Subject: Question about marital responsibilities - disabled husband

Message Body:

I appreciated reading your articles on reverencing one’s husband and being a keeper at home. I do have a question, though. What sort of counsel would you give the wife of a disabled man, or a man with significant chronic health issues that prevent him from working, with regard to marital responsibilities and roles? And what advice would you give the husband? Especially if the nature of his condition means he can’t do much work around the house, either.

Would this call for the wife to bring in an income, at least if she could do it online and therefore not have to leave the home or report to a boss? Or, if they are able to survive on SSI/welfare, what counsel would you give them about how to manage a household when the husband can’t help much?

If you need more details in order to advise, I will share them, but I’m hoping this is enough. I look forward to your response. May the LORD bless you both!

Reply:  (from my wife)

Dear _____,

Thank you for reaching out to us! First of all, you are to be commended for staying committed to one another during a very trying time– well done!

No two situations are identical, but we are living a similar scenario and have been for 12 years now. See the article Rest in Times of Trouble under The Hurting Home section for a bit more on that. What follows is a mix of Scripture and experience. You don’t mention whether children are in the home, so all of these answers are given without that in regard. If there are children, they too would of course be a factor.

As far as income, the wife is to be a keeper at home (Titus 2:5), and she is to guide the house (1Tim. 5:14). The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 was fulfilling her obligations and still finding a way to earn income as she created products at home and then delivered them to a middle man in the market for sale. So if there is a way to earn income at home while still meeting your other obligations, that would be well within scriptural boundaries. We are aware of one nurse who works entirely online from home with flexible hours. God is very creative, so submit your situation to Him looking for guidance. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (Jms. 1:5)

Be aware you are only one person. Being a caregiver takes time and energy, so be realistic about what you can do as just a human regarding housework. Expectations may need lowered. How often sheets need washed or whether paper plates are used rather than china to cut down on dish washing are the sorts of things that may need evaluated. Routines may need reevaluated and simplified. A simple dinner can be just as nourishing as one that took several hours to make. Creative solutions may need to be sought. Is there a teen who could handle yard work in trade for a nominal sum or a non-money trade? We saved both spouses’ time, energy, and money by switching to a simpler home haircut for my husband that required less work from me as the barber and less daily maintenance from him. Each person’s energy is just as valuable as time and money are.

The same awareness goes for the energy and time needed to produce income. God can provide for you both without you killing yourself. Be sure any income-producing activity is well worth the time and energy invested. Wearing yourself out for a small or non-guaranteed income is counter-productive, especially if it pulls you away from your primary duties as suitable helper to your husband (Gen. 2:18) and keeper at home. Those duties are belittled by our culture, but they are highly prized by God. Sometimes to keep things in perspective I think about how my duties would be perceived if I was doing everything as a volunteer position versus due to marriage. As a caregiver and housekeeper to a disabled minister, as a school teacher to his children, and etc., I would be praised for sacrificing my life to this service. But whether man understands or praises me for my work, God will not forget my service to Him. And as we follow him, sticking closely to His Word, He has faithfully provided for us.

Make sure your husband is kept as head: he’s lost health, not rank. Refer decision making to him unless he tells you otherwise. If he is not present due to his health, you can simply say, “I will check with my husband and get back to you.” Purposefully keep a mental respect for him. Show that respect in the way you speak to and about him. It is easy in the flesh to dishonor physical weakness. But the command to obey has only one qualifier: “as it is fit in the Lord”(Col. 3:18) and “as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). And the command to reverence has no qualifier.

Be sure if you choose SSI or SSDI to keep your focus and trust in God whether He uses that and/or other things to provide for you. “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps. 118:8-9) We have been amazed as we have looked to God to meet every need for the past 12 years since 2011 to see the many and varied ways God provides. One time small gifts, ongoing living arrangements, large recurring sums, non-monetary gifts, unusual savings, believers, non-believers, dear friends, total strangers – more than I could list. As a believer, God has a solution as unique as your circumstances. And whether or not he uses human means, government or otherwise, He will always be far more faithful than they ever can be.

Be a part of a church for the spiritual care and fellowship. II Cor. 1:4 explains that as we go through any trouble and receive comfort of God in it, we then can comfort others who are facing the same. But you need to be in regular contact with your fellow believers to get that. And don’t be ashamed to accept others’ help. Believers are to minister to one another (I Pet. 4:10) and to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).

As far as responsibilities and duties, quite a few expectations concerning marital roles are cultural. There are definite realms laid out in the Bible for male and female. Inside that there is much flexibility. Deciding the direction, spiritual and otherwise, is clearly the husband’s role. Overseeing a smoothly functioning home is plainly laid out as the wife’s job. Who has the final word in any decision is obviously the husband. But who sees that the car gets an oil change is an area of liberty. It may be considered a masculine job, but that is culture, not scripture. The beautiful thing about God’s Word is that it does not need to change when faced with unusual or difficult circumstances. It is “exceeding broad” (Ps. 119:96) and can always be followed no matter the circumstances. How it is followed looks different for different people in different circumstances. For example, a husband asking his wife to communicate his decision to their pastor since he can’t leave the home or handle much conversation doesn’t look traditional, but falls within biblical guidelines for his spiritual leadership. Or a wife delegating housekeeping may look to others like she’s shirking her job, but is within scriptural parameters since her job is to see to it that it’s done, not necessarily do it all herself. It felt weird to me when I began doing all the driving, but I was being the helper suited to my husband’s needs and obeying God and my husband in doing so. Scripture, not tradition, is the only thing we will ultimately be judged by.

Don’t neglect the fun and joy as a couple. Poor health means this needs to be intentional and will not look like what others do. But flirting and enjoying inside jokes costs nothing and requires no travel. Your relationship will stay sweet, and “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Prov. 17:22) Remember, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Prov. 18:14). Contributing to a joyful spirit in the home will help your husband bear up under his infirmity.

These are some principles and pointers that have helped us navigate similar waters. May the Lord bless you and guide you as you look to Him for wisdom and provision.

In Christ,

Mrs. Amy Alberico