Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh;
is anything too difficult for Me?
Roxanne Gardner never anticipated that her husband, a former state wrestling champion, would one day be paralyzed from the chest down.
Tamara Carlson (not her real name) had no way of knowing that her fiancé, Tad, would be severely wounded and disfigured by a car bomber in Iraq before he became her husband.
Sheila Amberlain (also not her real name) had no idea that the “additional work load” her husband was supposedly carrying was actually his cover for a mid-life marital affair.
Pain and adversity can easily strip us of energy and heart. All three of these women have been challenged by difficult circumstances, and all three made courageous decisions to stand by their men. They know two important things about their relationships and adversity—who they are and where they’re going. First, with their husband, “they are no longer two but one” (Matthew 19:6). And secondly, “in time of need” they know to “boldly” approach the “throne of grace” to “obtain the mercy” they need (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV). Blindsided by the storms of life, they now offer hope and encouragement to women with relational challenges.
For Greg and Roxanne Gardner, the morning of January 11 started as just another day. But it didn’t end the way it started. On that unusually foggy morning, Greg left for his morning jog. While running, he was hit by a vehicle and taken by ambulance to the hospital with a broken leg. But his condition steadily worsened, and by the end of the day, he was paralyzed from the chest down.
While struggling to absorb the news herself, Roxanne had the tough job of telling the couple’s three girls that their father might never walk again. Then she set about the difficult task of learning what she needed to know to care for her husband. She oversaw the renovation of their two story house to accommodate his wheelchair and learned how to watch for additional dangerous complications from his injury.
Roxanne recalls her first unsuccessful attempt to help Greg transfer from his wheelchair to the bed. Sure that she could handle it even though he outweighs her, Greg talked her in to helping him make the transfer. Roxanne was mortified when she lost her grip on him and Greg slid to the floor between the chair and the bed, unable to move. Then she panicked. How am I supposed to get him up? she recalls thinking. Undaunted, Greg reminded her about the workmen who were renovating their home and calmly asked her to get them to assist him. It was the first of many experiences that required Roxanne to begin a new way of thinking. Now her mantra is, “I can and I will.”
Tamara Carlson’s mantra is the same. Her husband, Tad, is one of the 20,000 troops wounded in Iraq. When a car bomber disabled his truck, Tad was engulfed in flames and blinded in one eye. His skull was shattered, riddling his brain with shrapnel. Doctors later removed his left arm below the elbow and three fingers of his right hand. Tad was also disfigured beyond recognition—his ears, lips, and most of his nose burned away.
When Tamara learned of her then-fiancé’s injuries, she flew from her home to an Army medical center with one suitcase and a week’s worth of clothes. She lived there well over a year.
She’s learned how to handle dressing changes, feeding, and personal hygiene. Though Tad is independent, she still buttons his pants because that’s one thing he’s not able to do.
Now settled into the home Tad bought before departing for Iraq, the couple is navigating the white waters that the first year of marriage brings. Tad took a medical retirement, and Tamara is furthering her education. Together, they are looking ahead to the future, hoping that the worst is behind them.1
Sheila Amberlain didn’t think twice when her husband began logging extra hours at work. His job had always required a varying seasonal workload. It wasn’t until a friend shared how she learned of her own husband’s affair that Sheila began to have suspicions. She told her husband about the conversation with her friend and was devastated when he confessed to an affair of his own.
Until now, her marriage had been a strong one—or so she thought. Sheila and her husband were extremely compatible and enjoyed each other’s company. They spent time together with their children and a wide circle of friends, enjoyed similar pursuits, and had recently helped each other through the death of one of each of their parents. Yet the bond was not strong enough to hold when a co-worker began aggressively pursuing her husband. Though he was wracked with guilt, he responded to her flirtations and the excitement offered by a new romance. One thing led to another and soon he was arranging clandestine meetings planned around his children’s sporting events.
When she learned the truth, Sheila wanted to throw him out of the house. But she knew her response would help determine the future of her marriage—or lack thereof. In despair, she locked herself in the bathroom and dropped to her knees on the cold tile floor. Between sobs, she cried out to God and asked for His wisdom and guidance. Almost immediately, an uncanny peace settled over her. Though her initial reaction was that her marriage was over, she realized she had a choice. She could let current circumstances undo a relationship that had 26 years of history behind it, or she could work to salvage it.
Though Sheila was deeply hurt and her self-esteem was shaken, when her husband asked for forgiveness and a second chance, she gave it to him. He ended the affair and immediately began looking for another job to remove himself from further temptation. He held himself accountable to Sheila by letting her see his cell phone and text message bills each month to assure her that the affair had indeed ended. He also began coming home immediately from work each evening, bringing work home with him when necessary but never staying late at the offices. His willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and work to regain Sheila’s trust empowered her to forgive him. Recently, when talking to a friend, she said, “We both realize what we almost lost, and things are better than they’ve ever been between us.”
Difficult, life-changing circumstances. Extraordinary courage. These three women realized that though life was testing them in ways they never could have anticipated, they could choose their response, and their response would determine the course of their lives.
Whether you’re in difficult circumstances or not, the power of choice and courage is a combination that all extraordinary women wield wisely. Problems are not the real issue in life—it’s what we choose to do with them that determine the future. When the storms rage, press in close to Jesus—He will safely guide your steps home.
1 Shaunti Feldhahn, personal e-mail, February 15, 2007.