No matter how great of a minister, husband, leader or father he is, he’s not immune to adversity.
Church dilemmas erupt, leaving his leadership landscape shaken. Sin happens, either committed by him or against him. A friend that was life-giving awkwardly leaves the church. Exhaustion eventually affects his emotional stamina. The list continues.
Whether his struggle is private or public, as his wife you feel a version of his pain and walk in the aftershocks of his struggle.
How do we walk wisely with our husband in the landscape of his suffering?
Resist reacting with emotional solutions that bring temporary relief.
When he hurts, you hurt. Any path to relief, even if temporary, seems right in the moment. Job’s wife could only think of one thing to relieve her husband from his suffering – quit! “Curse God and die.” Let’s not rush to be too harsh on her. I’ve entertained saying, “quit” to my husband, too. Everything they had built together was gone! She had been the wife to the “greatest man of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). They both lost children, financial security and reputation in the community. And now she’s watching her suffering husband and probably thinking, “ENOUGH!” Yet, temporary relief doesn’t change reality.
Cling to the reality that God is sovereign in our suffering.
Pain in the present distorts our ability to comprehend anything beyond our present circumstances. Job and his wife didn’t have a clue that a conversation had occurred between God and Satan. While their circumstances were incredibly painful, there was another reality they weren’t privy to. And no amount of logic attempting to answer the question, “Why is this happening?” would have unveiled the real reason. God’s sovereignty shadows our suffering.
Recognize his vulnerability and the value of your strength.
In suffering our husband is more vulnerable than he may admit. He may flirt with quitting or react by isolating. Chuck Swindoll confessed, “Men are weakened when times of affliction hit…In our weakened condition we lose our objectivity, sometimes our stability. We become vulnerable and most men don’t know how to handle themselves in a vulnerable state of mind. We become – hard as it is to admit this – afraid. So in light of all this, hear me – we need your clear perspective, wisdom, and spiritual strength. We need your words of confidence and encouragement. We even find it hard to say, ‘I need you right now.’”
Be present, but don’t always talk.
A loving presence that is courageously resolute and unconditionally available speaks loudly. Sometimes, there are just no words that need to be said. Give him a safe place and space to process. At times he needs be alone. Other times, he needs you near without words. If he speaks, listen. A safe space is comfort to a hurting soul. Your presence in pain creates a deep, unspoken intimacy.
In the shadow of our leader-husband, we often default to his initiation in spiritual intimacy. However, we are in partnership on this journey. When my husband was in his own pit of despair I asked him, “What do you need from me?” His first answer was, “I need you to initiate praying because I just have no words.” Don’t ask if he wants to pray, just start praying out loud with him. Initiate ushering both of your hearts before the throne of God.
Discipline yourself to build-up strength reserve, now.
Adversity will come. You can’t fake strength. Those who possess it have built it from a disciplined conditioning of the heart. Build up strength and you will walk wisely beside him in his pain.
My church body is currently in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies I’ve ever seen. Our community is suffering, mourning and asking difficult questions.
It’s been one of the most exhausting weeks we’ve ever experienced in ministry. In many ways, we have felt unqualified for the task before us. Yet, my husband faithfully visited grieving family members, counseled church members in office and by phone, led our church staff through their sorrow and preached a funeral—all in a span of five days.
As a pastor’s wife, when tragedy strikes your church body, it strikes your husband’s heart and mind. In the overflow, it strikes your home. When so many have experienced a personal loss, your sufferings might be overlooked during a time of crisis. Rightly so. However, it does not diminish the difficulty of the days for you and your husband.
As we weather this current storm, we are clinging to truth in order to minister well and take care of our own bodies and souls. I pray these five actions we're taking provides you encouragement in whatever you also may be facing.
1. Recognize the spiritual battle.
Begin with Ephesians 6. Every tragedy involves people. At times, it’s easy to see a person as an enemy that caused your sorrow. It's better to avoid this temptation. The truth found in Ephesians 6 allows us to remove antagonists and protagonists from the narrative and rightly focus our eyes on and prayers against the devil’s schemes.
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:11-13).
2. Soak in the gospel.
My husband and I have read and re-read Romans 8 together. Its reminders of what Christ has done for us, that the Spirit is alive in us and of how the Spirit and Christ intercede for us offer such sustaining grace.
No matter what we may face, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).
And this too is what we have to offer others in their grief. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the introduction of The Problem with Pain, “when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”
3. Create temporary boundaries.
When your church body is in the midst of crisis, many are affected. Everyone and everything feels urgent. However, there are logistical and physical limits to you and your husband’s ability to respond to all requests for counsel while still maintaining your own rest and emotional energy.
