Being a newlywed during a pandemic certainly has it’s struggles. Like being quarantined with your husband or being completely isolated from him. Both sides of that come with their own set of challenges. But what about actually contracting the virus, from your husband, and being sick at the same time? This was not in our newlywed plans. Being sick never is, but it happens and will happen again. That’s why our traditional vows include “in sickness and in health”. It’s the promise we make to be each other’s care takers. It’s the promise we make without knowing how we will have to keep it.
My husband always comes home from his time away with something for me from where he’s been. Usually just something small like a candy you can only get in that part of the world. This time, this time he came home with a virus. The Corona Virus to be exact. The dreaded Covid-19 has finally made its way into our home and into our bodies. I say he brought it to me because that’s just the facts, he had it first and now I have it. Not because I blame him or hold it against him. Although, I have let myself slip with comments like “you got me sick” several times.
The last two weeks have been miserable in our home. It started with my husband being a big baby with what we thought was just the “man flu”. His typical jet lag flu that he comes home with after each significant amount of time spent in a foreign country for his career. Of course, I served him in his sickness, but if I am true to myself and to you, I definitely rolled my eyes and laughed with my friends about it. Men really don’t take sickness well, do they? In hindsight, I could have been a more caring wife and taken him more seriously in his sickness. Not only could I have, I should have.
It wasn’t until I started to feel sick alongside him that I realized this was not “just the man flu” but something more serious. Something that demanded attention and respect. It was Covid-19 and we both needed to care for one another even when our own bodies were breaking down with this virus. We took turns preparing meals, caring for each other and the dog who could not be neglected just because we weren’t up for it. That’s the thing about being sick, we might not be “up for” anything, but responsibilities don’t just go away because we don’t feel like tending to them.
This has not been an easy two weeks, and it continues to not be easy. As I am writing this, I am mentally and physically exhausted, with a migraine, sinuses, no taste or smell, sitting still to avoid over exertion, and aching all over. Why am I writing when I feel so lousy? Because I can’t sleep and I have spent my morning seeking God, asking Him to use even this for good, and so, here we are.
As I was praying of how God could possibly use my husband and I experiencing Covid-19 for good, I realized that this is what we signed up for. We made a promise to one another: “in sickness and in health”. We made a commitment to care for one another even in sickness. I used to think this just meant “if you’re sick, I’ll care for you”. But what I’ve come to learn that it means is, “if I’m sick, I’ll still care for you”, too. This is real life. This is marriage. It’s sometimes days at home, both of you sick, doing your best to care for each other. This is the good that comes from this, the realization that even on our sick days, our love for one another isn’t worn out, tired, or too much to deal with. Our love stays a responsibility to one another, and needs to be tended to.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2.
Our responsibility in our marriage is to hold the other up and keep each other strong, encouraged, and loved. Our responsibility is to care for one another. God calls us to care for the sick, including our husbands, and even instructs us in how. He really is the anecdote we need for all things, so where better to turn than to Him in our sickness. It takes patience to care for a sick husband, even if I were feeling one hundred percent myself, it would take patience. It takes love and kindness and selflessness. And it takes prayer. We can’t care for someone without the help from God who cares for us.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:14.
What is your first thought as a wife when your husband is sick? Is it to become frustrated that you now have to pick up the slack? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But what if our reaction was more biblical? What if our first thought was not of all the things we now have to do to care for our sick husband, but to pray for him and ask others in our community to pray for him as well? God’s Word instructs us to respond to sickness with prayer, and it also instructs us to bear one another’s burdens. (James 5:14, Galatians 6:2). The burden that comes with not feeling your best is a lack of motivation and ability to get anything done. Sharing that load, even if it’s just a literal load of laundry or dishes, to help the other out is actually the biblical thing to do. Picking up the slack when the other is sick is exactly what God asks of us in marriage.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4.
If I were to only focus on myself the last two weeks, our marriage would look something like this: Me in bed, making demands of what I need, whining how bad my head and body hurt, only concerned with the way I was feeling. My husband, feeling equally bad, would probably be doing much of the same. Instead of caring for each other, there would be a whole lot of resentment and aggravation going on. Not that there wasn’t, even just a little. We certainly played the “who got who sick” game for a short while.
But God reminded me with His Word in 1 Corinthians that I am not to be self-centered, even when sick. “Love is not self-seeking”. (1 Corinthians 13:5). With that in mind, the last two weeks in our marriage looked like this: “What can I make for you to eat?”, “How can I help you?”, “What needs to be done?”, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that”, “Can we do this together so it get’s done easier?”. My husband and I found a way in our sickness to still care for one another and carry each other through. Yes, there was complaining in between, but as the days went on we figured out how to best care for one another in the way God calls us to.
What does that mean? That means we carried the burdens of sickness together, and for each other. Wives, God calls us to carry these burdens together as husband and wife. He calls us to care for one another. He calls us to submit to our husbands, allowing them to care for us. He calls us to pray, and more specifically, to pray for the sick.
God’s Word reminds us of our commitments to both each other and to Him. When we spend time in prayer and in scripture, it is easier to stay centered on Christ within our marriage, even on the sick days. Having Covid-19 is no excuse to treat each other unkind, be selfish, or unloving. Even the man flu is not an excuse for me to roll my eyes at my husband, I promised I would care for him and I must keep that promise. I think we can learn a few things about that part of our vows from scripture, I know I have. I’ve learned the response to sickness should no longer be the selfish eye roll while thinking of the things I now have to do for my husband. I’ve learned that even in my own sickness, my responsibilities as a wife to care for my husband are still necessary. I’ve learned to let my husband care for me on my sick days, and not to take that care for granted.
Sick days are going to happen in our lifetime together as husband and wife. The sick days might even be sick months or years for some. Like I said, we make that promise without ever knowing what it will take to fulfil it. It’s not fun to be sick in any way. It’s not easy. But our marriage was built on the foundation of Jesus, so it does not have to be fun or easy all the time, because it’s solid. It’s solid in sickness and in health. We don’t get to choose one or the other.
On the days of sickness, what will you choose for your response? Will you be the wife who rolls her eyes at her husband, frustrated with the extra load you’ll have to carry for a bit? Or will you be the wife who prays for her husband, carries the load alongside him or for him, and loves him selflessly through his sickness? Let’s pray and work to be the second wife, the wife who serves God in the way she serves her husband on the sick days. Let’s be the wife, who even in her own sickness, still cares for her husband, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:12). Let’s treat our husbands exactly how we’d like them to treat us when it comes to sickness and health.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12.