The following article is part of a series where Ryan Williams and his wife, Natasha, write corresponding articles on ministry throughout times of trial. This article is the companion piece to Natasha’s post on the topic of care for husband.
I don’t remember which event it was, and this is normal for me under trial, maybe our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or her birthday, but all I wrote in the card was, “Thanks for sticking around this year.”
The year had been brutal. Re-planting a church out of the ashes of a megachurch failure, people leaving the church in droves taking shots at my character, calling, and competency on the way out, conflict at every turn, and voices shouting from every platform. I stayed in the ministry fight, but felt like a dazed and confused boxer who was just stumbling around the ring waiting for the bell. When it finally rang at the end of the ministry day, I just wandered home, not exactly the picture of the godly husband.
In the husband pieces of this “Times of Trial” series, I have spent most of my time telling you what not to do from my own experience. Because, and I freely confess, through so many challenging situations and trials, I did not love my wife well, I did not do what I should have, and I did things I should not have. I never committed adultery or was abusive, but I was so overwhelmed that I kind of tuned out the needs of my wife and put in the bare minimum as a husband.
But God is gracious, and I married so far above my station that I’m shocked daily at the capacity, character, and way my wife conducts herself. If I had to do the season of ministry trial all over again, I would focus on three things to care for my wife well.
Be Demonstratively and Vocally Thankful
If you are in ministry, you know it is a team effort with your wife. She may not be on stage, may not get the encouragement and “attaboys” you do, may never hear, “That was a great sermon.” Instead, she’ll probably hear gossip, slander, and disgruntled opinions. Meanwhile, she is still loving you, serving you, praying for you, and encouraging you.
Our wives often bear something like a double burden, especially during times of trial. You are occupied with church trial, which she also carries, and she may also carry more of a burden at home. Chances are your wife happily bears it all, but remember to actually thank her. Write it down, say it, know how she likes to hear “thank you” in word and deed and do it.
Put Aside Your Ministry and Serve
Lovingly, this section is telling you to get your priorities straight. What should shock you is that even in the craziness of ministry, Jesus himself stopped to serve, no matter who it was — from blind Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52) to washing his disciples feet before he was to be betrayed (John 13:1-20).
I know ministry in times of trial is crazy, but do not neglect service to your wife. Just like a plant with deep roots will survive a drought, your wife, in Christ, will also. But if you serve her, it will be like water and care to help her flourish when times are tough. A flourishing wife serves you greatly. An attender at my wedding teasingly said, “Happy wife, happy life.” I would tweak the phrasing a bit, a well-served wife is a strong wife and a strong wife makes for a strong life.
Love Her in the Ways She Wants to be Loved
I have tons of ways I think I love my wife: I provide, protect, and physically support. All of those things are important, it’s just my wife doesn’t want to be loved that way when things are tough. This will be short because each of us has a wife who wants to be loved differently, but do the work to find out what that is and do it. Splash some water on your face and focus on it; make it happen and follow through with the same vigor you do the things that come easy.
Pastor friends, don’t neglect your wife as you endure through ministry trial. It’s not worth it. You’re not covenanted to your church, you’re covenanted to your wife. The ring on your finger doesn’t have your church logo on it, it’s for your helpmate. Learn from my regrettable mistakes and care for your wife well in times of church trial.