Being the wife of a man in full-time Christian service can be a very fulfilling and satisfying calling. It can also be a very hazardous occupation. Therefore, there are three things that absolutely must be in place in your life.
First, you need to be aware of the pitfalls that are involved so they don’t catch you by surprise.
Second, you need to be in daily fellowship with God and growing personally in your relationship with the Lord.
Third, you must have an assurance that God has called you into your place of service and you are in His will.
If these three areas are in place, you can overcome the majority of the problems that occur in the ministry. Let’s look at some of those problems.
Ministry can isolate us into becoming the most lonely people in town. But we can overcome loneliness, use it for our spiritual development, and at times even embrace it as a friend.
Does Jesus understand your loneliness? Yes, He does. Think of how much separation and isolation our Lord experienced near the end of His earthly ministry. Some of His deepest experiences of isolation took place when He was in the middle of a crowd or with the twelve disciples.
The events of His last days were filled with loneliness. Trusted friends defected. He was arrested without cause after Judas betrayed Him. Religious leaders accused Him falsely. Guards spit on Him. The mob clamored for His crucifixion. And He finally endured the repulsive death on a cross alone, while others watched His anguish.
In the ministry, some degree of loneliness just goes with the territory. There are different kinds of loneliness to consider. Sometimes loneliness can be a good thing. There are times when we need to get alone and clarify our perspectives. What are our goals in life? Who are we trying to please? What does God want us to do?
First, there is stand by a principle loneliness.
This kind of isolation must sometimes be suffered for a great cause. Our Lord’s awful agony in Gethsemane and on the cross was loneliness for a cause. He had a purpose and He knew what that purpose was. There are times when we must stand alone, but stand we must, even when no one stands with us.
Second, there is self-induced loneliness.
This loneliness comes when we refuse to let anyone else into our hearts and thoughts. It is the all-too-common absurdity of refusing to be known, of keeping to our own thoughts, insisting on your privacy and then wondering why nobody reaches out to you.
Sometimes pastors and their wives suffer this kind of loneliness when they think that no one outside the ministry could understand their situation or their pain. So they withdraw from the people of the church. As a result, the people think this withdrawal is a personal need for privacy, so they leave the pastor and his family alone. This starts a vicious cycle that makes the pastor and his family even more lonely. You can clutch privacy so close to your chest that it closes your heart from welcoming those who love you the most.
Third, there is geographic loneliness.
Frequently those in the ministry must move to areas very different in climate and culture. Sometimes the place of service that the Lord calls you to will be far from family and friends. Loneliness can come when we are removed from our family and our roots. Loneliness can come when grandparents do not get to see the grandchildren often enough. It comes when parents get old and have failing health, and you wish you could be there to help them out.
Ways to deal with loneliness
- If possible, it is nice to have a close friend. Work hard at cultivating relationships. Also, your husband is there to be your best friend. But in those dry periods when no one seems available, we can always count on the Lord to be with us. He really is ALL we need!
- We also need to remember that some feelings of isolation and loneliness are a product of our own thought processes. In those situations, we need to check our thoughts and change our thoughts to bring ourselves out of that self-pity.
- Remember that the more we give ourselves away in serving others, the richer and more fulfilled we become. If you give someone courage, your own courage increases. Give someone love and you get love in return. Give hope and your own hope flourishes.
- Be creative about using your time. If you have extra time, work at developing skills that are useful and fulfilling, such as home improvement projects, craft projects, decorating, gardening, etc.
- Learn that you don’t have to depend on others. Discover your inner resources for happiness which come from a close relationship with the Lord.
- Learn to write letters and send cards. We have friends literally all over the world because of the different places of service we have been in. Keeping in touch with all those people takes work, but it is worth it.
- Communicate through telephone and e-mail. The phone rates have dropped drastically over the past few years. Computers are very affordable, and many e-mail servers don’t charge for their service. It is much easier and much more affordable to stay in touch today than it has ever been. Most of our missionaries are on WhatsApp or some other free texting program. Check with them to see how you can stay in touch.
- Make each lady in the congregation feel that she is special to you. Seek opportunities to get to know your ladies well. Go on visitation with different ladies. Have a ladies Bible study in your home. Have an open house tea for new members. You can have many friends.
- Seek friendship with other Christian leaders’ wives in your area. Develop friendships with staff members within your church or school. These will be the ones you can pray with, cry with, laugh with, and generally relax with.
Beverly is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and Doug Hammett have been married for over 35 years. Since her father was a pastor and her husband was already a pastor when she married him, she is well acquainted with the blessings as well as the problems of the ministry! Bev’s favorite things to do are read and spend time with her family.
In Autumn of 2010, Doug stepped aside from his position as senior pastor at LVBC to reach and train men in Botswana and South Africa. Beverly continues to write for our ladies publication, giving her unique perspective of life in the ministry, and now life on the mission field. You can read more about their ministry here.