I expected my married life to be pretty idyllic because I’d married a man who loved Jesus. But the day after our wedding, we got in a fight that seemed to open the permanent floodgates of arguing. While some of our fighting could be attributed to newlywed growing pains, we were facing harder tensions I didn’t understand. I was 21.
My husband eventually confessed he felt he had a chemical imbalance in his brain causing depression and anger, which he described like this: “I feel like I’m submerged in a dunk tank. I see others enjoying life and finding joy, but I can’t. I’m gasping for air, but I can only come up for a single breath. One breath, a single happy moment, before I’m sucked back down again.”
This wasn’t what I signed up for. Our medicine cabinet soon filled with supplements I encouraged him to take—all the things that promised to cure depression. I became Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. We prayed fervently, asking others to lay hands on him, too. I prompted him to read his Bible more often and change his eating and fitness habits. But nothing changed.
I wanted him to have a quick fix to his hurting. I didn’t want to sit in the pain with him like Job’s friends. Or wander for 40 years in a desert.
I spent many nights feeling like a stranger in my own house, wanting to escape but not knowing where to go. Leaving him felt like failing. Staying felt like torture. I grew to resent him for getting angry over the smallest, strangest things. Resent him for his presence, which often felt like a crushing weight each time he entered the room. He checked out often, finding distractions. Or worse, sleeping and ignoring me for days. He admitted he felt angry with me all the time but didn’t understand why.
I felt trapped. Like the Israelites, I was convinced this journey I was on was a mistake. They glorified and reminisced about their past. I did that in my marriage, too. I thought, when I was in this other relationship, that person never treated me like this. Or, maybe I should’ve waited until I was older to get married. I chose the posture of resentment and regret. It influenced the way I saw my husband and the way I reacted to his brokenness with my own.
The Lord had called me to love someone who wasn’t always easy to love, and it revealed the darkest parts of me. The ugliest parts.
Like the Israelites did, I gave in to fear. And fear produced complaining. I complained to other women about him. And the more I complained, the more apathetic I grew. “I don’t care” became my defense mechanism every time he was angry or disconnected.
I tend to judge the Israelites, wondering how they forgot so quickly all the miracles God performed—the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna, the water. But in my own desert, I forgot too. I turned my husband’s anger toward me and threw it back on God. I struggled when others talked about His promises, His goodness because my posture walking in the desert was bitterness.
Did you know there was a shorter way to the Promised Land? It involved the land of the Philistines, though, and the Lord knew they would have been scared by the fight. So, He sent them the long way.
The Lord sees the whole map of our lives, but we only see the speck we are walking in. And I had become so discouraged by the speck I was in.
During this time in my life, I was hospitalized for a car accident. In the hospital, my husband was attentive and caring. But at home, he withdrew. I spent those next months with insomnia as my shoulder healed. Why did I still have to be the one to manage everything for our family?
Yet, the Lord graciously provided what my husband couldn’t.
Friends and family came alongside me. They cooked my family meals, kept me company, drove me to physical therapy, helped change diapers. I had nothing to contribute back and they cared for me.
Over and over, God provided for the Israelites needs, too.
Manna. Each morning it was there, waiting for them. Every day he made sure it met their needs, they were nourished, they were cared for.
I wonder how often the Lord provides the manna for my life but it tastes and looks different than I expected? Or do I simply tire of eating the same provision over and over? See, I wanted the provision to come from my husband’s healing more than my community.
This year, we’ve been married for 10 years. My husband has not been healed of depression though he copes better with medication now.
Sometimes, I think about the uncertainty of living with someone struggling with mental illness. I fear we will never reach that Promised Land.
But then I remember, Moses didn’t either. And he saw the face of God.
So I must stand firm as the Israelites did at the Red Sea, knowing God is the one who must redeem the situation. I’m incapable—this sea is too big for me.