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Love and Trust through Chronic Illness in Marriage

Man takes care of his chronically ill spouse with love throughout marriage.
Monica wondered if Brent would still love her if she couldn’t be everything she had always dreamed of being as a wife. What impact would being bedridden for weeks or sometimes months have on a brand-new marriage?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Are you married to a chronically ill spouse? Or perhaps you have a chronic illness and your spouse is your caregiver. Either way, you likely feel exhausted, disheartened, and maybe even despair at times. You are not alone. Brent and Monica Keilen went through chronic illness in their marriage and came out on the other side with a deeper love and trust for both each other and for God.

This can be your story too.

This article at a glance:

  1. The reality of chronic illness in marriage

    The majority of people in the U.S. deal with at least one chronic illness in their lives. But even though this is common, chronic illness can leave individuals feeling as if they’ve lost themselves or they’re no longer worth the love and commitment of marriage.

  2. Be honest with God about chronic illness

    Jesus knows your suffering. You don’t have to put up a “good Christian” face for God. You don’t have to have it all together with Him.

  3. God’s promises are a firm foundation

    Do you want to hear directly from God? Dig deep into Scripture and take refuge in His promises. They will prove to be your anchor during these hard times.

  4. Prayer and praise through it all

    No matter how you feel, know that God has not forgotten you. Reach out to Him with praise and prayer — He will be there. He is for you.

  5. Healing from chronic illness

    God is the the author of redemption. He loves redeeming people and situations. So trust Him — no matter what happens, He’s working it out for good.

The Wide Reach of Chronic Illness

“How much longer will this keep going? Why is this happening to us?”

These questions remained unanswered for Brent and Monica for a long time. Appointments with a variety of doctors, an array of medical suggestions, and the constant pursuit of that next thing that might finally work characterized the early years of their marriage. Would Monica ever be truly well? Would chronic illness always overshadow our relationship?

Have you experienced similar challenges?

Sadly, this is not an uncommon story. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “six out of ten adults in the United States have a chronic disease, and four out of ten adults have two or more.” Those living with chronic illness are “leading drivers of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in annual health care costs.”

The CDC broadly defines chronic illness as a condition that lasts one year or more. Requiring ongoing medical attention, the condition often limits activities of daily living. And sometimes, people don’t even know what the condition even is for years.

Chronic Illness in Our Marriage

Monica had endured 11 years of pain, treatments, triumphs, setbacks, and diagnosis after diagnosis by the time Brent proposed.

As her childhood friend, Brent had watched Monica battle chronic illness for years, and was amazed at her continued sweet spirit and positive attitude. Yet Monica wondered if Brent would still love her if she couldn’t be everything she had always dreamed of being as a wife.

What impact would being bedridden for weeks or sometimes months have on our brand-new marriage? Monica shared her fears with Brent about him being married to a chronically ill spouse and having to be a caregiver for his wife.

But Brent assured his bride-to-be, “Monica, that’s not your burden to carry. That’s God’s burden to carry and His responsibility to give me whatever I need. I just want to love you well.”

After they married, Monica’s unpredictable condition worsened. There were plenty of tough times during their first five years — Monica had seasons of extreme weariness and acute pain. And life looked bleak when Monica’s condition continued to decline to the point where she had to use a wheelchair for mobility.

Looking back, they can truly say God was faithful every step of the way. He taught them so many things about Him that helped get them through.

Today, Monica glows when customers at work ask how she is feeling. She is able to share that not long ago she was unable to walk, but God healed her. She is so grateful to be able to be on her feet all day helping customers find faith-building resources at the Focus on the Family affiliated Family Central bookstore in Michigan.

For those like Brent and Monica whose love and marriage is impacted with chronic illness, here are some practices that proved helpful for them:

Be Honest with God About Chronic Illness

In the Psalms, David is honest with God about what he’s going through. They found freedom in lament, that prayer in pain that turns to trust. Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your heart before Him.” They learned, like David, to prayerfully be raw and honest with God.  

A relevant quote that really touched Monica came from L.B. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert,

“We have never been this way before but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untraveled and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all through personal experience, He knows the steep places that take our breath away, the rocky paths that make our feet ache, the hot and shadeless stretches that bring us to exhaustion, and the rushing rivers that we have to cross — Jesus has gone through it all before us.”

L.B. Cowman

Growing Your Marriage in Times of Stress

In this two-part broadcast, listen as counselors Milan and Kay Yerkovich discuss common responses to stress and how they can lead to unhealthy attachment styles. Learn powerul insight for cultivating healthy ways of dealing with stress as a means of strengthening your marriage.

Listen for the Voice of God

Finding specific promises and verses to pray over, study, meditate on, and lean into proved life-changing and life-sustaining. Now, they often ask Him to speak to them individually and as a couple.

Nehemiah 8:10 is a promise that says the joy of the Lord is your strength. And Psalm 107:20 also encouraged them with the reminder, “He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” God’s Word brought deliverance, healing, and love to the Israelites in the Old Testament and to us today in marriages riddled with chronic illness.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” 

Isaiah 40:31

Prayer through Chronic Illness Leads to Trust

Isaiah 53:4-5 reassures, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”

Praise God Even Now

The story of Paul and Silas imprisoned in Acts 16 challenged Brent and Monica to praise God in order to ease their overwhelming weariness and discouragement. Monica felt imprisoned by her wheelchair. But on the days they listened to worship music and praised God, even when they didn’t feel like it, the darkness that shadowed their souls lifted and joy came.

Monica compiled a selection of praise songs into her own victory playlist. She played it over and over, allowing it to soak into her soul.

Healing From Chronic Illness

When God gives a verse or promise, Brent and Monica learned to keep faith in God and his Word regardless of circumstances. Even when promises don’t make sense right away, they kept believing.

Brent and Monica are deeply grateful for the tremendous doctors and therapists who have helped her on this journey, and for God’s miraculous touch of healing. 

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