Walking with my spouse through cancer was quite a journey; but one that ultimately resulted in growth, maturity and spiritual renewal, Even though it was a path I never would have chosen, I feel blessed and humbled to have gone through that storm with him and am thankful for the valuable lessons it taught me early in our marriage. Here’s a sneak peak into my thoughts and heart as I reflect on the lessons that changed my life forever.
1. Life is harder than you could ever imagine. Cling to God first and then each other.
Tough times and the storms of life are unavoidable, but you are not alone. God is there, every step of the way, holding your hand and guiding you down the path of the great unknown. Sometimes you may not feel that He is there and long for a tangible expression of His faithfulness, wishing He could express Himself to you in someway. Good news! We have that concrete proof of His love and support when we open His Word;the Bible. Those are His words that He spoke to you! Explore God’s Word and experience His peace and guidance for yourself. Trust that God loves you and has a plan for your life, even if you have no idea what that plan is or where He may be leading you. Rest in the peaceful promise that nothing takes Him by surprise or is too great for His power and might to handle.
Praying with your spouse is one of the most beautiful experiences a couple can share. It humbles you, unifies you and reminds your heart that there is another earthly being with a common goal. While it may take awhile for this to feel natural, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. In fact, start your time together reading from the Word of the Lord. Here are a few verses to get you started:
2. Say I love you 1,000 times a day.
Maybe that number is a slight exaggeration, but don’t hold back those three important words from your spouse and loved ones. We assume that they know how we feel, but it is crucial to say it out loud and mean it. OFTEN! Sometimes due to busyness, anger, or just plain timidity, we hold back our feelings, yet God calls us to show His love to others every opportunity that we can. I wholeheartedly believe we are do do so with words and not just actions. Hubs’ cancer diagnosis not only reminded me of how much I love my spouse, but how I needed to tell him every opportunity I get. I don’t want him to go one single day without knowing what he means to me, and I find that it blesses my life by uttering those three little words and make him feel important.
3. Life is shorter than you could ever imagine. Treasure.Every.Second.
It sounds cliche, but it could not be more true. Grab a hold of those you love and cherish every minute of your time together. You never know when it could abruptly come to end or if something could drastically change the path you are currently on. Take pictures, make memories and live life to the fullest with those you hold dear. Living with the end in mind will keep you grounded on whom you want to be when you take your last breath, so get out there and make your life count.
4. A love worth living means letting go of the small stuff and not carrying a grudge.
Personally, I love to be right. In any situation. I love to be right. BUT, a cancer diagnosis changed my constant need to be right and helped me to let go of small, petty arguments that in the long run, just don’t matter. This disease helped me remember what is important in life; my relationship with the Lord and the ones with my family and friends. I can’t fully embrace a relationship with the loved ones in my life if I am holding onto anger and pent up feelings and frustration. More importantly, it impacts spiritual growth and damages communication with my Heavenly Father. It is difficult to pray when you are harboring feelings of resentment! This is still a HUGE weakness of mine, just ask Hubs, but I am a work in progress. It is such a freeing feeling to lay anger at the feet of Jesus and choose to move forward in life without the shackles of bitterness holding me back!
5. Support your spouse no matter what.
A relationship is full of changes as life progresses and moves forward. Don’t be surprised when your spouse changes too and realize that change can be a great thing! Make an effort to be involved in those changes and show your support in a variety of ways. In our short 10 years of marriage, we have experienced job loss, career change, going back to school, death, cancer and a whole laundry list of other life changers. But through it all, I have tried to be supportive as we worked through changes together. It’s not always easy and by no means do I have it all figured it out. But I do know that men desire respect above all else and it is important to their well-being to know they are supported through seasons of upheaval and uncertainty.
6. Be real and completely honest with those in your life.
I used to be able schmooze with the best of them and loved the opportunity to do so, but facing the reality of a sick spouse robbed me of the ability to be charming. And I count it a blessing! Gone are the fake smiles and half- hearted attempts at catching up with a long lost acquaintances. Far removed are the smoke-and-mirrors and the illusion that I have life figured out. Because here’s a secret: I DON’T have it all figured out and I am FAR from perfect! So why would I put on the show that we are a perfect family with me, the perfect Pinterest mom, leading the way for my perfect children, holding hands and singing songs in a constant state of bliss? That’s just not how life works, no matter what someone’s Facebook profile says!
