A recent on-line article touched me – mainly because after forty-two years marriage, I appreciate the wisdom in the advice we did not receive when we married:
Few people consider sickness and suffering when picking a mate. They consider how the other person might look in the morning or what bad habits they might have. They consider what offspring they could produce or what extended family they might bring to the reunion. Yet, few people ever consider what is a vital question — can I suffer with this person? (The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Marry)
No one ever told us to think about companionship in suffering as a quotient in a successful marriage equation when we married! In 1972, our pre-marital session lasted barely an hour. (July 29, 1972)
The rector never mentioned assessing the suffering quotient in every marriage. Only later, I learned he refused the invitation to our reception because he was the primary caregiver for his wife, who had been gravely injured during a routine surgery. I wonder how Doug and I would have received a candid description of what loving, honoring comforting and keeping looks like when an accidental injury incapacitates a beloved spouse in the prime of life?
In that counseling session, had the rector asked us how we could foresee coping with suffering, or how we would describe our beloved’s suffering skills – I would have been embarrassed to describe mine: Denial, denial, denial! Although, I would have been quick to say that Doug seemed to be smart, kind and resourceful.
Through our marriage, however, all the smarts, kindness, and resourcefulness were never enough for the potholes in which we stumbled. Nor was denial much of a help.
What has gotten us through has not been our charm – which I am prone to lose! An infinitely smart, patient, kind and resourceful God has walked us through water I feared too deep, and flames too high for my comfort. (Isaiah 43)
When I look around, I see that the flood waters in this old world, and the pain its flames inflict are not receding – it gets scarier and more confusing. I know from seeing others’ experiences, the last innings are not always the easiest to play.
It is a very new and different time in which Doug and I live; the world doesn’t much change. In 1972, supporting a spouse through suffering never included affirming their controlling their departure from unspeakable pain and suffering, or the indignities that come with diseases. (Brittany Maynard)
In forty plus years, medical technology seems to have outrun our ethics – we have fewer answers to the many questions of dying with dignity. The brass in the “Golden Years” is flat out scary! God knows when I see what some have endured, I put a hand over my mouth lest I blurt out what Job’s wife did! (Job 2:9)
What I would add to the to the pithy advice Mr. Thompson offers when he asks, Does this person suffer well, (assuming you yourself suffer well) are two questions:
· Is your intended spouse, teachable? [Are you?] And . . .
· Is your beloved willing to consider God is not only behind the good times, but also in charge of the calamities that slam into us all? (Isaiah 45:7) Are you?
God increase our hearing when You say --
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.