Dear Roger,

I have been married 31 years. 11 years ago my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was 48, I was 41. He has since been diagnosed with congestive heart failure that is well controlled. The problem we have is no physical relationship and I am striving daily not to sin (adultery).

My husband completely ignores my physical & emotional needs. We have no common interests & barely talk. I am seriously considering a legal separation.

I am a strong Christian but I can only take so much. I am spiritually exhausted. I should have left years ago. The doctors say that my husband needs to lose weight and exercise. He could care less about proactively helping himself. He just wants to take another pill. Help please.

Sincerely, Name Withheld


Dear Name Withheld,


I grieve for you both. You’re trapped. So is he. Life (and marriage) was never supposed to be like this. You’ve given care for so long that I know you’re exhausted. Our first baby needed twenty-four-hour care until she died nine months later. She died the week we decided that we couldn’t go on. We know what it’s like to give another exhausting care. I can easily believe that you are worn out. I am so sorry.


He is also trapped. He’s stuck with a failing body and sounds so depressed that he can’t engage in the normal responsibilities of life.


I believe you when you say that you’re a strong Christian. A weaker Christian might give into the adultery and you’re obviously putting boundaries in place to keep that from occurring.


All things considered, I will encourage you not to leave him. Let me give you some thoughts to consider.


First, It Sounds To Me Like Your Husband Is In Deep Clinical Depression.


Your husband’s depression reminds me of Job’s slide into deep situational depression that is described in Job 3 as he struggled with grief and a failing body.


“May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’…

That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it.

“Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? …

Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”


Consider looking at your husband in a new light. Most depressed people pull back from life. They can’t be scolded and pushed to better performance. No amount of criticizing and cajoling will get him off the couch and into your bed.

Consider going to a medical doctor and getting him an anti-depressant (if your doctor deems it advisable). The right anti-depressant may help most everything. He may have other brain chemistry issues that a good doctor can ferret out.


Second, As You Minister To Your Husband’s Needs, You Are Bringing Care And Comfort To Jesus Himself.


Remember in the Garden how deeply in pain was Jesus? “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow unto death,” He mourned. He asked His disciples to comfort Him and instead they all went to sleep. Fortunately, angels were around to minister to His needs. If you had been there, knowing what you know now, wouldn’t you have liked to put your arm around His shoulders and pray with Him, and comfort Him, and weep with Him? Of course you would.


By caring for your husband, you are bringing comfort and care to Jesus. In the parable of the Talents, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you do for one of the least of these my brothers of mine, you did it unto me.”


Third, The Father Will Use This Experience To Mature You And Mold You More And More To Look Like Jesus.


Paul wrote in Romans 8:28-29: “All things work together for the good purpose of making just like Jesus.”


Job declared in Job 23:10: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”


Dr. Harry Ironside became hard of hearing in his old age. One of his seminary students wanted Ironside to pray that God would grant him patience.

Ironside prayed, “Dear Lord, would you please send this young man some problems.”

Thinking that Ironside hadn’t heard right, the student interrupted the prayer and said, “No, not problems! Patience!”

Ironside prayed a second time, “Lord, please send this young man some problems.”

Again, thinking Ironside still hadn’t heard right, the student interrupted the prayer and said, “No! Not problems! Patience!”

Ironside quoted from James One, “Don’t you know that it is problems and troubles that produce patience?”


Fourth, while you are learning contentment, Jesus is offering to pour in the power.


Paul endured some terrible sufferings. Read 2 Corinthians 11-12 which describes his litany of troubles. You will be shocked.

From prison in Rome he wrote to the church in Philippi:


“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”


Please notice that patience doesn’t come naturally to any of us. It is something we learn through the difficult times of life.


My dad’s favorite verse was Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Lymphoma struck his body in his eighty-fourth year. The docs tried a number of experimental drugs—all to no avail.

I was with him when the doctor gave him the final bad news. All the drugs had failed. Dad said, “Well what are we going to try next?”

Quietly, the doctor said to dad, “I am sorry, Roger, there is no next. We have nothing left to try.”

He sat quietly in his wheel chair for a while—head down—considering that all that was left now was to go home and die. Head still down, I barely heard him as he whispered under his breath, “Well, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”


Fifth, No One Should Go Through These Struggles Alone.


You need some friends to stand with you and encourage you and pray with you.


God said to Adam in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Notice that this was before the Fall recorded in Genesis Three. He had yet to sin.” If Adam before the Fall needed friends, what must our need be?!


Samuel Coleridge wrote: “Friends are sheltering trees.” That is how I like to think of friends.

If you have no sheltering trees in your life, consider taking the steps to find some friends. Keeping your head above water is easier when friends are around to sustain you.


In Philippians 4:13 Paul declared that he could do all things through the power of Christ; nevertheless he wrote in the very next verse: “Yet, it was good of you to share in my troubles …” Paul was grateful for his friends.


Sixth, Mourning And Comforting Heals Hurts.


Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). We all need comfort when we are hurting. Mourning and comforting heals hurts.


After all was said and done, Job needed comfort. When his three friends heard of his tragedies, they immediately saddled up and rode off to “sympathize and comfort him” (Job 2:11-13). They sat on the trash heap beside him for seven days and never said a word. All the while Job was scratching his sores with a piece of broken pottery. Sometimes comfort is just having people “be there” as we mourn our hurts.


I suggest that you spend time in the presence of some friends while mourning your hurts. You need their encouragement. You also need emotional healing.


As hurts rolled over my life I discovered that I didn’t have enough comforters. So, one day I went to my next door neighbor and said, “Dave, sometimes when I am hurting, I’d like to come to your house, sit on the couch, and pour out my heart. I don’t want you to fix anything. I just want you to listen and pat me on the head and say things like, ‘I’m sorry. I grieve that you are hurting so much.” I never cease to be amazed at how mourning and comfort can often ease the pain in my soul.


By the way, your husband could use a little of that, too.


Again, I am so sorry for you situation and the misery you are enduring. I know that the temptation to leave is incredible; nevertheless, I believe that the grace you need is available (2 Corinthians 12:9).


May Jesus bless you with great days ahead.


Love, Roger



Dear Reader, several weeks later I received the following letter from Name Withheld. I found it quite encouraging.


Dr. Barrier,

Thank you so much for your insight and spiritual encouragement. I have often thought that my husband suffers from depression but I will pursue with him receiving help even though I know he is going to be resistant to the thought. I know that you are right.

I do have a Christian obligation to help my husband. It is not easy but I also know that it will not be easy if I leave him. I am well aware of the covenant that I made with him 31 years ago. Though this is indeed a grievous never-ending trial I believe that ultimately something good will come out of this.

Thank you for your wise counsel and I am praying over the passages that you recommended and asking God to fill me with His divine agape love and ability to endure. To God alone be the Glory.

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