Likely you and your husband will need to set boundaries with people for a period of time in order to minister to those truly affected. Tragedies will reveal those who are ill-equipped to handle trials. You will need wisdom to discern who they are and set boundaries.
My husband and I have done everything we can to rest well these days including cancelling some morning appointments and leaving housework undone. Some evenings, my husband turns off his phone for a few hours to be with our children. We do this because we know we will need physical strength to sustain our emotional strength.
Even though I spend most of my days at home, I ask for help on weeks like this. I call the sitter. I order take-out. I simplify our life as much as possible so that when my husband is home I can give him my emotional energy.
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
5. Call in the troops.
This might not be able to happen right away, but as soon as possible, I seek to create life-giving scenarios for me and my husband. I invite over friends who are easy and understanding. I sit at a friend’s kitchen table and let the kids play. I ask our parents to come to town. Whatever others offer, take advantage of it. We are made for community and are strengthened by community.
In the midst of such sadness, God provided people who encourage me and my husband. We have seen how He sustains us through the prayers of those we didn’t know were praying. We have seen our church body serve and love and encourage each other in ways that blessed us as well. We can see God working in so many lives through this experience, redeeming what was meant for evil. We are left knowing He “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Genesis 50:20; Philippians 1:6).
But, those who have not been so fortunate, may still be seeking approval from authority figures even as adults, never quite feeling they measure up to others around them.
Words kill, words give life; they are either poison or fruit . . . you choose (Proverbs 18:21, MSG).
If we are honest, even the best parents can give a mixture of blessing and cursing, healing and hurt within moments. Florence Littauer, author of Silver Boxes, inspires us to weigh our words knowing the value of encouragement and the pain caused by criticism. She shares an illustration of how many building blocks it takes for a child to construct a castle, yet all it takes is one kick to knock them all down. I was challenged that even when giving so many compliments and words of support, all it took was one sharp word of correction and my children would experience pain. I am not saying we should not give instruction or discipline, but we can ask God to show us how to encourage positive behavior rather than focusing on the negative.
Watch the way you talk. Say only what helps, each word a gift (Ephesians 4:29, MSG).
...In the Old Testament, God tells Abraham that his offspring will be instruments of blessing to the whole world both in their deeds as well as with their words (see Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:16-18). From these early examples, the power of blessing began to develop, and we see it became a practice for generations. Their very names were often used as a form of blessing and prophetic promise based on the meaning of each name. This was evidenced by the names Zelophehad gave to his five daughters, declaring their individual gifts and abilities which he prophetically spoke over them (Numbers 27:1; Joshua 17:3-6). A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that revealed God’s supernatural power at work in and through those that received the blessing.
...The principle is clear: God has given parents and grandparents the privilege and authority to speak blessing over their children and, with that blessing, to advance life, health, growth, joy and self-confidence! We need to learn to incorporate this privilege as a dynamic aspect of raising our children and blessing them in every way we possibly can.
In the same way we are admonished to speak blessing over the next generation, we also feel that God is pronouncing His blessing over each one of us in a powerful and prophetic way, blessing our lives and our future. As a spiritual leader to the women placed under my care, I speak God’s blessing over your lives and His favor for you to be used mightily in these last days...read more
My husband is currently a bi-vocational church planter. This means that he has a full time job while planting and pastoring a new church plant. In the past the balance of family and ministry has always been tricky, but now more than ever. Balancing the demands of ministry on the family can feel overwhelming and complicated. I have had two sides drilled into my head. As a result two personal rant/pep talks have emerged:
Talk number one: "Tish, put family first! If your family is in disrepair your ministry is valueless. You cannot minister to others with full gospel impact unless you are making your marriage and your home priority over all."
Talk number two: "Tish get a grip and stop being selfish! A ministry calling demands sacrifice. Your time is not your own and your home is not your own. Pour yourself out generously for the sake of the gospel and for the health of Christ’s church."
How do we reconcile these two?...continue reading
A perfectionist and a semi-slob unite... collide!
We're polar opposites - He's tall, I'm short. He's a night owl and I am a morning person. His closet is organized, mine looks like something exploded. His truck is usually clean and I swear my car reeks of pig odor (don't ask). BUT God’s plan is to bring about the best in this hot mess of a thing we call marriage...How can we continue to grow in love with someone whose seemingly negative traits grate our last nerve?...Continue Reading
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