“For better or for worse…”
When we said those words as part of our wedding vows fifteen years ago, we really didn’t think that “worse” would come. We pictured a blissful life filled with happy birthdays, peace, and prosperity. We looked into the future and imagined mountain peak after mountain peak. What we couldn’t see was the valleys…those dark places that would bring us to the end of ourselves. However, even the valleys bring life and growth. They carry their own unusual set of blessings that we can only recognize much later.
The darkest valley of our marriage started on February 14, 2014, when my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within a week and a half, he went under the knife to remove the tumor. The road to recovery was hard and exhausting. I failed in many parts of this dark valley…but God never failed. He brought peace into the most frightening moments of our lives.
I wrote the following on my iPhone in a hospital room. Bryan had just had his surgery the day before. It was a dark, sleepless night full of nurse visits, the beeps of monitors, and the dim lights of medical equipment. I pray these words will encourage you in whatever dark valley you encounter. God is still there :
Happy couples. You live day by day, side by side with the routine of work, kids, and church hypnotizing your romantic love into the background. The romance is there, but it is eclipsed by the demands of life. You calmly view the years in front of you as a given. You are content with your mate and your imperfect life.
Then one day, you are confronted by news that rips away the comfortable blanket of happy complacency. Instead of looking ahead to decades of togetherness, you realize that you may only have a few years or months or weeks. Suddenly the mundane becomes sacred. The comfortable routine becomes deeply precious because it represents life—a life you discover is as fleeting as vapor.
The grave news changes everything. What was once a casual hug after work becomes a vain attempt to pause time. What was once a familiar hand to hold becomes a blessed reminder that your loved one is still alive. What was once a sweet kiss becomes a passionate declaration of undying love.
You would have preferred continuing in the sweet oblivion of two weeks ago, but now there is no going back. Life has changed. While the current outlook is promising, the unwelcomed blight could return and threaten life as you know it. No longer can you bask in lazy assumptions of the long, normal life you had envisioned.
However, this harsh reality of uncertainty has a redeeming side. You have felt the presence of the Creator in recent days so strongly that it defies explanation. How can such sorrow and fear coexist with peace? How can the presence of an invisible God help you look at a fearful future with serenity? It defies human logic. It is a miracle. God has come down to you in your sorrow. He has held your hand. He has deepened your love for your spouse, and He has revealed more of Himself to you. Those are priceless treasures. They are worth the pain.
Hang on. Whatever the valley, it is temporary. When it is over and your heart has healed, you will see the odd blessings you received during that dark time. The Father doesn’t create these valleys, but He walks through them with you. He redeems them for His purpose. He creates beauty from them.
Hang on to Him. Rest in Him.