I have asked of other ministry wives, “To what degree do you get involved in the hardships of your husband’s ministry?” I know that I have often felt the tug of the mamma bear inside of me to get the claws out when I feel that my husband is being wronged in some way. Although at times my response may be fleshly, I wonder if I indeed have some role in helping through these times. And to what extent is my helping appropriate? I feel that there are two approaches when it comes to the ministry wife’s response to difficult seasons of ministry.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach: This side of the coin says, “I cannot at this time shoulder the weight of, essentially, church drama. I don’t want to know, please shield me from the inner workings.” (This approach is self preservation at its core.) “If I know a church congregate has wronged my husband this week, I fear that I may act differently to this person as I greet them on Sunday morning.” Assuming that the ministry wife is not a staff member, she might feel like she shouldn’t have to deal with “church junk;” after all, she is not getting paid for this!
The problems I see with this “stay out of it” suggestion are two-fold. First, it assumes a sinful reaction on the wife’s part. It assumes that when her husband’s woes are shared with her, she will not react biblically, but instead react out of an unrighteous anger. In reality, she should show a love and desire for sanctification for the member of her church. I can expect more from you, ministry wife. I can expect, and even implore you, be a woman of the Bible. Have a theology on sin, suffering, and sanctification. A win is more than a glossy pastor’s wife smile; a win is helping people become more like Jesus. I can hope that you would be able to identify areas of your brother and sister’s heart that Jesus may want to change and pray for them.
The second part of this problem, and the part that most tugs at my heart strings, is for your husband. I have shed countless tears with my husband after difficult church meetings. Why do I do this? Why don’t I ask him to call friend in ministry? Although I do encourage him to seek counsel from godly men that we are blessed to have in our life, I want him to share these things with me because we are one flesh. I also desire this degree of intimacy with him because I love and care for him. I cannot ask the man God has given me to carry any burden on his own that God can help me to carry alongside him. No, pastor’s wife, you do not have the emotional strength or physical energy to bear this weight alone, but through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit you can be a woman of steel that stands beside her husband, hearing his heart, being a safe place for him, giving godly biblical counsel, being angry but not sinning, praying, encouraging, and being the help that you are called to be as his wife.
The second approach, a helper fit for you: Do you believe that God has created you as a helper fit for your husband? I believe that of you. Allow me to give an illustration. If your husband worked at McDonalds, being a helper fit for him might look like allowing him time to shower when he got home to be able to clean himself from the lovely grease fryer film that is McDonalds. Perhaps you would take his uniform, wash and have it ready for him the next day. Being mindful of his day, you would avoid cooking burgers and fries for dinner that night as he was surrounded by them all day. Asking about his day, you may allow him to tell you stories of people coming through the drive through with 116 pennies for their Diet Coke just to drop half of them as they handed them through the window. The next morning as he again left for work you may kiss him and thank him for again going to work over a hot fryer, dealing with hungry people, and providing for your family. But you, ministry wife, has God not equally equipped you to know how to help your husband through the hardships of ministry? Has he not left us with the Holy Spirit to comfort us as we comfort our husband? Has He not given us the gospel for our strength and endurance in ministry? May we not so bubble wrap ourselves that we are not helping our husbands in a way that is so needed by them. We don’t have to know every detail of church yuck to be able to be a shoulder for them. However, we do need to look to Jesus and His example of “help” for us. Never sheltering Himself from our depravity, He walked into our mess and said, “Let Me clean you up. Let Me take your yoke upon Me. Let me give you the promised Holy Spirit for equipment and comfort through your hardship. Let Me stand vigilant and steadfast through your storm, never shaking, never leaving, always faithful.” And if the tables were switched, what if after a long hard day mothering my son, I couldn’t wait to share with my husband what had happened, only to have him respond, “Jordan, I really don’t want to know about this. I may get mad at him and respond sinfully so please just don’t tell me. This mom stuff is your job.” We would all agree of the unfairness of this response. I trust that my husband will react in a godly manner, and even if he doesn’t, I trust that God will help him, and sanctify him to next time respond in a godly manner. Ministry wife, I beg of you, rise up and be a strong biblical woman of steel. One that can comfort her husband with her presence, the truth of the Bible, and with her words of prayer. Lastly, I would like to encourage you with this; you are a follower of Jesus and a church member, so live to the glory of God! It seems that the pendulum has swung from the pastor’s wife who is the point woman of every church ministry, plays the piano on Sunday morning while holding her children, and simultaneously balances the communion tray on her head, to now a woman who throws up her shield when asked any question dealing with the church.
“Ma’am, can you point me to the bathrooms?”
“You’ll need to call the church secretary for that. I do not work here!”
I say this in jest. Honestly, trust me, I have been there. In the exhaustion and desire to hold on to every last second of possible family time, I have frequently held too tightly to my own comfort. My tired and thirsty sister, Jesus has strength for you. And not only strength, but so much stinking Joy! Loosen your grip on what you think is sustaining you and allow Him to drench you in living water. I love this paragraph from Nancy Leigh Demoss:
“Dear child of God, your heavenly Father will never lead you anywhere that His grace will not sustain you. He will never lay more upon you than He will give you grace to bear. When the path before you seems hopelessly long, take heart. Lift up your eyes. Look ahead to the day when all suffering will be over. And remember that when you stand before Him, all the tears and sorrows of a lifetime will seem dim in comparison with the beauty and glory of His face. Without a doubt, you will say, “His grace has brought me safely home.”
Christ is not only our example but also our Savior, friend. His grace is sufficient for us, working all things together to the counsel of his will. Thank you Lord.