My feet sunk in silky sand as I pushed metal handlebars with all my might. Clear blue water ahead was our destination—if we could just get there.
In the planning of our honeymoon to the Bahamas, we reserved a beach wheelchair for my husband, knowing he would need it for one of the island’s. We hoped it would make traveling through the sand easier or at least possible.
An umbrella of heat followed us as we tried to navigate the white sand which felt more like quicksand. We’d get stuck and try again, get stuck and try again.
With sweat dripping down our bodies, we eventually made it to rows of blue and white beach chairs. My husband transferred onto a chair and got settled. I made my way down to the water feeling a bit torn about leaving my new husband behind, but he knew how much I enjoyed the water.
I sat down in the soft sand and water blanketed my legs. The water was so clear that I could see little creatures swimming happy. I inhaled the beauty, feeling both peace and pain in the same breath.
If only Vince could sit here with me in this pillow of sand. If only he could scoop me up on his back and we could walk the island together without the struggle.
But our reality was different—and it stung a little.
For the first 27 years of my husband’s life, he walked on two feet and climbed mountains and rode motorcycles. Then he crashed on a motorcycle resulting in a traumatic brain injury and complete spinal cord injury.
He rolled into my life a year later.
And I’ll never forget the joy alive in his eyes when I met him for the first time. Despite his complete life change, he wasn’t bitter. Before me was a man of courage who was choosing to persevere despite the obstacles.
We fell in love, dated for a few years, and then made it to the alter to exchange vows.
The first year of our marriage was a transition of learning to live together and adjusting to changes like my husband working a full-time job for the first time since his accident. We settled into into our new place and I sorted through mountains of boxes, occasionally coming across pre-injury pictures. It was always strange for me because I didn’t know that Vince.
A part of me grieved.
And a part of me felt guilty for grieving—like I just needed to get over it and focus on the positive and be thankful for the heaps of good. But the ache is there for a reason, and it can awaken us to our deep need for the Healer.
We endured struggles as we adjusted to married life, but there was an undeniable outpouring of God’s goodness over us. Beauty radiated through the broken pieces.
And just over a year into our marriage, we got one of the very best surprises.
When I saw those two pink lines, a flood of emotions washed over me as I remembered back to our dating years when my husband (boyfriend at the time) told me he might not be able to father children. He knew how badly I wanted lots of little ones running around. And I could the see the sadness in his eyes—eyes that almost whispered, You know you don’t have to choose me, Hannah. You could choose an able-bodied man and not have to go through these struggles.
But the thing about love—true love—is that it endures all things and believes even when hope seems dim.
My husband was just as surprised when I told him the news on his birthday, and his eyes lit up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. A little life was growing inside of me and it was a pure gift.
Our miracle Micah made his entrance into the world just six days after our two-year wedding anniversary, and just three days before the eight-year anniversary of my husband’s accident.
Beauty does rise from the ashes and only God can do that.
We are now just days away from celebrating our seven-year wedding anniversary, our son’s fifth birthday, and remembering thirteen years since my husband’s accident.
In these past seven years of marriage, we’ve seen both beauty and pain. We’ve experienced the joy of being parents, and also felt the ache of struggling to conceive a second child. We’ve celebrated the abundant gifts of grace that fill our lives, and also felt the exhaustion and discouragement that accompanies the challenges.
At times, the struggles have divided us. At times, I’ve grown weary and depressed and anxious and fearful of the all the what-if’s.
Am I really strong enough to endure this? God, I am really the right woman for this?
But it’s in those moments that I hear Jesus lean in and whisper truth:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33 (NIV)
When I keep my eyes on Jesus, trusting that He’s walking right along with me, my perspective turns from darkness to light. And His love becomes healing balm for every wound, because by His wounds we are healed.
And I remember that Jesus demonstrated the truest love when He gave up His life.
Because true love is nail-pierced hands and a bloody cross. True love is a perfect man willingly bearing the weight of the world’s sins on His beaten body, because for God so loved the world and He couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from us.
True love doesn’t give up with things get hard, but loves harder.
While the enemy wants to use the struggles to divide and destroy, the struggles can actually lead us closer to something good—if we let them. The struggles provide an opportunity to draw near to the One who understands suffering. And as we draw near to Jesus, we also draw near to true love.
In the midst of pain, there is a beautiful opportunity to commune with Jesus. And as we receive His love, He strengthens us to extend the same kind of love.
I’ve never known what it’s like to walk the beach hand in hand with my husband. Sometimes reality just hurts and I’ve learned that’s okay, but the pain doesn’t wash out God’s goodness; it only magnifies it all the greater because He is the One who rebuilds and restores what has been lost. He is One who catches every drop of pain and will one day wipe it all away. He is the one who offers unshakable hope. He is the One who is with us even when we feel alone.
He is the One who brings two broken people together and grows love—the kind of love that only grows stronger through the hardships.
It’s the kind of love that holds our marriage together even when pain cuts deeps. It’s the kind of love that gathered in a hospital when my husband (who I didn’t know at the time) almost didn’t make it. It’s the kind of love we feel from family and friends who pray boldly when trials arise. It’s the kind of love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
It’s true love and it never ends.
Sometimes it’s the struggles—the things we fear most—that actually lead us closer to true love. And to know true love can infuse even the darkest circumstances with great joy.