Robertson McQuilkin was the president of Columbia Bible College and enjoyed a very successful and effective ministry. After being married almost forty years, his wife began to forget things. Tests were run and it was discovered that she had Alzheimer’s and began to decline rapidly.
Close friends advised him to have her put into an institution that could provide better care for her than he could. Then, he would be able to continue in his present ministry at the school. Even her doctor advised him to let her go into a home that specialized in patients with long-term disabilities. For a short while, he was torn between staying on as the leader of the school and resigning in order to care for his wife, Muriel.
McQuilkin writes concerning that difficult decision, “When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, forty two years before, in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part’? It was only fair. She had, after all, cared for me for almost four decades with marvelous devotion; now it was my turn. And such a partner she was! If I took care of her for forty years, I would never be out of her debt.”
Love never gives up on a person. The Bible says that love “endureth all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). The word “endureth” means to stay in a place in spite of pressure. It has the idea of perseverance, consistency, and patience.
Love is strong. There are times when it is not rewarded or appreciated, but it continues to give and sacrifice anyway.
This is the way that God loves us. Though we are often fickle and unfaithful He loves us. The night before He died it is said of Christ concerning His disciples that “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end”. (John 13:1) This included Judas who was in that room that night, just a short time later betraying the innocent Son of God. Love is strong, not weak.
This is what Jesus did for us on the cross. It wasn’t easy for Him, but He stayed the course. The Bible speaks of this steadfast love of Christ when it says that He “endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
It doesn’t say that He “enjoyed” the cross. His death involved not only incredible physical pain, but emotional and spiritual suffering as well. He stayed in that awful place of pain and agony because He loved us, even those that had beaten Him and put the spikes in His hands and feet. Love won’t quit, even when it’s difficult.
Jacob loved Rachel and proved it by it his endurance. Part of the requirement to marry her was paying the dowry to her father (a common part of courtship in that era). The price was that he would serve his future father-in-law for seven years before marrying her.
The words as given in Scripture are stirring – “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her”. (Genesis 29:20) When your actions are rooted from a motive of love you won’t stop even when your energy is about gone. However, when love is absent it won’t be long before you quit when times get difficult.
Job loved God and expressed it through his faithfulness to Him in difficult times. During the greatest pain a person can know his profession about God was that “though he slay me, yet will I trust him…” (Job 13:15). His endurance was proof of the love in his heart for God.
Loving God is associated with enduring trials. The Bible records, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love”. (James 1:12) There is a direct correlation between our staying the course through hardship and the presence of love in us.
Paul modeled this type of love for those to whom he ministered. He had been accused of serving the Lord for money so he took a secular job to make his living and still ministered to the people without complaint.
He wrote to the Corinthian church, “…I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved”. (II Corinthians 12:14-15) He was the founding pastor of that church and had won many of them to Christ. He was their spiritual father and he loved them. And they knew it by his willingness to endure unfair criticisms for their benefit.
As a pastor he didn’t just give content in sermons, but he gave his very soul and life to the people to whom he taught – because he loved them. One of my favorite passages that shows this type of concern and love is one that I want to be said of me, not only from the church I pastor, but, most of all, my children. Here are Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica – “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us”. (I Thessalonians 2:8)
Paul not only worked secular jobs in order to prove his sincerity to those that were skeptical, but also he gave money he earned to those serving with him. In his final words to the pastors of the church at Ephesus we see his heart of love, his sacrifice and, in return, how well he was loved by them.
“Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more…” (Acts 20:34-38)
They wept not just because he was a great teacher that had given them the gospel, but he had given them his heart. Much of his giving was done when it was difficult, but he stayed the course.
On June 2, 1979 Paula and I made vows to each other before the Lord and those that witnessed our marriage. The words we said were traditional, but full of meaning: “I take you to have and to hold from this forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part”.
Though we were very sincere when we said them neither of us understood how we would be tested in the years to come in those very words. That’s true of every person that has ever made those vows.
It’s easy to make a promise when the reality of the cost isn’t staring you in the face. Wedding vows are made in the future tense – we say “I will” do these things for you. When we speak them we have no idea of what the future holds. Most of us assume it will be pleasant with a few little bumps in the road.
Twenty-five years after we were married I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease after experiencing debilitating fatigue, chronic sinus infections and headaches for a long while. Paula has had to not only help to care for me, but do things that I would ordinarily do if my health was good. It’s very humbling for me. There are times I hate my disease.
Today when I officiate weddings and I come to that line, “in sickness and in health”, as the couple makes their vows it is emotional for me to even say them. They aren’t just words to me. I have seen them in our relationship to each other. Paula has been faithful to me in spite of my illness making life difficult for her in a lot of ways. Too, there are times when I plow through and do things when I have very little energy, but it is the right thing to do for her and the kids.
When my father went home to be with the Lord in July of 2008 he and Mom had been married for almost fifty-two years. Their wedding anniversary is December 6, 1956. Melanie, Hoss and myself were privileged to host a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for them in December, 2006. So many friends came to see them. My sister, brother and I were able to honor them verbally and publicly for their investment in our lives at that time. We didn’t know it, but my Dad would leave us in eighteen months.
At the funeral home late after all our friends had gone home Mom and I were standing before my Dad’s casket. We were silent, taking in those sacred moments together. I commented to Mom about how significant Dad’s hands were in my life. She put her hand on his hands and said, “He never took off his wedding band all of the years we were married”.
Then she said, “Rick, would you like to have his wedding band?” It was a question for which I was unprepared. I’m a very sentimental person and places, gifts and objects remind me of how special people are, the times we shared together. There was a part of me that wanted to have the ring for just that purpose, to be reminded of my father and his commitment to Mom and his children.
But I told Mom that I didn’t want it. I said, “Mom, I appreciate the offer and would very much like to have it, but I want it to stay on Dad’s hand. That’s where it ought to be”. They stayed the course when it was difficult and it has profoundly touched my life, and I know that Melanie and Hoss would say the same thing.
May you show your family you love them not only by your words, but by your perseverance in spite of personal pressure and pain. Love “endureth all things”. (I Corinthians 13:7)