Nothing invades and infiltrates the intimate conversations of a ministry couple more than trial in the church. While the husband is the head of the home, one of the wife’s responsibilities is to be an active participant in the safeguarding of their marriage. Trial in the church is typically not forever, but the disruption of regular rhythms of life and marital intimacy can extend far longer than the trial itself.
In this final post of this series for the ministry wife, we’ll look at ways you can help care for your marriage in a season of trial in the church. The previous two posts covered self-care for the ministry wife and care of her husband.
When You “Have” to Talk About It
As a general rule, my husband and I do not talk extensively about his work at home. For him, it is most helpful to have some compartmentalization so he can be more fully present and engaged with our family and can leave some of that stress at the door. Inevitably, though, trial in the church creeps into his thought life at home and he wants a trusted ear to unload to or bounce ideas off of because he values my perspective. Over time, and in conversation with other ministry wives, I’ve gained some insights:
If you counseled your husband against a particular decision and he chose not to follow it, have a grace-filled, Christ-like attitude. Your wisdom is God-given. “I told you so” is harmful to him, you, and your marriage, and is not remotely God-glorifying.
Listen well. Don’t just offer your opinion and advice without fully hearing where he’s at. Empathize. When he’s in sin, gently show him, remembering Holy Spirit brings conviction, not you.
Don’t be a fact-finder. It is okay to ask questions to understand a situation, but there’s a difference between picking through all the details and hearing the larger scope of the situation. Use prayer and wisdom to discern what information is helpful for being a good support to your spouse versus getting lost in the mire.
When Ministry is ALL You Talk About
There is a distinct danger in your conversations at home being exclusively about ministry, especially in times of trial. If your immediate response is, “we talk about our kids too,” you’re already in trouble. The other intimate parts of your lives dissolve. Your or your husband’s “needs” (and I’m not just talking about sex) get swept to the side for longer than is appropriate or healthy. This is when you can do a few things to safeguard your conversations against church business dominating your speech.
Collectively decide to set aside time to talk about other important things: the dishwasher broke, your oldest has a bully, you need his help with something, or whatever. Block out time on the calendar and maybe even write an agenda with one or two topics of what you’ll discuss so you can both prepare for it. This may seem super clinical, but if these conversations aren’t happening naturally, you do what you gotta do.
Stay aware and present with what’s happening in the rest of the world. Births, marriages, world catastrophes, and everything in-between should be shared and talked about. The world is still turning and remembering that often keeps church trial in perspective.
Manage your social calendar well. If your husband is a social butterfly, make time to spend with life-giving friends, preferably people who are not part of the church body. If he likes quiet time, maintain only the bare minimum of social engagements of just family and friends. Help him out by organizing your next date-night. Whatever the event or activity, make conversations about church off-limits.
The Church Belongs to Jesus
We hear this often enough that we mutter it to ourselves while we frantically worry and fret about what will happen next and what we can do to protect the church and the people in it. We must stand firm in our faith and trust in God’s providence, provision, and sovereignty. There is always a “do” for us because we are God’s hands and feet. But we were given Holy Spirit to help us stay tuned in to God and what he wants for us. When trial has absorbed your husband (or your) attention, it’s time to redirect your focus to Christ. It is time to set aside church matters in your home to give a respite and peace for your marriage and one another. The demise of a church under trial will not be because the pastor and his wife took time to love each other well. But the ministry marriage’s demise is near certain if it does not regain priority over church trial.