Choosing love after tragedy

When an accident changed their lives, Ian and Larissa faced a difficult decision

Ian and Larissa
Ian and Larissa on their wedding day

Amongst all the videos that have ‘gone viral’ lately, ‘The story of Ian and Larissa’ is getting watched over and over again not because it has a catchy tune, but because it shows the best of human nature and reminds us of what really matters.

‘The story of Ian and Larissa’ gives us a glimpse into the relationship between Ian and Larissa Murphy and their decision to marry in the wake of Ian’s brain injury, acquired in a 2006 car accident, leaving Ian to relearn how to walk, talk and recall his life.

However, their story is different from the usual uplifting format, with the couple determined to thank God with how far they’ve come and providing hope for their future (see www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-story-of-ian-larissa for the video).

Ian and Larissa both grew up in Christian families but weren’t particularly concerned with following God when they were younger.

Larissa says of Ian, “He was motivated to make people laugh and be witty, not to honour God. He thought he was a Christian because at a younger age he had said a ‘sinner’s prayer’ (accepting Jesus as his Saviour).

“He was helpless to change his motivations and actions. His parents began to help him question his salvation.

“When Ian was 16, he was at a church youth camp that his dad began and ran and there he went forward for prayer asking to see more of God in his life.”

Ian became more focused on God after this experience. “He became passionate about the gospel and that Christians should understand that it should influence every day,” says Larissa.

Of herself, she says, “I did not know what it meant to live [faith] out in my daily life and to truly see God as King in my life.

“My high school years were spent trying to do the ‘right thing’ and obeying my parents, but I gave in regularly to my flesh and found myself at parties, making bad decisions. I knew that Christian's lives looked different than mine but didn't feel ready to let go of my lifestyle.”

When asked one day whether she knew she would go to heaven when she died, Larissa says, “It was the first time that I could not answer confidently, and that seems to have marked the beginning of God making significant changes in my life. Albeit slowly, I was able to walk away from the unhealthy lifestyles that I had created for myself and found a local church that preached the gospel.”

It was at this church that she met Ian. The couple started dating and decided that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Little did they know that these lives were soon to be completely changed.

When Larissa got the call telling her Ian had been in a car accident on his way to work in the September of 2006, her greatest hope was that his brain hadn’t been affected. Sadly, she arrived at the hospital to learn that doctors expected Ian to become brain dead.

His family started contacting funeral homes. But little by little, Ian started improving, breathing by himself, coming out of a coma after months and eventually, over several years, being able to talk to Larissa, the main thing that had been impeding their wish to be married.

Larissa moved in with Ian’s parents after his accident, recalling, “My spiritual life before Ian's accident was in its infancy — I had only been a believer for about two years. I felt like a sponge, soaking up new thoughts and ideas about God, that my eyes had not been opened to before.

“Ian's accident is still continuing to teach me things about God as I learn each day through our suffering.

“He is so gracious to grant me salvation and eternity with Him. I deserve hell, but He has rescued me. I have seen His tender care, even in the midst of significant temptation to distrust or unbelief.

“He gently reminds me of His truths and His love for me.”

Ian faced illness and the death of his father before he was able to propose to the woman who had stayed by his side, sure that if the tables were turned he would do the same.

Larissa had to accept a life as sole income earner and Ian’s carer, but says:

Ian and Larissa 2
Ian and Larissa

“We decided to get married because we loved each other and believed that God would be faithful to our marriage. It wouldn't have been sinful for us to part ways, but we didn't want to. Ian is my best friend and I didn't want to ever leave him. That doesn't mean that there aren't times of doubt or fear, but even on those days we know that our marriage is in the hands of a faithful God.

“Some people would ask me why I gave up my life to be with Ian. My response is simply, ‘this is my life!’

“God always provides grace and forgiveness, even when I am a wretched wife to my husband. I know that I have a loving Father to run to when my fears are overwhelming me and my doubts are clouding my thoughts. I could not do this without that knowledge of my Saviour.

“He also provides me with the strength that I need — physically and emotionally.”

Their video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, a love story that stands out not for its happy ending but for choosing love when it is difficult.

Their choice has drawn admiration around the world. But Larissa, in her interviews and Ian, in his laboured sentences, are determined not to take credit for it, with Larissa concluding, “I think the fact that Ian and I can love each other at all is proof that there is a God. There would be a lot of reasons to not choose this marriage, but we know that God has overcome them all.

“We shouldn't be scared of (marriage). God designed it, and when we seek to live it in the way that it has been designed, it is beautiful and points us directly to heaven. Our world at large does not know the beauty of the marriage covenant. We hope that in a small way, we can reflect Christ to the world.”

More on their story: PrayForIan.com

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