In the summer of 2012, we took a cross-country road trip. Somewhere in the mountains of North Carolina, after eating a big breakfast and then trying to read in the very back seat of the minivan, our daughter got carsick. This was a turning point in the life of our family. Not for the kid who vomited scrambled eggs all over herself, but for her brother, who witnessed it.
Luke was so traumatized by his sister getting sick that he needed reassurance she wouldn’t get sick again. Even more than that, he needed to know that he would not get sick. During the following days, he asked over and over, “This pencil touched my lips, am I going to throw up?” or “If I eat dinner, won’t I throw up?” As parents, we used logic and in-depth discussions of the God-designed workings of our digestive systems to reassure him, but nothing worked. We quoted scriptures about not being afraid, but they were unable to calm his fears. We prayed over him and with him, but we could not assuage his fears.
His anxiety slowly began to overtake his life. He went from being a social, outgoing kid to one who would not spend the night with his best friend. He was unable to enjoy a birthday party for fear he might come in contact with germs which would make him vomit. He would stop what he was doing to ask us if he was going to throw up 26 times per day (we counted).
As a parent, the inability to reassure your child makes you feel helpless. At night Matt and I would pray over our son together. We would cry to the Lord for guidance and we would cry in each other’s arms for consolation.
After months of debilitating anxiety, we finally took Luke to a Christian counselor who diagnosed him with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Immediately, Matt and I were filled with both a sense of fear over the ramifications of the diagnosis and relief because everything we had been witnessing finally made sense. We had no idea what to do. How could we parent a child whose brain obsessed on things until a ritual made it possible for him to move forward? How would our sweet son be able to function in the world when he had such fear of getting sick?
We had a choice to make as parents and as a couple, and we chose to cling to Him. In the midst of learning about our son’s disability, we were reminded that this was not a surprise to the One who made him. Instead of questioning Him, we were humbled by His confidence that we could parent a child who would struggle.
When you face turning-point moments in your marriage (because if you haven’t, you will), I encourage you to do the following:
Cling desperately to your spouse. From the beginning of the institution of marriage, God commanded husbands and wives to cling to one another at all times.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, KJV)
There has never been another moment in our marriage that has drawn us closer to each other and to the Lord. This was the lowest point in our 13 years of marriage, yet we chose to face it hand-in-hand instead of wallowing in our individual self-pity.
Seek guidance. In so many Christian circles, counseling has a bad reputation. It is the step that you take once you have hit rock bottom. But, believe me, there is nothing wrong with looking for counsel. The Bible tells us to seek out wisdom.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)
Counseling does not show weakness—it shows the seriousness with which you are approaching the decisions that need to be made. While Luke’s counselor helped him battle the anxiety that plagued him, she was also able to advise and counsel me and Matt as to how best to parent a kid with his struggles. And, because she was a Christian, she was able to guide us from a Biblical point of view.
Pray. Of course. This is so simple and we have heard it from the first time we stepped foot into a Sunday school classroom, but it really is so important. Pray with your spouse. Getting on your knees as a couple is the best way to make sure you’re on the same page. But, it’s also the best way to focus both your minds on the will of the Lord.
Ask friends to pray. The Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and a true friend is happy to intercede on your behalf. Honestly, sometimes it is the only thing that they can do, so allow them to do that much.
Recognize God’s triumphs. Not every family thinks stomach flu is a reason to celebrate, but we do. When Luke came down with a yucky bug, we marked that time with recognition of God’s faithfulness. Luke vomited without a panic attack, and that was a huge win for us.
He will be faithful to you in the ways you most need it. It is your job, though, to acknowledge His faithfulness. Matt and I are constantly referring to the times when God came through for us. Not only to remind our children of His goodness, but to remind ourselves as well.
Since Luke’s diagnosis, we have had to face other trials as a couple: watching as our best friends separated to work on their marriage, me being diagnosed with clinical depression, losing my father suddenly—all in addition to the continuing struggle of parenting a child with OCD. Fortunately, the Lord equipped us as a couple. Perhaps OCD was like the bear that David had to slay before he faced Goliath—it made him stronger and more confident in his abilities and in the Lord’s faithfulness to see him through.
Hopefully, our trials have made us more real to those we meet. If we, as a couple, can point heavenward, then everything we have been through has been totally worth it. It’s almost as if God knew what he was doing when He commanded us to cling to our spouses—almost as if He gave us one another as a gift from Him.
In what ways have you seen God’s faithfulness through the trials of your marriage? Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these photos: