During my husband’s second year of pastoral ministry I had serious doubts about making it as a pastor’s wife. After an unrelenting season of trial, I was broken, bruised, and bloodied by church hurts, ministry-staff conflict, my own sinful responses, and fallout we couldn’t seem to redeem. No one had prepared me to face such an intense season of ministry discouragement, and it nearly did me in.
In the midst of my discouragement, while attending a national conference for pastors’ wives, I bumped into a woman I recognized in the hotel elevator. Her seasoned husband pastored a respected, larger church, so I assumed she’d have wisdom to offer me in my trial. Desperately, and probably awkwardly, I reached out to her for a word of comfort or camaraderie:
“Is being a pastor’s wife always so hard?”
Unsympathetically, she responded, “I love being a pastor’s wife. I’ve never really found it to be that difficult.” Shocked and embarrassed, I nodded silently. Okay, then. I guess it’s just me.
But over the years I’ve realized it’s not just me. In fact, I sometimes think she might be the exception. Most ministry wives experience plenty of bumps and bruises along the way. If you’ve been in the role of pastor’s wife for a month, a year, 10 years, or 50, it’s likely that at one point or another you will face discouragement. When you do, will you be prepared?
Whether you’ve been wounded, sinned against, or beat up by the broken world, there are no quick fixes for discouragement. Healing takes time. You need the Lord’s help to navigate the personal nature of your discouragement and the best course forward. As a weary pastor’s wife, you need more than a stiff upper lip or dismissive words to recover. You need truth, grace, and salve for your wounds.
You’re Not Imagining It
Start by acknowledging your challenging reality. At some point in your pastor-husband’s ministry tenure, you will almost certainly feel the ache of uncharitable assumptions, harsh judgment, or lack of compassion. You may receive wounding words or apathetic actions. Your husband’s ministry dreams may crumble, his character may be jabbed and poked at, or his methods may be called into question. In the process of attempting to minister faithfully, friends might forsake or abandon you.
These hard circumstances will affect you, your husband, and even your children. Ministry life holds the potential to be unbelievably painful and discouraging in ways your congregation has never considered.
Even if God has placed you inside a wonderful church you love, being a pastor’s wife is hard. Trust that the God of peace will use your experiences to sanctify you completely (1 Thess. 5:23) and strengthen you according to the gospel (Rom. 16:25) for future seasons of ministry.
Ask for Help
If you’re reading this article, you’re either discouraged now, or you’re wisely preparing for the future. When you wonder if God hears your prayers, how long it will be before he answers, or if he cares about your cries for help, recognize these symptoms as discouragement.
Pay attention to the warnings, and don’t dismiss your personal indicators. Confess your burdens and cast them on God, who cares for you. Humbly admit your need for help. Look to God as your first source of provision. Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a biblical counselor about your weariness.
Timothy reminds believers in 2 Timothy 2:12, “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” Invite your husband and people who love you into your discouragement for the sake of your endurance. God will use the encouragement of his Word and his Spirit, administered through his people, to help you learn to stand again.
You’re Not Alone
You’re not as isolated in your discouragement as you might believe. Christ is with you, and he sympathizes with you in your weakness. God your Father faithfully hears and answers your cries and is a very present help in times of trouble. He is your mighty counselor and the best listener you’ll find. God ministers encouragement to you, by his Spirit, in ways more helpful than you know. As you share in the fellowship of suffering with Christ, God will uphold you with his right hand and comfort you with immeasurable compassion.
And you won’t suffer forever. Throughout Scripture, God’s people call out to him for rescue, and he answers. They cry; he saves. They plead for help; he delivers. While discouragement may last for the night, God hears and will answer your prayers for relief. In his time, joy will come with the morning. Whether here on earth or when united with him in glory, find comfort in the knowledge that your suffering will not last.
Find One Another
Pastors’ wives need encouragement. Fifteen years into serving as a pastor’s wife, I realize the importance of friendship with other ministry wives. Spending time with pastors’ wives who can relate to and bear one another’s ministerial burdens can be an extraordinary gift. Pray for God to provide and help you identify Jesus-loving, theologically like-minded, seasoned ministry wives with whom you can intentionally develop lasting relationships.
For the sake of your ongoing perseverance in the faith and in your ministry life, commit to gather regularly with these friendly faces who will relate to your sorrows, nod their heads in understanding, furrow their eyebrows in sympathy, and chuckle along in knowing recognition, during both encouraging and discouraging seasons of ministry life. You won’t regret it.
If you’re a pastor’s wife, expect to face seasons of discouragement by preparing strategies and means of encouragement beforehand. If you’re already being pounded by a season of discouragement, it’s not too late to find encouragement today. Look to God for comfort, and you’ll find his help and support in surprising places. Being a pastor’s wife is a difficult job, but with encouragement God will grant you endurance, renew your joy, and grow you in Christlikeness throughout your calling.
And if you need a hug, meet me by the elevator.