My youngest son has health concerns that have impacted our daily lives since he was just a newborn. Fortunately he has been stable for the past two years. We found a groove, our family has an expected routine and my husband and I have physical and emotional energy to invest into our marriage bed.
Recently, my son went in for extensive testing, and it was rough. The tears, the discomfort, and the screaming “I can’t take this anymore!” were exhausting for both of us. I was taken by surprise at how emotionally draining our three hour appointment was until I remembered that it has been at least 18 months since he’s undergone testing and over two years since he’s had his most recent of four surgeries. For years, appointments, tests and procedures were our norm. It made me think about the tunnel of physical and emotional exhaustion that my husband and I lived in for the first four years of his life. Our focus was survival – at times it felt like our son’s very own survival. Sexual intimacy was not our strong suit during that season of life.
We all go through seasons and most of us will experience at least one stretch of time where our ability to lead the elusive balanced life is severely strained. Be it our own health, a sick child, an aging parent or a close friend in crisis, we are all touched by the troubles of this broken world. Jesus warned us of that. However, I encourage you to keep intimacy with God and your spouse a priority in the midst of those storms. Yes, lack of sleep, feeling stretched too thin, communication breaking down, and social isolation may be fighting against you, but our marriages can grow stronger and more intimate in the face of adversity when together we are walking with Him.
One of the reasons that God gifted sex to husbands and wives is to provide comfort. Sex full of love and tenderness can be a balm for the emotions that we can’t yet express. It can be a reminder that we are a team or release tension and stress. David made love to Bathsheba to comfort her after the death of their son (2 Samuel 12:24) and Isaac was comforted by loving Rebekah deeply after his mother Sarah’s death (Genesis 24:67). Is it ok to desire sex when our world is seemingly falling apart.
If physical exhaustion, lack of privacy or your spouse wondering how you could think of sex at a time like this hampers your marriage bed, then focus on your eyes, words and non-sexual touch. Keeping our eyes pure and only desiring our spouse will guard us from temptation when emotions are raw and desires unmet. Even if all we feel is exhaustion and emptiness, we can express what we’d like to do if we had the energy or opportunity. We can continue to encourage our spouse with our words, text messages and notes. We can point out the qualities that we love about them. We can share our thoughts and feelings to maintain emotional intimacy. We can take time to hug, kiss and hold each other tenderly. We can remind one another what a gift it is that we are a team walking through this tough time together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands <you, your spouse and God> is not quickly broken.
Yes, at the very least, we can lie down together to keep warm. We can lay naked together. We can hold hands in silence, as we weep or as we cry out in frustration. We can plant surprise kisses on our spouse as we trade shifts to care for a loved one. We can smile and let our spouse know that our heart still desires them even amidst the chaos. We can pray. Always.
Don’t let the present struggle steal your every emotion and distract your every thought. Look for ways, even the smallest gestures count, to let your spouse know that you are a team united as you walk this bumpy road. And when smooth sailing returns, make it a priority to drink deeply of one another’s love so that your reserves are overflowing. Then you’ll be prepared to endure the next squall.