For pastors’ wives who are hurting

The letters and comments are pouring in from our recent article on the pastor’s wife.

I suppose it should not surprise me–weirdness is everywhere–but some people were angry that we called the pastor’s wife “the most vulnerable person in church.”  One guy gave a long list of people, mostly the hurting seekers who arrive at church hoping to find a word of encouragement or a helping hand, who come before her.

There is no question that churches are filled with seeking, hurting, vulnerable people.  Ranking them in order of desperation and need is pointless, since we are to be ministering to them all.

That’s why the Lord wants His people to love one another, serve one another, help one another, and so forth.  The “one another” scriptures take up a great deal of the New Testament.  Clearly, the Lord sends us forth as wounded warriors to minister to the other wounded.

May the Lord make us servants and helpers of one another, not obstacles in their path or hurdles to be navigated around.

Someone going through a receiving line told the new pastor’s wife if she would be willing to give up her health insurance, it would save the church a lot of money.

Someone commented that the wedding ring on the hand of the minister’s wife must have cost the church a pretty penny.  As though the church had bought it!

After her minister husband took his own life, the distraught widow gave no thought to her own needs, but brought in a counselor for the church leadership and helped to arrange for another pastor and wife to come in and take over.  Finally, when she had finished ministering to the congregation, she and her children were ousted, had to move away, and she went to work to support them. They lost all their home and things they had accumulated, and are struggling to get by now.

The stories are endless, and are painful to recite here.

I wish I could gather all the hurting wives of ministers together for one shining moment in order to say a few things to them….

1) You are sharing the sufferings of Christ.

See Philippians 3:10, and read the entire First Epistle of Peter.  Suffering for Jesus’ sake is given only to the faithful.  The more you learn of how God uses suffering, the more you will treasure two facts: a) It’s a privilege to endure this stuff for Jesus (Acts 5:41) and b) our puny trials are not worth comparing to the glory He has in store for the faithful (Romans 8:18).

2) What you do for His people, Jesus takes personally as though you did it unto Him.

That’s what Matthew 25:40 is saying (“the least of these my brethren” refers to His saints).  It’s what Saul of Tarsus learned on the Damascan road (see Acts 9:5). In persecuting Christians, Saul was attacking Jesus Himself.  See Hebrews 6:10, one of the all-time great verses in God’s word for the faithful.

3) Do yourself a favor and lower your expectations regarding God’s people.  When we expect God’s people to always act like Christ, we set ourselves up for major disappointment.

When Paul told Timothy that “in the last days, difficult times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, etc etc,” (Second Timothy 3:1ff), he was not talking about the world! The world has always been this way. He was talking about the people of God, the members of your church.  So, my friend, you must lower your expectations of them.  When they get it right, rejoice. When they act like carnal children, you are prepared.  This is what you were expecting.

4) Read Moses’ story, from Exodus through Deuteronomy, to see how God’s man was treated by the Lord’s people. They attacked him, harassed him, blamed him for what God did, and even when they had “pastor appreciation day,” by nightfall they were criticizing him again.   It helps a little to see that this is the norm.

Say that with me out loud: “This. Is. The. Norm.”  Suffering is not “par for the course.” It IS the course.

5) Remember one huge fact:  Most anyone can join your church. This explains why every church will have people of all kinds, at every conceivable level of maturity and varying degrees of mental health. So, anything can happen.

What we urge churches to do, however, is never ever (etc.) ever ever to put in places of leadership the immature and carnal, the ones with bad mental health and still dealing with sin in their lives.

If no one is qualified for an office in your church, leave it vacant.  (Our friend Bill Taylor calls these “holy vacancies.”)

6) The Lord will repay you. He said so again and again.  Two of my favorite Scriptures are…

Matthew 10.  Jesus is giving instructions to the disciples as they leave for a short-term mission.  Verses 5-15 are temporary, one time only instructions, not necessarily repeated again. But, from verse 16 on, we have permanent always-applicable instructions.  And toward the last, we have His promises. “He who receives you receives me…He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet receives a prophet’s reward….and whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

-Luke 14:14 Do these things, Jesus said (inviting the poor and needy to your banquets), and “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  I read that and smile, and think, “Suppose I tried to borrow ten bucks from you and told you I’ll pay you back at the resurrection.”  You’d laugh at the very idea. No way.  Sounds like a scam for sure. And yet, our Lord does not hesitate to ask incredible acts of service from us with the promise that He will pay all His debts at the resurrection of the righteous.  (Three little questions come to mind when I read this verse: Can we believe that strong? Can we wait that long? Can we sing that song?)

7) In the meantime, reach out to other pastors’ wives and encourage them.  Somehow, helping someone dealing with the same garbage helps us handle our own.

Previously, when I suggested that ministry wives get with their counterparts in other churches for coffee (or tea, whatever), more than one responded to say, “There are no other churches of our denomination within two hours’ drive.”  I responded, “However, there are plenty of wives of ministers of other denominations around you.  You would be amazed how much you and they have in common.”

My wife says, “And you know what they will talk about when they get together?”  She knows, because she has done this very thing in previous towns where we served.  “They will talk about you guys.”

Every minister’s wife has her challenges, her burdens, and her exasperations. One of them is the man she loves and to whom she is married. So, let the women get together and share their burdens and pray for each other. In doing so, they will find just how normal their lives are, how like other churches their people are, and how faithful the Lord is.

Good things to discover!  Go for it, now, my friend. You have absolutely nothing to lose.


1 thought on “For pastors’ wives who are hurting

  1. Sigh…this is so true. I worked quite closely with my pastor (who passed away two months ago) and his wife. It is incredible what was thrown at them on a daily basis. If they weren’t grounded in God’s word and His promise, there was no way they could’ve endured it.

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