Instead of counterfeit relationships, a humble, genuine interest in others has emerged and I desire to build authentic friendships. I am drawn to those who are willing to bare their souls, imperfections and all, and just be real together. It is so freeing when you put down the mask and reveal whom God created you to be, despite what others may think.
7. People will surprise you!
I was astounded at the number of those who came forward to help during our time of need! People gave in amazing ways during this storm and I was blown away! Never had I experienced the love of Jesus in such a tangible way! Some blessings included offering prayers, making meals, supporting us financially, offering comic relief and even sending us on a much needed vacation once the chemo was complete. Not only could we feel the prayers that others lifted on our behalf, but the Lord used HIS people to show HIS love to us a concrete way. We are forever indebted to those who poured out His blessings to us during a time when our spirits needed lifting and our hearts needed healing.
But sometimes, even your closest friends just don’t know what to say or do to be the comfort that you need and crave. Sometimes those you love most are at a loss as to how to be there for you, even though they want to be supportive. Their absence may seem like indifference, but more than likely, they just didn’t know how to cope with the news themselves or how to be there for you. So if friendships are changed or dissolved in time of hardship, don’t be surprised. Instead, trust in God’s perfect plan, cling Him and learn to rely on Him solely for fulfillment and support.
8. Adjust your expectations of others.
Jesus was perfect in every way and never sinned. Yet here we are, living a world of full of fallen sinners, made of flesh, ready to fall into temptation at any moment. It’s unrealistic to think that people will never stumble and fall and disappoint you. I tend to hold my family and friends to insanely high expectations and need to remember they are simply human like me. So fix your eyes on Jesus, and Jesus alone. While our friends and family are crucial to our earthly lives, they are not meant to bring us deep-rooted fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. They can only provide temporal contentment. The one true source of joy and lasting fulfillment is Christ alone. I know how quickly my focus can shift away from Jesus and on to people, longing for true gratification that only He can provide. Yet the void inside of all us, the one longing to be filled by something or someone, will never be filled by things or people of this world. That void can be filled only by God, our Creator and the One who truly knows us, and loves us anyway. So keep those expectations in check by reminding yourself that those in your life are mere humans, and offer large doses of grace as they too, try to fumble their way through this life.
9. Never stop laughing.
Going through a tough times sometimes zaps our ability to find humor in the every day, but don’t lose your sparkle. Find something to laugh at everyday, especially with your spouse. I find that in hard times I am drawn to comedies instead of dramas or romances simply for the comedic escape and enjoy sharing them with friends and families. Sometimes a good laugh is exactly what the doctor ordered to escape reality and to lift your spirits. I love that joking and laughter has always been a large part of our marriage, but more so after enduring hardship together. In fact, if I had the amazing sense of humor Hubs has, he would play practical jokes all the time!
10. Be a servant to your spouse and to others.
Serving your spouse isn’t just crucial to a healthy marriage, it’s a Biblical command. Being a servant doesn’t have to be an elaborate plan with grand gestures. Keep it simple and try to look for small ways you can show your mate you care. Simple acts of serving include setting the timer on the coffee maker, leaving a note for your spouse in the morning, completing a chore without being asked, letting them have the last piece of pizza, or scheduling downtime without the kids.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s a choice to love your spouse well. I am more than guilty of putting Hubs last and often show him the tired, ragged version of me at the end of the day. I wish I could say that walking through cancer cured me of this, but it is a daily struggle of mine, and an area I consistently pray for growth. While I need to give myself grace, I continually want to strive to serve him and give him the best version of myself.
Serving others is the same way. Look for opportunities throughout the day to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Send a message to a friend who is struggling, bake some cookies as a way to say thank you, watch a friend’s kids so she can have a break. I love to receive a handwritten letter and always appreciate those who take the time to send a kind word of encouragement.
These are just a few, simple ways to serve but whatever act of service you choose, don’t forget to be intentional and to not expect anything in return.
We’ve all been through some storms in life. What lessons have you learned from those situations and how have they changed you? I would love to hear from you and how God has used a struggle for His glory!