Ask an Older Woman #22: Battling Weariness When Your Husband Is Ill

Editor’s note: In this series, our blogger team responds to questions from our readers. If you have a question of your own, you can share it with us here

Q: How do you prevent yourself from growing weary physically, mentally, and emotionally when taking care of your husband during a time of illness?

A: Remember your wedding day? You looked into your love’s radiant eyes and promised: “For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” You meant it. But you had no clue what those words would look like. You didn’t see cancer, end-stage renal disease, cardiac illness, or stroke when you promised to care for your spouse no matter what. Yet there you were, in all sincerity, telling the world that you would love your man in sickness and health.

Now your days are filled with doctor appointments, maybe chemotherapy or radiation treatments, X-rays, and invasive exams that have stripped away the sparkle from your man. You still love him, but illness has taken its toll. Perhaps his job is gone or is in jeopardy, and his sense of identity has been vanquished. Maybe he’s angry and taking it out on the only safe person he knows—you. Perhaps the ravages of illness have changed his personality so much, you feel as if you’ve already lost your husband. 

Each night, you tuck him in bed, praying against another rough night, hoping that daylight will find him feeling better. Yet relief doesn’t come. Day after day, you have done your best to care for him with little rest and lots of worry. You’ve missed church, time with your friends, or even work, because your husband’s care is now your 24/7 job. It’s not his fault, yet you may still resent it and then feel guilty. He needs more than you have to give. 

Who would be up for such a task? 

There should be a disclaimer to our vows: no human can keep these vows in her own strength. God, in His great kindness, holds us to our promises—to bring us to an end to ourselves and drive us to Him. Only Christ has the strength for such longsuffering. We cannot do it. We cannot stand on our own strength, no matter how resolved we may be. 

Given that reality, consider these pieces of advice:

1. Look away from your circumstances.

If you are to keep yourself from growing weary, you must look away from your circumstances and focus on Christ. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He answered them, 

Pray then, like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). 

Jesus, who knew every burning need a human could have, didn’t start His prayer with petitioning the Father to relieve earth’s most pressing needs. He taught his disciples to begin prayer with praise to God. This helps remind us that our God is bigger than our pain and suffering and reminds us of his holiness and power. 

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we don’t feel God draw near to us when we pray is because we treat Him more like a spiritual bellhop than the almighty, living God. Remember who He is and meditate on His power and might before you bring Him your needs. It is the best way I know to put your pain in perspective.

2. Take well-meaning advice with a grain of salt.

When we’re suffering, there always seems to be people that I call “friends of Job.” These people haven’t walked in your shoes and give quick, uninformed advice with little love or personal offers of help. If you encounter a friend who doesn’t seem to understand your situation and whose pat answers do you more harm than good, don’t debate with them. You don’t owe them an explanation. A smile and a thank-you will suffice. Save your energy for greater things.

3. Find yourself an Aaron.

In Exodus 17, Moses tells Joshua to go down with his men and fight Amalek. Moses and Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill, where Moses was holding out his staff. The Bible says that when Moses held the staff, Israel prevailed, but his hand grew weary. Aaron and Hur had to reinforce Moses’ hands so Israel could prevail. If this man, who had seen God personally, needed his brothers’ help, how much more do we need help from the Body of Christ. I have seen many wives resist this, or they insist, “I have no one.” It is imperative that you find a sister who can pray with you, who can keep her focus on caring for you as you care for your spouse. If you have spent time praying to God, focusing on His holiness and majesty, you can be confident that He is able to provide others to support your arms and help you persevere.

4. Consider: Are there other tasks that can be delegated to friends and family?

Can someone else keep others updated on your husband’s illness and help garner you relief? I learned of a woman’s Bible study who sponsored a private duty nurse to come in one day a week so their friend might have time off from caregiving. Can someone run errands or sit with your husband while you take a nap? Provide transportation to an appointment? Bring meals? Do some laundry or light housekeeping? Let others help you as they can. 

5. Remember that this season is not forever, even though it lingers.

Our pain is not eternal, neither is it pointless. We may not understand all that God is accomplishing in it, but His promise to us is every bit as real as our present pain:“We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16–18).

About the Author

Gaye Clark

Gaye Clark

Gaye Clark is a nurse case manager for Parkridge Health Systems in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has written for The Gospel Coalition, Servants of Grace, and many other online media outlets, including Revive Our Hearts. She is the widow of … read more …

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