
Tend to your church friendships with greater seriousness. The truth is, there are people who need you right now, and there will be a day when you need others too. Nothing good comes from going through life on your own.
Make the effort now to ensure that your marriage is strong enough to weather the storms ahead, rather than a shaky foundation from which you’ll fall.