Jump directly to the Content

Too Busy for His Health?

When serious health issues threatened their marriage, Roy and Nancy Gibbs had to discover what was truly important.

Roy's Side: I have things to do!

I'd never been seriously ill. But the day I felt a severe tightness in my chest, I knew it was time to go to the hospital. When I saw the anxious expression on the physician's face, I knew something was wrong. It turned out I had three major coronary blockages. My main artery was blocked 99 percent.

"If you'd arrived 20 minutes later," my internist announced, "things would have been a lot different."

I thought of all the things I wanted to do during my life, but hadn't done. And since I was still alive I knew God had something else for me to do. So I decided if I made it through all this, I'd accomplish those things.

Over the next year, I faced many challenges—including open-heart surgery. But after the operation, I began feeling better than I had for months. I returned to the classroom as a teacher and to the pulpit as a pastor. I was given the opportunity to coach a high school wrestling team, which I accepted.

Sure, coaching took lots of time. Many nights I came home exhausted, but it was something I'd always dreamed of doing.

Nancy didn't understand, and worried about me constantly. She saw how tired I looked when I came home and tried to convince me to quit doing so much. Why can't she accept that I want to live a full and active life, now more than ever? I don't want my life focused just on my health issues. To me, that's not living.

Nancy's Side: I was afraid he'd die!

When Roy called me that afternoon and said, "Meet me in the parking lot. I need to go to the hospital," I knew something was terribly wrong.

Later that night, the physician's words proved my feelings right: "Roy has a major blockage in the main artery to his heart. He needs angioplasty, he may have to have open-heart surgery, or he could die suddenly during the night."

That was a long night. I prayed for God to give us more time together. While Roy survived the night, the next day he had angioplasty and had three stints put in his arteries.

Several days later, as the cardiologist discharged Roy, he told him, "I wish I could tell you everything will be fine now, but I can't. There will be more blockages." With those words the cardiologist planted fear in my mind.

And he was right. Just as he predicted, there were more blockages and more procedures. Eleven months later, Roy needed open-heart surgery. I vowed after his operation I wouldn't leave him overnight again. I was determined to take advantage of every minute we had together.

I lived in constant fear of his death. Every time Roy left the house I wondered if he'd return home. "Do you have your cell phone?" I quizzed him before he left to take short walks. If he wasn't home in 25 minutes I went looking for him. I began to shelter Roy, like an overprotective mother.

I begged Roy to slow down and reduce his workload. But he refused to listen, picked up his pace, and even took on more responsibilities! His apparent lack of concern about his health made me bitterly ask, "Why won't you listen to me? What are you trying to prove?" Was expecting him to slow down so unreasonable?

What Nancy and Roy did:

One night after a disagreement about Roy's over-commitment, Nancy realized something had to change—and since it probably wasn't going to be Roy, it needed to be her. "My worrying wasn't making any difference," she says, "except to cause more conflict between us and push Roy away."

She was so frustrated she decided to go away alone that weekend. While Roy was busy working and coaching, Nancy stayed at a hotel on the Atlantic Ocean.

She prayed for wisdom on how to handle their marriage. She realized the tighter she held onto Roy the more distant he became. But she didn't know how to change anything.

The next morning, Nancy awoke early. "I watched God paint the most beautiful sunrise," she says. "All of a sudden I realized that just as God was in control of the sun rising over the horizon, the all-powerful God could surely take care of Roy—without my help."

That was a turning point for her. "God, I'm putting Roy in your hands," Nancy prayed. "I realize only you can heal Roy's heart and our marriage. I will trust you to take care of my husband."

Roy also called Nancy several times while she was away. "I realized how much I missed her," Roy says. The short time they spent apart made them both appreciate the other.

Nancy returned home refreshed after two nights away. "Roy actually survived without my help!" she says.

She told Roy about how God used the sunrise to teach her that he's in full control of all things. Roy confessed that while he enjoys his outside activities, he loves Nancy and their home even more and that he would cut back.

The atmosphere in the house changed when Nancy stopped trying to control Roy's health problems. "Our time together seemed more relaxed," says Roy. Nancy agrees, but says, "It was tough! But the best thing I did for our marriage was to make myself not overly worry about Roy. I had to pray a lot that God would take care of him. And he has." Now instead of worrying about what may or may not happen, they both focus on enjoying their time together.

"Love doesn't come by clinging to what I'm afraid to lose," Nancy says. "True love comes as a result of trust and understanding God ultimately controls all things. As I let go of my fears and stopped nagging Roy, he grew closer to me emotionally—with a heart filled with love."

Have a creative solution to a common marriage problem—or know a couple who does? We pay for each story that's featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number, and a short description of their problem and solution to:

Work It Out, Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Health; Illness; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Winter, 2003
Posted September 30, 2008

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters