I sat on the edge of my bed with my phone to my ear. For the past six weeks, my husband functioned as a single parent while I laid in bed, suffocated by morning sickness.
My doctor called regularly. She was glad to hear I was finally starting to feel normal again and asked about my mental health.
“The anxiety is a bit better,” I replied. “But I feel guilty for how much trouble I’ve caused everyone, especially my husband.”
“This is marriage. This is why we make those vows, ‘In sickness and in health,’” she replied. “Someday, something may happen where you’ll need to take care of him. And you’ll love him in the same way he loved you.”
After the birth of our twins, my husband did suffer and need my care. And many times, I failed. Often, watching someone else suffer makes us feel so helpless. We can’t change or fix them, we can’t remove their trials, and we can’t mend their pain. In joblessness, we can’t fabricate careers. In mental illness, we can’t heal their mind. In sickness, we can’t fix their body. In loss, we can’t recover what’s gone. We come before our husbands empty-handed and often wordless. How can we be their helper when we feel so helpless?
Created to be Helpers
After God spoke the land and its creatures into existence, he gathered dust from the earth, formed a man in his likeness, and blew life into his nostrils.
This man needed a helper (ezer). God showed him every animal he created, knowing not one of them would do as an equal partner and companion. He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and removed one of his ribs to form a woman from it. Unlike the animals, God created her in God’s image, like he had Adam. When God brought her to Adam, he spoke the first love poem:
"This one, at last, is bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called 'woman,'
for she was taken from man." (Gen. 2:23 CSB)
When we hear the word helper, we may think of a time when we called our child “Mommy’s little helper.” It’s endearing, but every adult knows the child is more cute than helpful. But the biblical writers used the term much differently. The majority of its uses in the Old Testament refer to God helping Israel. God gave Eve to Adam as an equal companion, one to help carry his burdens and work alongside him. As wives, we have this high calling to be our husbands’ beloved friend and refuge, his intimate ally.
As theologian Matthew Henry expounds, “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be his equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
Called to Love Like Christ
If both of us are believers, we share an eternal bond. The blood of Christ binds us and adopts us into the family of God. In this relationship, we should demonstrate brotherly affection (Rom. 12:10) and display selfless love and humble service (Phil. 2:1–4). We are to rejoice and weep together (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26). Our love for one another should make others wonder that maybe we have the love of Someone greater in us (John 13:35). And even if he isn’t a believer, Scripture still calls us to love our husbands in a way that exemplifies the love of Christ, with a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:1–6).
How to be A Helper in Our Husband’s Suffering
We can express this love for our husbands in the way we come alongside him in his suffering. As one who suffered much, Paul understood how to come alongside sufferers. He wrote:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Cor. 1:3–7)
Similarly, we must recognize that our greatest comfort in all afflictions will be found in God alone. He alone is strong enough to bear the burden without buckling, love us without wavering, and listen without growing weary. Our Father knows us deeply as our omniscient God. Christ sympathizes with us as a Great High Priest, who experienced the greatest possible human suffering on the cross. The Holy Spirit counsels our hearts with Scripture and turns our tears to prayers. No human can do what he provides. Therefore, we must remember to remind our husbands of these truths as they suffer—to turn to Christ, their true Savior, in prayer and dependence in the midst of their pain.
Turning to Our True Helper
As we suffer alongside our husbands, we must draw near to God ourselves. We need to bring our grief over what isn’t as it should be to our Ezer—our sufficient Helper. As I watched my husband suffer, anger and despair boiled within me at my helplessness. But I had to learn to let those feelings drive me to the throne of grace, where the One seated is never helpless. As I cried to friends who couldn’t relate to our suffering, I had to turn to the One who intimately knew our pain. As I became exasperated at the broken systems around us that couldn’t offer us the help we desperately needed, I had to come empty-handed and beg God for some kind of rescue. When I felt hurt, confused, and broken, and my husband was just as crushed, I had to fall on my knees before God for comfort.
It’s only then, after we’ve received such comfort, that we can comfort others with a reflection of how God has comforted us. We can reflect God’s help as our husband’s helper. As God lifts us up under our sorrows, we can guide our husband’s gaze to the love of God found in the gospel. When he sins, we can correct him. In situations when we have no words, we can listen. When we find ourselves broken again, too, we can pray.
As our husbands suffer, and we inevitably suffer alongside them, we can still be his helper, even when we feel utterly helpless—because God, being the greater Ezer, never will be.
Meet the Author:
Lara d’Entremont is a wife and mom to three from Nova Scotia, Canada. Lara is a writer and learner at heart—always trying to find time to scribble down some words or read a book. Her desire in writing is to help women develop solid theology they can put into practice—in the mundane, the rugged terrain, and joyful moments. You can find more of her writing at laradentremont.com.