When trial in the church comes home to roost, the push and pull of regular ministry on the seams of the home are magnified. Whether you actively play a role in the church or not, the sacrifice you make in the loss of your husband’s time and energy is often overlooked. Resentment, animosity, and disdain easily creeps into the heart as more of his time, both at work and home, is wrapped up in the care of God’s people rather than in you and your family.
It is here I’m reaching out to meet you. I’ve lived it. I’ve endured an abundance of trial both with my husband as a bystander and an unwitting participant. Our marriage strained under the stress and by God’s grace alone we endured. More trial is inevitable, but because we ultimately learned the hard way to die to self and embrace God’s continuing work of sanctification in us, we will face the next trial with less sinful hearts than before and with a more loving and grace-filled attitude toward each other.
In this series of posts, we’ll unpack three main areas that are attacked the most for the ministry couple when the church is in a season of trial and what you, as a ministry wife can do to safeguard and protect them. In this first post, we’ll talk about you and the ever-catchy concept of “self-care”.
Guard Your Time in the Word and Prayer
In as much as I would love a more free-flowing relationship with the Lord, I must schedule time with him and treat it like an appointment. With two young children and an active life, this means waking up before everyone else. Prayer can and does happen throughout the day (again, I have two young children), but the intentional, thoughtful, dedicated, non-rushed time in the Bible and prayer when the morning is quiet is what I really need to protect my mind and heart. Your time with God might look different, but the main idea is to make it sacred. Unless someone wakes up early, I don’t budge that appointment for anything. This time is needed, wanted, and necessary — treat it like such.
Be Discerning in Your Friendships
You will lose friends when there is trial in the church and it isn’t fair or right. To make it worse, your remaining friendships must be treated with an extra level of discernment. Not only are you privy to sensitive information that is tempting to offload, especially if your spouse isn’t present to process with you, but you are also the gatekeeper to the intimacies of another person’s pastor. There is something about trial that brings out the “need to know” in even the most level-headed person. Are the people in your life genuine friends or is their sudden interest in asking how you’re doing suspect? It’s a cynical proposition to consider when all you really want is a friend to talk to, but it is unfortunately common.
I’ve learned to befriend pastor’s wives in other churches and many church networks have these kinds of outlets already established. While these relationships may not always be the deepest, they are extremely helpful because you’re talking to another woman who’s in the trenches — maybe not your trench, but a trench none-the-less. She gets it. She’s probably been there. And she isn’t going to judge your emotional misstatements as she is guilty of them as well. Christ gave us all kinds of community — sometimes all it takes is looking outside your immediate circle.
When you ache for closeness, fill that empty hole of relationship with Christ. This isn’t an, “it’s me and Jesus” moment, but your own heart is guarded when you spend time with him during the loss of friendship with other believers. Let him mend that empty space before you seek out more.
Accept Help from Trusted Friends and Family
There’s a misconception that a pastor’s wife should be able to handle anything, but we get overwhelmed like anyone else. Recognize when you are nearing or at your limit and accept the meal that’s offered, the trusted family member who wants to watch the kids for a couple hours, or whatever it is that takes one more thing off your plate, no matter how benign, so you can be freed up to tackle the things only you can tackle or have a little extra headspace to not think about the day-to-day.
Back to Basics
In a time that is full of nothing but high emotion, uncertainty, frustration, and irrationality, refocusing on the basics of who you are as a disciple of Christ is critical. Before you were a ministry wife, you were a believer in Jesus Christ. Return to that identity first. The fruit of this devotion will spill out to the rest of what you will face as a ministry wife and is the true definition of self-care.
In the next post we’ll look at ways to support your husband in a time of trial.