My shoulders shook as I quietly sobbed in my laundry room. I texted my two best friends with the door closed: Can you please pray for us right now? He’s so discouraged. I don’t know how to help him. I don’t know how much more of this I can bear. For that matter, I don’t know how much more he can bear.
My church-planting husband was in despair, and I didn’t know what to do.
Every church planter’s wife I know has sent out an SOS like this at one time or another. And most of us have sent them out in the last year, reeling along with our husbands from COVID-19, racialized tension, and political tumult. The burdens of our pastor-husbands are many. Their workload at home and church is up. They’ve got real fatigue from working alone or with limited help to solve huge problems. Church infighting, criticisms, and tensions across the nation are increasing. We fear they’ll never emerge from their discouragement, and we don’t know how to help.
Because we’re in life and ministry with our husbands, because our days, callings, work, and relationships overlap, our husbands’ despair is our despair. We’re entrenched together like few, if any, other occupations in society. When they suffer, we suffer. As such, the burdens of church planters’ wives are also greater.
How, then, should we bear up under the increased burdens of our time? How can we maintain our own well-being when our husbands are down? How can we stay encouraged and spiritually alive through it all?
Here are four practices for church planters’ wives to hold on to when discouragement takes hold of our husbands.
GUARD YOUR HEARTS AGAINST DESPAIR
How easy it is to allow our own spiritual and emotional states to rise and fall with our husbands. Our own spiritual disciplines, though, will be a lifeline for our souls. It’s essential we maintain time in the Word of God, spend time with the people of God, and commit to regular prayer to God. Just as it is only the Lord who can heal our pastor-husbands from the inside out, so it is with us.
REST IN GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY
When our husbands are discouraged, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and remember he’s God and we aren’t. “By him all things were created . . . and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:16–18). When our husbands are spiraling downward, it’s tempting to think our churches, families, and very lives will all come crashing down. But our husbands are held by God above, and he remains on his throne.
PRACTICE RHYTHMS OF RENEWAL
When our circumstances consume our emotions and energy, we must constantly fill ourselves back up. While we don’t put our hope in these rhythms (our hope is in the resurrected Christ alone!), life-giving practices can be a balm. Consider getting ample sleep, taking a real day off, eating well, exercising, turning off your phone for an evening or a weekend, taking a day-long or week-long break from social media every month, seeing a counselor, blasting worship music to take your thoughts captive when they threaten to overwhelm, getting out in nature, listening to solid sermons when you drive, cooking great food, spending time with good friends, taking a date night (even when you don’t feel up to it), or going out for dessert with your kids. What fills your tank? Make it a real priority.
CAST YOUR BURDENS ON THE LORD
We aren’t meant to carry the burden of our husband’s discouragement. The very first thing to do when we sense our husbands slipping into sadness is to pray. We must “cast [our] burden on the Lord, and he will sustain [us],” and remember that “he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22). Only God can ultimately meet our husbands in their hour of need. While we can certainly take practical steps to encourage them, it is the Holy Spirit alone who gives peace (John 14:26–27).
These are hard times. There’s no way around it. Our pastor-husbands are in the midst of real trials, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” and he promises never to leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5–8). May you and I lift our eyes off our circumstances and onto the risen Jesus amid our discouragements. When we are weak, he is strong. Take heart, dear friend. Our God sees, he knows, and he is enough.