When my husband keeled over with a severe bout of vertigo on 11 April 2011, I assumed it would be a temporary setback. Some months later, as his symptoms progressed to include stuttering, walking problems and facial tics, I heard God’s gentle voice telling me our lives would look vastly different when we came out the end of this. Now, ten years on, I see He was right.
As the weeks rolled into months, it became clear Rob’s illness was more than simple vertigo. With him no longer able to work, we had to overhaul our lives. To this day, God continues his wonderful work of overhauling us to become more like Christ (Phil 1:6).
I don’t consider myself to be a ‘leader’ per se, but God has allowed a role reversal in our family where I’ve become the income earner while Rob cares for the house. Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Acceptance and gratitude defeat rebellion.
It might seem obvious that we’re never going to win a battle against God, but the Bible reveals a litany of leaders gave it a red hot go. I confess to falling foul of the same thing. When Rob became unwell, we were living in a shed house (or shouse, as we call them Down Under) about 20 minutes from the closest town. It was cramped, cluttered and hot.
One particularly steamy day, I was exhausted from working, caring for him, and looking after our young daughters. As I attempted to tidy up for visitors, I said out loud, “I’m so sick of living in this stinking hot *@#^%#!.”
Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction for my ingratitude. Although my attitude has been far from perfect since, that moment helped me realize how much I had: a loving husband, beautiful daughters, a roof over my head and meaningful work to do. It helped me accept this was God’s plan – for now.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you give up or stop praying for a miracle. Just that, like the Serenity Prayer suggests, you use discernment to know when to keep pushing through and when to accept a door is closed.
Don’t compare yourself with others.
The dreaded comparison trap has been a big one for me. When Rob got sick, we were home-schooling. I still did a little bit of work as a physical therapist but was home most days. When he stopped working, I had to work more to compensate for his lost income.
There are sections within the Christian community who believe a mother’s role is solely within the home. A year or two after increasing my workload, I read an article in a Christian magazine about a woman who’d faced a similar situation to mine, but trusted God rather than returning to work. This led me to question myself: Did I lack faith? Should I have trusted God to provide rather than rushing into more work? Was I a terrible mother?
Fortunately, the Bible also has many examples of godly women who were wives, mothers, providers, and leaders. Women like Deborah in the book of Judges and the unnamed champion of Proverbs 31 reassured me what I was doing was okay.
I found what Paul teaches in Romans 14:1-23 instructional here. My conscience was clear, and God has helped me be more gracious to others who think differently about non-essential aspects of faith.
In his goodness, God brought a couple of women into my life who had walked the path before me. Both had husbands who, through illness or injury, were no longer able to work and support their families financially. They had experienced the unexpected role shift from partner to carer.
These women were such a blessing. They understood what I was going through. But most importantly, they simply listened, without judging or jumping in with advice.
Many other beautiful people helped us in a myriad of ways – making meals, taking Rob to appointments, looking after the girls, or supporting us financially when things got tight. Learning to receive help has been humbling and enriched my understanding of what it means to be part of God’s family.
Let God give you the desires of your heart.
When I felt God telling me our lives would look different, I had no idea just how different. It’s incredible to look back and see what God has done. Since I was a girl, I dreamed of being a writer, but after school I chose a ‘sensible’ physiotherapy career instead.
Since Rob got sick, I have transitioned into writing full-time. Before he became unwell, we dreamed of running a retreat for pastors and missionaries. God has since placed us in a home where this may be possible. Rob used to do extremely physically demanding work. Now, he is more than half-way through Bible college.
There’s no way I could have orchestrated any of this. God continues to amaze me in the way he grants me the desires of my heart (Ps 37:4). Not to say that life is perfect, but I’m slowly learning that He knows our hearts so much better than we do.