I had a wonderful week visiting with my grandbaby. She is so sweet and cuddly. I actually got to keep her overnight for one day to give my daughter a break. My daughter relished the break and said she fell asleep immediately and was unconscious the entire night.
The weather in LA was overcast and cool, not the typical California sunshine I had hoped for. Today I’m experiencing jet lag and time change. I did not sleep all night so I pray I can function today.
While I was away I read another interesting quote from Francis Frangipane. I’d highly recommend getting his book Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God. You can get it used at amazon.com.
He writes, “Do not hide your darkness expose it. Do not sympathetically make excuses for it, confess it. Hate it. For as long as darkness remains darkness, it rules you. But when you bring darkness out into the light, it becomes light. When you take your secret sins and boldly come unto the throne of God’s grace and confess the, He cleanses you from all unrighteousness.”
As I pondered this quote, I thought it applied not only to our secret sins, but also the darkness and shame we hide from others. Our addictions, our self-pity, or the things that happened to us in the past that we feel damaged by, keep us imprisoned. We feel trapped by the darkness. When it remains hidden, it rules us. Once we expose these things to the light, they become light. God can now use them and redeem them for his glory. Satan can no longer taunt us with our sins or our shame or our hurts because they are now in the light where we find healing and truth.
I’d encourage you to try three things this week.
1. Be authentic – no pretending that you’ve got it together when you’re dying inside. Radical honesty is called for if we are to live in the light.
2. Live courageously - We need courage to be where we are and not hide. Courage is necessary in order to bring the darkness out and expose it to the healing light of God’s love.
3. Practice grace – We all fear rejection and shame from others when we expose our darkness. We need grace to love and accept one another right where we are so that we can experience God’s grace and healing.
Today’s Question: I am a man and I am disabled. I am in an abusive relationship. Since the onset of my multiple sclerosis, I am mostly bedridden now, after 7 years. My wife has progressively drifted away. She does not care for me. She does not care for the children, nor the home. She goes out every day, socializes and plays tennis. She will not work. We are broke. They key issue is there is no communication. We have been in counseling, she ignores it. She is not a bad person but her worldview is so different, she sees no wrong in what she is doing and she manages to justify her lifestyle.
I cannot discuss anything with her, she has learned she can just turn her back on me and walk away from my bed. I have provided for her and cared for her for over 20 years in our marriage, but once I got ill, our relationship changed. I have my faults but I have never wronged her.
I’m mostly concerned about our children, 14 and 18. They are dependent on me and my health is failing quite fast. I don’t know what to do. Do you have any advice?
Answer: I am so sorry and I feel for your dilemma. It is not uncommon for the partner of a disabled person to act this way. Perhaps it’s part selfishness (thinking that it’s not fair that her life stops just because yours has changed), part fatigue in the caretaking role and a desire to have a life of her own, and part anger at you, and or God (albeit unwarranted, but understandable) for getting sick.
Chronic illness in a marriage requires we step up and grow up pretty fast. Some people allow God to fill them with an incredible ability to lovingly care for their spouse without resentment. Other spouses don’t want that kind of personal challenge or responsibility and excuse and justify their indifference and/or abusive behavior or sometimes leave the marriage all together.
You feel stuck because your options are limited. It’s not as if you can move out and take care of yourself. However if you are being physically abused, I'd encourage you to call the police. There are laws against spousal abuse as well as abuse of disabled persons and you do not have to allow yourself to be mistreated. But I sense from your letter that the abuse you're feeling is more of an indifference and chronic neglect of your needs.
First, I’m wondering if you belong to a church that can step in and help you now? Typically churches respond wonderfully to a person in crisis but aren’t so good with people who are chronically ill. But here is an opportunity for your church to learn how to do that better and to give care to someone. I’d encourage you to call your pastor, ask him to come over to visit and explain the situation without disrespecting your wife. You can say something like, “For whatever reason, she is unable to unwilling to take care of me or our home right now. I need some help and I’m wondering if there are some people in the church who would be willing to come by once a week or so to help me and the kids.” They might provide meals, do laundry, clean up, or provide some physical assistance to you such as rides to doctor’s appointments, helping you get dressed, or other things. I also think this is important because you indicate that your health is getting worse and that your children may need additional support from godly people if or when that happens.
Second, you indicate you are broke but how is your family paying the bills? I assume you are receiving some sort of disability payments but that hardly will cover a family of four. How does she handle money or feel about the financial situation you’re in? Is she willing to discuss at least the finances? If you stay factual and unemotional, perhaps she would be willing to discuss a plan for bringing more income into the home. For example you might say, “We’re 3 months behind in our mortgage (or whatever is factual and real in your situation) and we don’t have enough money to buy groceries this week. What do you think we should do? My disability just isn’t covering our bills.” Then stop talking and let that reality sink in. Wait for her to answer. Don’t blame or get angry, just state the facts and let them lay heavy in the middle of the room. See if she can recognize that she’s not taking enough responsibility for the family load. If she acts angry or irritated about having to get a job, don’t argue with her, just tell her that if you could work you would and you appreciate her willingness to get a job to help out.
Third, you need some emotional support. I don’t know if you are mobile or able to get on the computer but I’d encourage you to get involved in a multiple sclerosis support group. I’m sure your physician can recommend a local one or find one on line. In addition, Joni and Friends (joniandfriends.org.) ministers to the disabled and Rest Ministries (restministries.org.) is a website devoted to helping those with chronic illness. Much of the content is geared to women but the issues and struggles are the same. They have seminars during invisible illness week that you can attend on your computer that host guest speakers who talk about various issues pertaining to the struggles of living with a with chronic illness, including the effects on marriages.
Lastly, if possible continue your own counseling, even if your wife won’t attend. It is crucial that you receive encouragement and support for handling your negative and painful emotions as this will have an effect on your health. It’s impossible to live in this situation without struggling with some toxic emotions of your own. Sometimes counselors will do telephone sessions if you are unable to make regular in-office appointments. Perhaps you and your children could also do some family sessions, even if your wife refuses to attend. If she sees that you are taking some positive action to take care of yourself and take care of your needs, perhaps she will be more willing to have further conversation about the state of your marriage.
I’m sorry I don’t have any magic bullet that will turn things around for you. Life is very hard at times. Yet, prayer is one thing that can keep us sane and peaceful, even in an extremely trying and painful situation. I will pray for you as I’m sure my readers will too. Let me leave you with this prayer that the apostle Paul prayed for his friends. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace, because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). God Bless.