My husband and I have a running joke. When the milk puddles on the kitchen floor, or the laundry baskets explode in the family room, or the kids start leaping from the light fixtures, he eyes the door and calmly says: “Well, I’m just going to go to my office to pray and study the Bible now.”
Typically, I respond by throwing a pair of just-matched socks at him.
Like many Christians, I’d dearly love more opportunities to pray and study. I’d love to read more commentaries, listen to more sermons and lectures, fill the gaps in my knowledge of church history and systematic theology.
And my husband has more time for studying than I do. As a pastor, it’s his job.
Of course, I often fail to make use of the opportunities I do get. I have umpteen Bibles in my house and on my screens, I have joint ownership of and full access to a theological library of 5,000 volumes, and if I spend more time watching Netflix than praying, it’s no one’s fault but my own.
But on a rainy Tuesday morning, when I’m folding laundry or commuting to work, he must study. And over the last 12 years of our marriage, I’ve come to realize that while I may be opening canned tomatoes, and he may be opening the letter to the Hebrews, I can and do have a share in his study. As a pastor’s wife—but also simply as a church member—his study is my privilege to participate in, particularly in three ways.
1. I share in the content of his study.
This is perhaps the most obvious, but I need to remind myself of it regularly. Every sermon, every pastoral prayer, every Bible study lesson, comes from hours of study. The reason he can clearly explain 1 Peter 2 or Exodus 28 is that he has studied those passages exhaustively—their original language, their context, their doctrinal themes, their varied applications. The reason he can lead publicly in prayer with wisdom and devotion is because he has prayed long in private.
The pastor is also an advisor, curator, and reviewer for my own study. Because of his extensive reading, he can say to me: I think you’d benefit from this book; don’t bother buying that one. If you have time, read this whole book; if you don’t, just chapter 4 is extraordinarily helpful. He can gently ask: Have you considered this argument? Have you listened to this preacher? Have you read this text in light of this other one? The content of his study helpfully informs mine, saving me time and energy, if only I would ask him.
Never send to know for whom the pastor studies. He studies for thee.
2. I share in the reward of his study.
We often have a misplaced understanding of what actually happens in the pastor’s study. I can picture him, cup of still-warm coffee in hand, feet on the desk, casually browsing the latest release from Crossway. But “prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4)—the apostolic mission—is not a description of the life of ease. The apostles had to devote themselves to it (Acts 6:4), and they needed diaconal helpers to take the other, smaller burdens because this one was so huge (Acts 6:2–3).
Prayer is not easy. Bible study is not easy. And the pastor needs my help.
When I mop the milk or go to work so he can study, I will have the privilege of participating in the study’s reward. When I pray while he studies, or pray while he prays, I will also share in its fruit.
If the Word is proclaimed from the pulpit with power, I have a share in that. If sinners are brought to repentance, I have a share. If the Word rightly ministered reconciles marriages, directs the ignorant, shepherds the flock, I have a share. Only the last day will reveal what my sacrifice for his study accomplished in the spiritual places.
3. I share in the joy of his study.
Before my husband is my husband, he is my brother. Before he is my pastor or my elder, he is my brother. Before he is either theology student or theology teacher, he is my brother.
Last week, my husband texted me from a conference in another state after sitting under a particularly moving sermon: “Brought to see something of the depths of Christ’s love for the church and the privilege of serving. Praise the Lord!” And I rejoiced with him (Rom. 12:15).
When, through prayer and the ministry of the Word, my brother grows to love Christ more, when he sees afresh the glory of the gospel, when he finds himself stirred by the Scriptures to greater devotion, when he kills sin and pursues holiness, when he has more of the Spirit, then I have a share in his joy.
If behind a closed study door, my brother delights in my Lord, then I will rejoice.