I remember the first real conversation I had with my husband, more than seven years ago. It was a cool summer evening and there were eight of us or so sitting around an outdoor fire pit. We were sitting across from one another, but soon everyone else had left to go inside. We still joke about that conversation, because while I was gazing at the beautiful starry night, all Matt could seem to talk about was the doctrine of election and his desire to go into pastoral ministry. Little did I know at that time that I would marry him less than two years later, and it is hard to believe that after spending the last four and half years in Southern California while Matt studied at The Master’s Seminary and the Grace Advance Academy, we are now only one week away from moving to Pennsylvania, where my husband will assume the role as the Preaching-Teaching Pastor of High Point Baptist Church in a small community just outside the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. So, after nine years of training, his call to pastoral ministry will finally become a reality.
Recently, that reality has begun to sink in for me, and that I will now be known as the “pastor’s wife.” I am honored to have such a title, and am excited by what lies ahead even though there will be many challenges and difficulties along the way. To that end, a wise mentor whom I have cherished getting to know wrote this letter to me offering insights as a woman who has also been known as the “pastor’s wife,” for almost thirty years.
I wanted to share this letter (with her permission of course!) to all those women married to husbands who serve in the ministry, whether as the senior pastor, associate, or even those who serve as laymen. I pray it encourages and challenges you, whatever age or stage of ministry you might be in.
In her words, “The best piece of advice I could offer to you has nothing to do with your disciplines, but your heart.”
Dear Pastor’s Wife:
Your heart matters…
This is the one area a responsible, humble, loving wife of a man in ministry is vulnerable. You love your Lord so and want what promotes and honors God and His kingdom. You also are deeply devoted to this man who is called to serve God. And sometimes these two devotions can come in conflict, only because his calling, the ministry, can both consume him and hurt him… and because this has the potential of causing you pain of which you are unable to change.
- Resist running to him to talk about hurts before you run to the Lord. The Holy Spirit will make clear what, if anything needs to be said. It is easy to sometimes feel jealous of the time and devotion he needs and loves to spend in preparing the ministry of the Word and serving his flock. But truly the hard thing is to know his heart and to know all the effort he puts forth, then, for others not to think of him as highly as you do! Things just happen and people become discontent or dissatisfied for a whole host of reasons – some of them valid and some not. Bottom line because sin is so mischievous it seeks to cause a wedge amongst the people of God… sometimes between the flock and their pastor, sometimes amongst themselves and yes, sometimes between you and them and even sometimes between you and your husband.
- Resist the temptation to feel justified in allowing your hurt to become embittered into hard feelings. Instead run again to your Lord and pour out your heart. The Holy Spirit will help you sort out what is right and what is sin and how to handle it in a way that honors God and helps people. This role, while extremely privileged, can be somewhat lonely at times. By virtue of your husband’s calling, you will be called to sacrifice a variety of things.
- Resist the temptation of self pity; you truly are privileged because God has asked you to serve Him in this high calling in your role as a pastor’s wife. Through it He is developing you spiritually to become more like His Son. So guard your heart. Bring it before the throne of grace daily, do not allow a root of bitterness to grow when you see him hurt, when you are hurt, when things are hard. Remember it’s not the end of the story; God is at work doing something… even when it includes experiencing some sort of pain or sacrifice for a time.
- Resist the temptation to compare yourself or your situation with anyone else, rather ask the Holy Spirit to help you honestly compare yourself to the development of the Galatians 5:22-23 and Colossians 3:12-16 qualities being developed in you.
- Tend the fires of your heart’s satisfaction, joy and strength in Christ. See and savor Christ richly. Allow the instrument of the gospel to wash over your soul – constantly allowing it to do its work in sanctification and usefulness to your husband and service for your Lord.
- Allow the components of the gospel, Christ’s incarnation, His sinless life, His sacrificial death, His victorious resurrection, and His glorious ascension sanctify you, change you, conform and transform you.
- Keep your mind on things above and you will be most useful on earth. Practice being God-full, filled with all the truths and realities of who God is and what He has done for you… and that will compel you to live humbly and submissively obedient to the unfolding of God’s good will for you and your family. May it be your goal that it may be said of you, “We recognize she has been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13
- Start a “Book of Remembrance” of the things the Lord is showing and teaching you in these ministry years, and a “Malachi 3:16 Journal” of one “wonderful thing” (Ps. 119:18) a day He as shown you, one thing you are thankful for, one thing to praise Him for, and one thing to pray for.
- Commit to memory these Scriptures and meditate on them often:
- 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:4 Et 6
- Romans 12:1-2
- Titus 2:11-14
- Hebrews 13:21
I hope that you were blessed, as I was, by this short letter and only ask that you be praying for us in the days ahead!
– Melody J. Tarr