Monday, September 17, 2012

When the Preacher Gets Sick

By Christy Fitzwater

Three years ago my husband made a trip to Kampala, Uganda, to visit and help out our missionary friends on the ground there. 

He took three malaria pills (Mefloquine) that changed the next two years of our lives. 

When he returned home he had jet lag just like everyone experiences, except it didn't go away. Then other symptoms were added to the fatigue: Severe anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, body pain, headaches, loss of appetite, and insomnia. It was a severe central nervous system reaction to the Mefloquine.   

We started to read and learned that if Matt were able to recover it would take approximately two years. 

Three years later he occasionally gets symptoms but is mostly better.

Early in the illness, my daughter said, I feel like my dad went to Africa and never came back. 

I wondered if I would ever have my husband back the way I knew him before. Every night for the first eight months I cried myself to sleep. 

Early on, though, I accepted this illness from the Lord as an opportunity to learn to serve my husband. I had been praying through the year before that God would help me grow in my ability to humbly serve people. Wow did I get to practice.   

My husband needed ice packs and back massages. He needed me to carry his chore load. I prayed through it –thanking God for giving me the lessons in serving I had asked for. 

But it was hard. And lonely. Our social life dwindled to nothing because Matt barely had the energy to get himself to work every day, let alone enjoy life with anyone. In that loneliness I reached for the Lord, and He was there. I found in God an intimate companionship I had never experienced before. 

Those first two horrible years of illness make me shiver when I think about them. So much pain and struggle. 

And I love those two years. I’m not the same person I was before Matt stepped off that plane and into a season of illness. Our marriage is deeper since we have experienced the sickness part of “in sickness and in health”. My relationship with God is stronger. 

Have you lost something? 
Welcome the loss. Despite the grief and struggle, accept what God is handing you and lean into it –learning and growing. It can be beautiful.

Christy Fitzwater is a pastor's wife and the mother of two teenagers in Kalispell, Montana.  To get to know her better, visit her devotional blog site "Off the Shelf" at


  1. Thank you for sharing your story here, Christy. What a challenging word to "welcome the loss". You're so right. Beauty can come from loss as the potter molds us through it all.

    P.S. I'm glad your husband is feeling better.


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