Marriage can present many challenges, not least for those dealing with a serious disability, says Joni Eareckson Tada

It’s a great calling to be women of faith – wives of faith, daughters of faith, sisters of faith, mothers of faith. I can imagine God smiling as he sees all of his beautiful daughters exercising their faith in these various roles.

And sometimes it is an exercise – not a walk in the park, but a struggle to lift heavy burdens or push against hard things. We all experience these times, and often, in our closest relationships.

I want to share with you all some things I’ve learned along this journey in my relationship with my husband Ken …

It’s funny, but I have a hard time these days just writing “Joni”. I always want to write “Joni and Ken”. No, not as though it were stamped on a wedding napkin or written on a house mortgage document. It’s more visceral than that. Thirty years have passed since Ken and I began our journey together, and God has used every trial – every hurt and heartache – to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married.

And the more devastating the trials, the more he has wrapped us both around himself. God has used depression and chronic pain and cancer – far more than even quadriplegia – to bind us tighter than ever. To each other. To him. That’s the “cord of three strands” the Bible speaks about. Husband, wife, and the Lord himself. If the man and woman twine their lives around each other in marriage, that is good, and they’ll be stronger for it. But if both of them twine themselves around the living God, that’s best of all. It’s a union that will hold through anything that life – or even hell – might throw at them.

It’s a beautiful picture, but we know it isn’t true for everyone. It’s especially difficult for couples dealing with a serious disability. So many of these marriages just don’t survive the test. The fact is, we live in a society that doesn’t know what to do with suffering. We do everything we can think of to escape it: we medicate it, mask it, surgically remove it, entertain or drug it, institutionalise it, divorce it, or even euthanise it – anything but live with it. Suffering, however, isn’t about to go away. And marriage only magnifies it.

Life will not always be this hard, or marriage so difficult. There is coming a Day when something so grand and glorious will appear that it will supersede even marriage. Heaven is on the horizon for us all, and what we do down here on earth – every little drastic obedience – all of it will one day have a direct bearing on our capacity for joy and for worship, and service in heaven. If you stick close to Jesus and honour him through the toughest of times, you have a better chance of casting more crowns at his feet. And one day, when you touch his nail-scarred hands to say thank you, you’ll have every confidence he’ll know you mean it. He will recognise you as the one who persevered, who took up your cross daily to redeem the hard places in your marriage, just as he once took up his cross to redeem you.

The Day is soon coming when you will see the stunningly glorified version of your spouse. No, you won’t be joined in marriage in heaven, but God will have used your earthly life together to prepare you to be friends, yes, to be sisters and brothers – special and unique – for all of eternity. So get a jump start on eternity with that friend now.

Take a deep breath, and let it – whatever that irksome it is in your marriage – let it go. Make a covenant. Renew the vows. Get out the candles and china. Order the roses. Dim the lights. Walk under the stars. Quit resisting and start affirming. After all, loving that one to whom you said yes, well ... it’s just another way, maybe the best way, of loving and serving God.
+ Joni Eareckson Tada is an advocate for disabled people and partners with the UK organisation Through the Roof