Watch out for this response: “I’ll try harder.” Men, in particular, are prone to say this, but given what I have learned, such a response is certain to fail. They might have good intentions, but this is foolishness for those who know Jesus. It sets us out on an independent path—without God—and as a result, without our spouse. If you think that you can do it on your own, you are, indeed, on your own.
In biblical counseling, we certainly hope to speak and write what is true. Even more, we prefer to write what is both true and lived. This story has been lived in marriage, which, for me, is a laboratory of love and wisdom that I hope affects my other relationships.
Over the last six months, my wife has had some erratic and difficult physical symptoms. From the moment they started, I knew they were alarming to her—and she rarely gets alarmed. Within the first few days, I knew that the symptoms were not simply going to pass, so I was committed to going through them with her. I didn’t know all the details of what that meant, but I knew it meant that I wanted to be a compassionate partner.
A month after the symptoms emerged, I had to go out of town for two nights. Though I think she misses me during those times, usually life remains business as usual for her. So I was surprised when she asked, “Do you have to go?” She had never asked such a question before. I responded that yes, I thought it best for me to go. As usual, I called her while I was gone. She mentioned that she was concerned about staying home by herself, which seemed unusual because she is not prone to fear. She said that the uncertainty about her health concerned her and thought it might be better to have other people around. When I called her the next day, she told me that she slept at our younger daughter’s house. When I asked why, she said because she didn’t want to die at home alone, scaring whoever would find her.
This motivated me to be more attentive and more determined to enter in, know her, and bear the burden with her. I knew that she wanted me to share in this experience, and I wanted to do that very thing. To that end, I would often ask her, “How are your symptoms today?” and “Tell me more about them; help me to understand.” I was confident that if I worked at understanding her, I could do it.