“He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
It can be very easy to focus on all the challenges we face as a spouse to someone living with paralysis. There are a lot of things that we could choose to complain about because the truth is, it’s hard. If your story is even remotely like mine, paralysis came after we were married, which means we didn’t “sign up” for this life…well, not in so many words anyway.
However, when I reflect on our marriage vows, I realize that we promised to love and cherish each other through all kinds of life circumstances. The one that stands out the most to me is “for better or worse”. That can mean so many things which is why it is a great promise to make to each other from the beginning. In our marriage “worse” has been the many challenges and heartaches we have faced together, but hands down the biggest one has been living with the results of my husband’s spinal cord injury.
I can’t honestly remember the exact moment when it hit me that our lives had drastically changed forever, I think it was actually more of a gradual realization than one specific “aha moment”. However, once I did finally come to that full understanding, I knew my faith was going to be tested like never before. I had 2 choices. I could choose to let this devastating life change make be bitter and angry towards God and life OR I could choose to allow the suffering and challenges make be better and draw me nearer to my Creator. I chose to trust God and let Him teach me to walk in faith in a way I never would have if my hubby hadn’t been injured.
It was a choice over 7 years ago and it is a choice I still have to make every single day. I try my best to choose to be joyful even when I don’t feel joy. I try to see the positive in my husband’s injury even when I am overwhelmed and frustrated by all the things that come along with paralysis. Does that mean I don’t have days where I want to curl up in the fetal position, stay in bed and cry while feeding my sadness one piece of See’s chocolate at a time? Absolutely not. I totally have those days and I allow myself those days because I think it is healthy to have those feelings. There is grief that still hits some days like a ton of bricks. I might see a picture of a dad picking up his child and swinging them around or I see a couple walking hand in hand. Just last week I was at the beach and I saw an elderly couple sitting together playing cards on the beach and enjoying their retirement.
Those moments can be tough because it’s easy to let my thoughts wander down the path of “I will never get to do that with my husband”. Even though those thoughts may be true, they don’t help me find joy. I choose not to allow myself to wallow in them because they only lead to sadness and that is never a good place to end up. When those thoughts enter my mind, I choose to replace them with positive truths that are much more likely to lead to joy and contentment.
Staying positive and choosing joy is an action, which means we have to do something in order to make them happen. Here is a short list of somethings you might do to help you find joy and choose to be positive when you are feeling sad, frustrated or at the end of your rope.
Now, find someone else who is struggling, maybe someone whose spouse is living with paralysis or maybe someone who is just going through a tough time in life. Listen to them, comfort them and just be there for them. One of the greatest things we can do when we figure out how to find joy in the midst of suffering and look at the positive side of tough situations is to share that knowledge and encourage someone else. Allow yourself to have sad days, but don’t allow yourself to stay there for too long (a day or two at the most). If you can’t seem to pull yourself out of the sadness you should seek some professional help.
Our attitude and outlook on life is 100% our choice. We can choose to be bitter…or we can choose to be better. I pray you will choose wisely!!
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