–by Nico Bougas

Robert McQuilkin was the President of Columbia Bible College (now known as Columbia International University) when he got the bad news. His wife had Alzheimer’s. All too soon the day came when she required twenty-four-hour care. Would he resign and care for her, or would he hire someone else to look after her? He was giving such good leadership at the school that all his friends said that was God’s place for him. His friends urged him, “Others can care for her as effectively as you can”, “God chose you for this great college work”, “Think of the impact for God you can make in this prestigious chair”. Then they hit him with the devastating observation, “She doesn’t know who you are nor who she is.” Robert replied, “But I know who she is, and I promised to be there for her and today I choose to keep that promise “.

Finding joy after life’s blows
With that he resigned his position as college president. McQuilkin later spoke about how he found joy after life’s blows – “my dearest slipping from me, my eldest son snatched away in a tragic accident, my life’s work abandoned at its peak.” When the time came, the decision was firm. “It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, “in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part”?

Divorce statistics
We live in an age when divorce statistics are going off the charts and many young couples decide to live together rather than make any lasting commitment. We need to be reminded that marriage is a special relationship that God has instituted. And marriage really means, “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, till death us do part…”  Frightening current statistics reveal that the majority of people tying the knot this year will not be together “till death us do part.” And many of those that do will simply be hanging on and enduring their marital status rather than enjoying it.

My own experience
I was understandably cautious about getting married. My own parents got divorced when I was about two years old. They both subsequently remarried and nothing I saw in those marriages was a great advert for marital bliss. I was determined not to make the same mistakes that my parents had. Fortunately, God provided the ideal partner – someone who in many ways is opposite to me. She is vivacious, outgoing, warm, caring, and sociable – and fortunately for me, she can take a joke. That’s why she took me!

She is my encourager
There are many qualities in her that I appreciate. Her willingness to put up with my demanding schedule, being away from home regularly, working long hours to keep current in my ministry, and more often than not having to go alone to church because I am at another church preaching or presenting the work of our mission.

But the quality that means the most to me is that she is an encourager. She took me for better or for worse, and though I may have been worse than she took me for, she decided to make it for the better. So she tries to find the positive side of me. And her support means more to me than anyone else’s because she knows me better than anyone. She knows all my weaknesses, frailties, and failures – and when, despite all these things, she can still find good things to say, then I am really encouraged and blessed.

A long time ago she decided to heed the advice of Paul, “Love will hardly even notice when others do wrong…will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him”– 1 Cor.13: 5-7.

Build one another up
You often hear spouses complain about their partners. Instead of building one another up they tear each other down. It is easy to criticise, complain, and protest. The world is full of people who squelch your enthusiasm, dim your vision, and pour cold water on your ideas. Such a partner can destroy a marriage.

The Scripture teaches us that two are better than one because if one falls the other shall lift him or her up. I am fortunate to have someone who is there to lift me up. An affirming, supportive, and encouraging partner can turn a nobody into a somebody.

Nico Bougas is the International Director of Development of  Hellenic Ministries. Email him on Nico@bougas.info, visit hellenicministries.com

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