Many wives whose husbands are in the ministry have developed a habit of complaining. When you listen to them talk, they can only complain about all that is wrong. If you listen to them very long, it can be very depressing. When I am talking to someone like that, it makes me want to ask them if their God is dead, because that is certainly what it sounds like. In reality, it is a joy to serve the Lord. Yes, there are trials and problems along the way, but there are many blessings too. How can you make sure that the ministry is a joyful experience? Here are just a few ways that have helped me over the years.
Emphasize benefits and advantages
When you only look at the difficulties, it gives a pretty bleak picture. It is easy to get discouraged and think you are not accomplishing anything if all you look at is the down side. It is easy to focus on the negative, because it will always be with you. But there are also many rewards, benefits, privileges, and advantages in the ministry. These are the things you need to focus on.
Sometimes you will feel like Elijah—“I am the only one left serving God.” But that comes from having a wrong perspective. There are more people serving the Lord than you know. More people care about you than you think. More people love you than you think. More people pray for you than you think. More people believe in you than you think. Don’t let Satan rob your of the joy in your Christian life by always focusing on the negative.
List your advantages and think about them regularly. Here are some advantages from a survey taken of different pastor’s wives:
* Ready made friends in the church family
* Seeing people helped by your husband’s ministry
* Sharing in joys and sorrows of congregation
* Pride in husband’s work
* Generosity of the members
* Opportunity to serve with your husband
* Meeting all kinds of people
* The ability to travel and visit different mission fields
The songwriter said, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” Maybe we could change the last line and say, “It will surprise you what the Lord is doing right now.” I know many times, my husband and I will be discouraged by the situations he is dealing with every day. If we get focused on all the problems, we will both be ready to give up. But when we begin to focus instead on the blessings and what God is doing in people’s lives, we are reminded again that it is worth it all. You need to remind yourself and your husband often just who it is that you are serving. If you are serving people, they will disappoint you every time. But if you remember that you are serving the Lord, it makes it all worthwhile.
Keep your perspective right
Remember that the only two people you have to please are God and your husband. God will not ask you to do anything that you are not able to do. If you seek to please Him above all, your perspective will be right and you will not be overwhelmed with the responsibilities you face.
Sometimes when we are in difficult situations, we get tunnel vision. All we can see is what is right there all around us. If you find yourself in that kind of a situation, it is good to step back and try to see things from a different angle. Get alone with the Lord and ask Him to help you see things His way. A fresh perspective can get you back on track and going in the right direction.
Don’t live in self-pity
It is easier to be gloomy than it is to be optimistic. We live in a negative world. We give absurd advice to our children like, “Don’t get your hopes up” or “Don’t get too big for your britches” or “Don’t expect to rise above your upbringing.” If you think about it, all these are negative and skeptical. When someone says, “What a beautiful day!” many respond with the negative reply, “It won’t last.” Or, “The weatherman said it is supposed to rain today.” Such negative thinking will carry over into the ministry if you are not careful, and you will expect the worst and ultimately receive the worst.
This negative atmosphere is usually a reaction to keep us at arm’s length from life’s hurt. A pastor’s wife may think that she will never be disappointed if she doesn’t expect too much. Such a sullen mood places a lid of limitation on everything we do. It is like the Peanuts cartoon character that walks around with a rain cloud over him all the time.
The remedy for self-pity: keep your eyes on the Lord. Remember that you are serving Him, not others. If you focus on people, you will be disappointed every time. People let you down, but God never lets you down. Focus on the blessings instead of the failures. Look at the lives that are changed. No, they are not perfect yet, but God is still at work there, just as He is still at work in your life. Don’t give up on people too soon. Marriages can be put back together. Shattered lives can be restored. Addictions can be broken. Love is a cure for hatred. God works in the details of life. When you see God at work in the lives of others, get involved in what God is doing.
To resist the infection that self-pity always brings with it, we must apply Winston Churchill’s admonition when he said, “Never give up. Never, never give up.” Remember, there is nothing to go back to, and nothing to give in to. Stand strong for the Lord. Keep in touch with Him, and share His love with others. Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a smile.
Keep a vibrant relationship with the Lord
Anything you do in life, if you allow it, can easily become a dull, routine, discouraging struggle. But a true relationship with the Lord will make all the difference. A vibrant relationship with the Lord is pleasing to Him. It will cause you to be at peace with your soul and useful to the people you serve. You will have an excellence of character that only God can provide. Your relationship with the Lord needs to be genuine, growing, and natural.
Does your life overflow with the love of God? Live your life on purpose for Him. Make sure He is at the center of your life. Make sure He is the one receiving the honor and glory, and you are not taking it for yourself. Watch for the monster of pride. It is a real one that pastors and their wives must deal with all the time. Could it be that some who complain about the fishbowl existence of ministry secretly enjoy being in the limelight? It is a real possibility, and one we need to watch out for. We need to have the attitude of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Commit yourself to holiness
Often we assume that all believers are involved in a process of allowing Christ to shape them into His image. Sadly, this is not true. But it should be true of anyone involved in the ministry. To enrich your life and increase your effectiveness, you must abandon all substitutes for a holy character and pattern your life after Christ.
A shallow religious veneer will never hold up in the pressures and demands of the ministry. Most casualties in the ministry can be traced back to this factor. You don’t become Christ-like by osmosis or by accident. It comes only through a daily commitment to take up your cross and follow Him. As you become more like Christ, you will discover that there is true joy in serving Him.
Give attention to the ways your Lord wants to make you like Him. Think of the ways He is already at work in your life. He has forgiven your past, and all the hurts that go with that. He gives you another chance when you goof up. He energizes you and strengthens you to be able to meet the demands of each day. Those who effectively attract others to Christ are those who allow Christ to work in their lives and mold them into whatever He desires. Commit yourself to that holiness.
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.