By: Sarah Oates-Walker
When I became engaged to my now-husband, he was serving as the lead pastor of a church. I prayed to God, asking Him, “What am I possibly going to bring into this ministry?” My husband is gifted in so many areas: he is an incredible teacher, he has a talent for leading others into worship, he is excellent at communicating with others, he has a prophetic gifting, he is incredibly wise, and in my opinion, is a truly wonderful pastor!
As a newer Christian at the time, with seemly no gifting, I felt inadequate to step into the “pastor’s wife” role.
In that moment, as I prayed, I felt like God said to me, “If you were to do nothing else for me, give up your husband in pure joy!”
In the beginning, I thought, “That’s pretty easy!” At that time, our church congregation was small, very loving, and wonderfully supportive.
As we continued on in ministry, I had the pleasure of meeting many different pastor’s wives. So many of them were beautiful inside and out, with God’s love and grace shining through their very presence. Everything in me admires them and longs to be like them!
Then, there were a handful that I met who were bitter, angry and resentful – down on ministry, distrustful of church people, and resentful of the Church.
It has become my goal to never be that pastor’s wife!
As the seasons changed, and as we stepped into new ministry positions, I started to understand those bitter and angry pastor’s wives. Sometimes it can be hard to love the Church when you feel like you are continually giving up your husband with little tangible reward or appreciation.
Like many, my husband works all through the week from 9-5, but then also many nights, weekends and holidays. We have set boundaries as to how much he will be out of the house each week, but unexpected crises do arise. When they do, his normal 2-3 nights out a week can easily become 5-6 nights away from our family. He has missed several holidays (even a thanksgiving), our son’s first birthday party, he has even dropped off his super-pregnant wife and infant daughter at our vacation rental to then drive an additional 5 hours in order to deal with a pastoral crisis that could not wait, as they sometimes cannot. Every time, we decide together that these decisions are the right choices to make for the sake of caring for our flock, but it doesn’t always mean that I feel joyful about them.
In one season of ministry, I was challenged to be my husband’s sole encourager, when all was hearing from people was criticism and complaints. On Sunday mornings, I would hear wonderful genuine compliments about the job he was doing. I would encourage them to tell him, to encourage him, but very few ever took the time to let him know. It wasn’t until our last Sunday at this particular church that everyone came forward with something wonderful to say. My husband told me afterwards that he had heard more encouragements on that one Sunday morning than during the entire 5 years we had been there, by far!
There are times it can be very hard to be a joyful pastor’s wife. This is when God’s words became so real to me” “If you were to do nothing else for me, give up your husband in pure joy!” There are times when it is easy to give up my husband in pure joy, and other times that it is not! Sometimes, in the moment, it would be really easy to remain angry, hurt and annoyed.
However, in the hard times, I have to choose joy, and when I choose joy, it becomes easier to love the criticizers and complainers, it is easier to release my husband to take care of others who are going through difficult times, it is easier to take my eyes off myself and onto the congregation God has entrusted to us.
Not only does choosing joy affect me, but it also gives my husband the freedom to love and care for his church – he does not have to feel divided.
Ministry challenges will be different for each of us, but choosing joy is always good for the heart!