“When I think about that time I spent with Ian and Larissa, one thing stands out the clearest: their love for one another,” Stefan Green wrote last year in a short update on the couple. “It was beautiful to see Larissa’s devotion and respect for her husband, and Ian’s glad-hearted love for his wife. A lot can change in three years as bodies heal and marriages mature, but their amazing story goes on.”
Over three years ago now, Desiring God shared the story of Ian and Larissa, a couple who chose to keep their promise to marry despite Ian’s traumatic brain injury in 2006. When we published the story, I was single and finishing up my first year of seminary. I was touched by the story at the time and shared it joyfully. I dreamt of finding a wife and entering into of covenant relationship with the woman the Lord had set aside for me.
I had no idea that a few years later I’d be married and working for Desiring God. Ian and Larissa’s story still inspires me, but for different reasons. As a married man, I have more context for the good but hard work that marriage requires. Our circumstances are different, but the requirements are the same.
Their love, devotion, and respect for one another is a fresh reminder that we must look beyond ourselves in order to truly love someone. As I reviewed their story, I was reminded that in order to love and sacrifice, I must cling to the one who first loved and sacrificed on my behalf.
If you’re not familiar with their story, Ian and Larissa had planned to get married as soon as they graduated from college in December of 2006. But everything was put on hold due to Ian’s accident. Instead of marrying when they were both young and healthy, they married when he was sick and disabled.
“Marrying Ian meant that I was signing on to things that I don’t think I ever would’ve chosen for myself — working my whole life, having a husband who can’t be left alone, managing his caregivers, remembering to get the oil changed, advocating for medical care, balancing checkbooks, and on,” Larissa admitted.“The practical costs felt huge, and those didn’t even touch on the emotional and spiritual battles that I would face.”
In their twenties, they’ve grown to understand more fully what Paul meant by “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Neither of them would have chosen this type of marriage. She says they made the decision to marry sadly, but joyfully.
“Sorrow has been a permanent resident in our 20s. It feels like the rest of the world uses these years for really fun things. But in our 20s, we watched our future crash with him in that white station wagon and we now live with two versions of Ian. Weʼve watched all of our friends get married and have health. Iʼve watched as my girlfriends and sisters found husbands who could dance with them at their weddings and drive them to church on Sunday morning. Weʼve watched our dad fight and be taken by brain cancer, only to see life keep marching on.”
Since we first told their story, a lot has developed. They’ve been involved in more video projects, wrote a book, and most recently were featured on the Huffington Post and OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s television network.
Larissa confessed to Huffington Post that there’s “intense grief and intense pain. I would have moments of struggling with, ‘God, why us? Are we being punished for something?’”
Through all of this, Jesus has sustained them. He was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) and he’s loved them well every step of the way.
“We know that we have made a covenant to each other, just as Christ made to the church. The church that he made that covenant with is so imperfect, and sorrowful, and disabled. Just like our marriage. This church, and this marriage, are hemmed in by Jesus and eagerly long for heaven. He is their author and sustainer.”
Jesus has used their story to spread a passion of joy in God to thousands of people across the world. Pastor John Piper offered these words when we first introduced their story back in 2012. I think his words are still relevant today:
“I tremble with the glad responsibility of introducing you to Ian & Larissa Murphy in this video. Tremble, because it is their story and so personal. So delicate. So easily abused. So unfinished. Glad, because Christ is exalted over all things,” he writes. “Love Ian and Larissa as you watch this amazing story. Pray for them.”
Phillip Holmes is a staff writer and content strategist at desiringGod.org. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife Jasmine.