Finding Abundance in Sickness and in Health
By Caleb Eiler
This is the latest post in a series where guest bloggers will share their personal stories related to finding abundance. As we explore the unexpected circumstances that often arise in life, we’ll uncover how people found hope and encouragement along the way.
Two months after we said “I do,” an MRI revealed the aggressive, rare tumor on my wife’s left calf was growing. Four months later, her mobility significantly suffered and our vows were rapidly put to the test. The “honeymoon” phase of marriage was replaced with a steep learning curve as we uncovered what it truly meant to love one another in sickness and in health.
When the doctor confirmed the tumor’s return, we were both left a little stunned. As a newlywed, my immediate reaction was to throw my full support behind every decision she made. It felt like the least I could do—support her however she needed while navigating a difficult situation.
My whole life, the meaning of the words “in sickness and in health” meant that one should put their partner’s needs above their own as they encountered health challenges. I interpreted the phrase as an outpouring of oneself.
Taking on that mentality, I found myself quickly drained of all my resources. Living out my definition of “in sickness and in health,” I discovered a deeper truth underlying those five, seemingly simple, words.
I had locked into my brain that I was meant to care for her in sickness and in health, and had failed to realize the vows were two-directional. The burden was not mine alone to bear just as the burden was not hers alone to bear. I had to take care of myself, too.
The place I found abundance was upon recognizing that this was just as much my story as hers.
Living out “in sickness and in health” is not as simple as, you are in need; therefore, I help you. It’s more nuanced. You are in need; therefore, we have to get through this together. It’s a two-way street.
We certainly weren’t shouldering the same load, but we were still bearing the same burden. Her pack may have been heavier than mine, but we were both hiking the same terrain. She wasn’t off in the distance with me cheering on the sidelines; we were in it together.
There were times I couldn’t handle her needs and she couldn’t handle mine, but there was always grace for one another as we knew we each had limited capacity to give. She didn’t expect more than I could give, and I didn’t expect more than she could give.
The reality is that concept of balance is a myth when it comes to “in sickness and in health.” You are constantly having to adjust the scales. There is no leaning one direction with the expectation that the other must now lean my way to balance it out. Balance is achieved simply by doing the best you can with the situation you’ve been given and filling in the gaps with grace. We’ve found this to be true when it comes to our faith in God, and along the way discovered it applies to our marriage too.
We both had significant needs—albeit different—and they both had to be honored. Living out our vows required an attitude of servanthood in the big and little details.
I wanted to magically make the situation disappear for her, but that wasn’t possible. It’s hard to see the one you love suffering. But she had to go through it, and that meant I had to go through it, too. And to take care of her, I learned that I had to take care of myself.
Learning what it meant to love “in sickness and in health” within the first year of marriage was not something we ever planned. Looking back, it has transformed our whole marriage. Working through the mess, we uncovered hidden lessons that were hard-won that many marriages don’t uncover for decades. We were on a fast track, but it gave us a firm foundation of trust, service, and grace. And while our marriage is far from flawless, that foundation has encouraged us always to remember that we are in this together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caleb Eiler is a software engineer who enjoys long hikes in the woods followed by long naps on the couch, preferably with his wife and dog by his side.