Marriage vows will be tested in chronic illness.

“’. . .in sickness and in health.’ We have no real way of knowing precisely what we’re pledging before God… when we utter those five little words, but like every other part of our vows, this phrase will be tested.” Carey and Dena Dyer


Now that we know what we have (Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God), let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all – all but the sin. So, let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (Hebrews 4:14-16)



“. . .in sickness and in health.” You have no real way of knowing precisely what you’re pledging before God and your wedding guests when you utter those five little words – but like every other part of your vows, this phrase will be tested.

Here’s the thing I didn’t realize. If you study the entire vow sentence, you are agreeing to have and to hold in all of these situations. Having and holding in health is pretty easy, but in sickness? Holding? Really?

It was our second or third Valentine’s Day as a married couple. We went to a little Italian restaurant with sponge-painted walls (which gives you an idea of how fancy the place wasn’t). It also shows how much money we didn’t have. Dena ordered the cheapest thing on the menu – so cheap that it contained traces of salmonella (which I believe goes best with red wine). Our romantic evening ended with Dena’s head in what the Italians call a gabinetto. It turns out that my job that night was “to have and to hold” her hair back while she called Ralph on the porcelain phone.


Dena has had her share of “in sickness” moments with me, too. Confession is good for the soul, right? I’m kind of a wimp when I’m sick. Some guys like not slowing down when ill, just working through the pain. Not me at all. Sure, when I’m well, I want to come off as the man of the house as much as the next somewhat virile male, but give me a smidgen of fever and some mild body aches? I’m on a pallet on the couch. I’m like a four-year-old, calling my wife in a whiny voice to bring me more Sprite in “that cup that I like.”

Whether it’s me staying up with Dena while she’s yodeling groceries or it’s her having to put up with an ailing hubby who has all the courage of a puppy, guess what? It’s what we signed up for, and we don’t mind it one bit. True love and commitment can make you do crazy things, even if you are in the middle of a mess.     



Carey has had to lean into this part of our vows more than I would have liked. In our twenty-year union, I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune thyroid disease) and degenerative disk disease stemming from genetics and a car wreck in college (leading to neck fusion surgery). I’ve also dealt with two very tough pregnancies, depression, and various female issues. Since we are a team, he had to deal with the fallout from my problems. He has also shouldered the familial burden (physically, emotionally, and financially) when I couldn’t.

It’s not what he expected, but he has taken it (mostly) in stride, and when he’s ill, I impart love, mercy, and chicken soup to him.

When our spouses are sick, it’s important for us to do whatever we can to lessen their load and make them feel cared for: cooking or buying takeout, helping with household chores and the boys’ homework, and holding me when I cry or hurt. These are ways Carey has shown his love to me and lived out his vow to cherish me “in sickness and in health.” He’s taken me to doctor visits, fetched medicines, and paid for massages. He has whisked me away for much-needed retreats. Sometimes, he takes the boys to do fun guy things so I can have a quiet house for reading, writing, or resting.

Sure, “having and holding” is easier when things are going well. Yet, the moments in marriage that define us as a couple (and can ultimately bring us closer to God and one another) are the moments we have and hold, no matter how hard it is.

Now, truly, Is there anything more romantic than a man who will spend Valentine’s Day caring for you when you’re sick?

Click here to read part two.

Excerpt from Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples. Published with permission.

Yellow Bubbles
Carey and Dena Dyer

Carey and Dena Dyer


Carey is a husband, father, worship minister, comedian, and musician who lives near Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife (author/speaker Dena Dyer) and their two sons. When he’s not acting silly, he’s probably watching “Andy Griffith Show” reruns while drinking a Mountain Dew.

Dena is wife to Carey and mom to two boys (her favorite roles). She is also an award-winning author, musician, and speaker. Dena loves encouraging readers and audiences to laugh at themselves and lean hard into Jesus during tough times. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, watching British television, and reading.

Marriage with illness, pain, or disability can be difficult, but it can also be an opportunity to learn patience, forgiveness, and sacrifice - gifts to savor and celebrate.


Navigating marriage with chronic illness can be dark and lonely. Yet it can also be an opportunity to learn patience, forgiveness, tenderness, humility, and sacrifice – gifts of a love forged by fire, a love to celebrate and savor. 


I TAKE YOU IN SICKNESS & IN HEALTH: Marriage with Chronic Illness

Cindee Snider Re

Rejuvenate, revitalize, rekindle, and reconnect with this insightful and enriching 10-chapter study (designed just for couples) that offers you and your spouse a safe place to grieve, heal, grow, dream together, and thrive as one – in sickness and in health.


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