Walking through our local shopping mall with me and our two kids, my husband Russ had to stop and rest every few minutes. “Sorry,” he said while wincing in pain. “Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to try to come here with you all tonight.”

“Let’s just go home, then. We’ve already gotten the birthday party gift, and that’s all we really need right now,” I replied.

“No – I don’t want to go home yet!” our son Justin protested.

“We were going to eat dinner out tonight,” our daughter Honor said in a disappointed tone. “We hardly get to eat out anymore.” That’s because there aren’t many restaurant options that are compatible with Russ’ special diet, I thought as I pondered the complicated food restrictions that were a vital part of managing kidney disease.

“I hate feeling like this!” Russ exclaimed, and then stopped himself before he said more. In his eyes I could see flashes of the anger, sorrow, and frustration he had struggled with ever since his diagnosis.  We got carryout food for the kids and me to take home, where Russ sat glumly at the table eating the leftovers of a previous specially prepared dinner. When I saw his head nod as he struggled to stay awake at the table, I knew that I had to handle the kids’ bedtime routines by myself yet again.

By the time I came to bed, Russ was already fast asleep, and I tried to sleep, too, knowing that it was the best way to take my mind off the frustration of having to be celibate while Russ was too sick for us to enjoy the sexual part of marriage. But worries about Russ’ health swirled around in my mind, preventing sleep until the Holy Spirit brought the Bible’s shortest verse to my mind: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). After shedding a few tears of my own, I finally fell asleep in peace. The reminder that God sees and cares about human suffering in this fallen world challenged me to trust him with the pain that Russ’ illness caused in our marriage.

Many other spouses face the same challenge, since serious illnesses (like cancer or diabetes) or injuries (such as broken bones or herniated discs) may strike couples at any point during their marriages. Dealing with a chronic condition is particularly challenging, because the stress of it continues indefinitely.

A 2014 AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that caring for a spouse is the most stressful kind of caregiving there is, with two-thirds of people caring for ailing spouses reporting that caregiving duties caused stress in their family (versus only half of people caring for ailing parents). While physical suffering often leads to marital suffering, there’s good news, too: the poll found that 7 out of 10 people caring for a spouse said that going through the challenges together ultimately strengthened their marriages.

If your marriage has been damaged by the stress of dealing with illness or injury, you can count on God to heal your relationship when you seek his help – whether or not he ever chooses to heal the physical suffering involved. Here’s how your marriage can recover from a serious illness or injury:

Pray often. Staying in contact with God through frequent prayer will help strengthen you and your spouse as you deal with whatever challenges you encounter due to illness or injury. Don’t hesitate to honestly express even your most difficult feelings and thoughts to God in prayer. Ask God for whatever you need. Then listen for what messages God may have for you. Listening is even more important than talking, because it’s through listening that you develop a hunger to hear from God, which will keep drawing you into a deeper relationship with him. The closer you and your spouse get to God, the more your desires will come to reflect his desires for your marriage – so you’ll be at peace that God is at work fulfilling good purposes even from the pain in your marriage.