My husband is a senior pastor, and we’ve served in ministry together for almost twenty-five years. Amidst the numerous joys and challenges of church life through the years, we have not felt before the kind of spiritual and emotional fatigue that has resulted from the effects of the COVID pandemic. Everyone has been burdened in some way by the pandemic, some more so than others, but because of my perspective as a pastor’s wife, I have a tenderness toward the stories I’ve heard from various pastor’s wives during this unique time.
Weeds of Discouragement
I’ve talked with some who feel defeated after thinking through new and innovative ways to carry on with ministries they’re involved with only to be met with little support. Other pastor’s wives seem to have relented to the seed of bitterness after hearing polarizing views from discontented members who swarmed their opinion through email, phone calls, and texts. And one dear pastor’s wife watched as the effects of the pandemic so permeated the congregation that the doors of the young church plant were closed permanently.
It’s easy to surrender to discouragement in light of the challenges in church ministry during the last year, but there are good reasons to push away the frustrated emotions. A bleak attitude can too easily lead to weeds planted in our heart, and these weeds produce buds when watered with our judgmental attitudes toward congregants. And they grow quickly when we blame our burdens on a particular decision or unwelcomed path.
Satan loves to see our hearts overgrown with these weeds which cause us to forget that God is working in and through His church. That work never stopped and it never will. Praise Him for this! We are mere vessels in the kingdom work, and when this truth penetrates our heart, the weeds are uprooted and the joy for ministry begins to be restored. Dear pastor’s wife, be encouraged by these truths about your Savior as you trudge through in the wake of the pandemic, and through them, seek to find renewed joy in church ministry.
It’s hard at times to have knowledge of the wide-ranging perspectives, frustrations, and desires from the within a congregation, but remember that it is not your job to please everyone. In one ear, I’ve heard congregants share the concern that we don’t take the pandemic seriously enough, and in the other ear, I’ve listened to friends explain that they will not return until we are mask free. If you’ve experienced this, and I know many pastor’s wives have, it’s tempting to sit in a pool of defeat and annoyance, but swimming in these waters will quickly suck you under.
My friends, remember that Jesus knows. He knows the hearts of these dear congregants much better than you do. And He knows the desires of your own heart. He knows your innermost thoughts, so rather than trying to appease those to whom you lend an ear, pray for these friends. Rather than becoming frustratingly distant, give your burdens to the Lord— throw them on Jesus (Psalm 55:22)— and pray that He will give you the freedom to love in spite of differing opinions. Jesus is able, and He will. Jesus knows what it is to be in the middle of turmoil, and He knows exactly what you need to remain faithful in the midst of it. Jesus knows, so go to Him and free yourself from the weight of built-up frustration. Allow your heart to open up to the joy that comes from faithfully ministering in His church.
Jesus is Working
Be eager to listen to the stories of how Jesus has worked in the midst of this last year. For every story lined with difficulty, there are two others filled with hope. Jesus is working in the hearts of His people in big and mighty ways, and it’s incredibly encouraging to hear those stories because it reminds us that God is on His throne, and He is sovereignly working in unique ways we could have never predicted.
The pandemic did not surprise our Creator; He is Lord over it. The vaccines will not save us from future turmoil; Jesus alone saves. The Lord’s handprint is seen in the mud and mire of this past year, but has your irritation clouded your ability to see it? Listen to the stories of His work; ask those in your congregation what good things God has done in this last year and find joy in the stories you hear. God is at work in His kingdom, and that work never ceases.
Jesus’ Church Will Prevail
Verse four of one my favorite hymns, The Church’s One Foundation, reminds us that the Church of Jesus Christ will triumph in the end:
The Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend. To guide, sustain and cherish, is with her to the end. Though there be those that hate her, and false sons in her pale, against a foe or traitor, she ever shall prevail.
Church ministry is a high calling, and sometimes the “behind the scenes” of a being a pastor’s wife can feel weighty. But it can also be incredibly joy filled. The joy surfaces when we remember that we serve God’s church, not our church, and not our husband’s church. This pandemic does not mark the last time the Church will face unique hardship; we are not coming out of COVID only to breathe a sigh of relief that we’re past times of polarizing views and confusing circumstances.
Yes, the Church will continue to face adversity, and likely difficulty greater than this pandemic. But the joy in ministry is in knowing that God’s Church will prevail through every trial and every tribulation to come. By the grace of God, press on faithfully in supporting and caring for His bride. You know the end of the story, and though the pages in between will continue to contain both valleys and peaks, each is placed with a grand purpose. Christ, the ruler of heaven and earth, said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). God has called you to be a part of this work. What a gift! Nothing done for Christ is ever hopeless. As difficult as it may be to believe at times, your labor is never in vain.
This is why we do not surrender to discouragement in the wake of COVID. Instead, in the strength of Christ alone, press on in your service to the body of Christ, and ask Jesus to remove the weeds, giving you renewed joy for His church once again.
About the Author:
Katie is wife to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and together they have three children, Ella, J-Rod, and Lily. Katie works as the music director at Trinity and serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee. She also spends much of her time writing, playing piano, leading women’s Bible studies, and speaking to women’s groups about the joy she has found in Christ. Katie graduated from Covenant College with a BA in English Education and has served on the board of Covenant. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. For more information, as well as various blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com