God created us for relationship, but that doesn’t mean it comes easily. For many reasons, a pastor’s wife can feel lost and lonely in her husband’s ministry. Church expectations play a part. So do season of life and family responsibilities. Ministry life itself, often busy and full of surprises, can make it hard to connect with others.
Sadly, when this happens, we’re at risk of wandering down a dangerous path leading to self-pity, complaint, bitterness, and resentment. This path doesn’t go anywhere good and only hurts us and our relationships with God, our husbands, and our churches.
So how do you not get lost and lonely in your husband’s ministry and avoid that path? It starts with your relationship with the Lord.
Live as loved
For twenty years, my husband Scott and I have belonged to the same church. During this time, Scott’s had various roles and responsibilities. He’s served as a small group leader, pastoral intern, bi-vocational pastor, facilities manager, and staff pastor. Sometimes his title has been “pastor,” and other times it hasn’t. At one point, this produced an identity crisis—was I or wasn’t I a “pastor’s wife?”
That crisis helped me see who I really am. I’m a beloved child of God, and so are you. Living in the security of our heavenly Father’s love frees us to love him and others wholeheartedly (Matthew 22:37-40), and it ultimately keeps us from being lost and lonely.
Sister, you are a beloved child of God (Romans 8:15-17). You are part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
You’re also a wife, who happens to be married to a pastor, and this has significant implications for your life. “Pastor’s wife” is not your core identity, though, even if it seems like that’s how some people see and relate to you. It’s so important that we get this right.
If we see ourselves primarily through the lens of gospel love:
- We’ll remember we’re sinners in need of grace and how God sets his affections on us. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This keeps us humble and relatable to the people sitting beside us in the pew.
- We won’t need to find our meaning or purpose in a role, and we don’t have to prove our worth to ourselves or anyone in our churches. Our worth is found in Christ, “who loved [us] and gave himself for [us]” (Galatians 2:20).
- It motivates us to love others in our church family with Christ’s love. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). This love is “patient and kind,” doesn’t “envy or boast,” isn’t “arrogant or rude,” doesn’t “insist on its own way,” and isn’t “irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5), and it’s only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit who pours his love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
Trish, my friend and a pastor’s wife at the church that planted ours, describes the outworking of this perspective shift:
“Much of our experience depends on our attitude. If we go into a situation thinking about how our role sets us apart, or how we’re not understood, or how we’re so alone, we often find these things to be true. Inevitably, someone will say something insensitive, or they’ll stereotype PWs, or they’ll critique something our husband is involved in. But I find that when I enter a conversation as a plain old church member, sharing my struggles, serving in mundane ways in the church, encouraging and laughing with people, then people treat me as a friend, and I feel very much a part of things.”
Found and never alone
There are many reasons why pastors’ wives might feel lost and lonely. In our broken world, we get confused; feel out-of-place, out-of-sync, or like we don’t fit in; and situations and circumstances isolate us from others. In an effort to live honourably—not to gossip and to protect the dignity of others, including our families—we can’t always speak freely about our burdens.
However, Scripture tells us that ultimately, we aren’t lost. We’re found. In Luke 15, Jesus told three different parables that assure us of this. He is the Good Shepherd who finds his sheep. As the woman who searches for her missing coin, the Lord seeks out his own. Thirdly, God is the heavenly Father who welcomes home the prodigal child. In Christ, we’re always found.
What’s more, both the Old and New Testaments teach that we’re never truly alone. Isaiah 41:10 says,
“fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Later Jesus declares, “’I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20).
What precious promises these are for the pastor’s wife who feels lonely! Take them to heart. God himself is with you to strengthen and help you. He will uphold you with his righteous right hand. How can you be sure? God the Father already sent Jesus, “Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23), and he poured out his Holy Spirit as “the guarantee of our inheritance” (Acts 2:4 and Ephesians 1:14).
Satisfy me with your love
You are a pastor’s wife today. Throughout your lifetime, you’ll probably be many things: a daughter, sister, mother, mentor, teacher, friend, neighbour, or co-worker. Roles and seasons change, but guess what? God’s love for you won’t change. You belong to him. You are his.
If you live as loved, it will make all the difference, even if you’re more of an introvert as my friend Heather is. Heather, whose husband pastors the church I joined after university, testifies to God’s faithfulness:
“A 25-year ministry (to date) means that I have had lots of time to grow in friendship with a few women at church, a few in our…district, and a few outside our community … . For these I am thankful. As friendships come and go, wax and wane, as they will, I pray that the Lord would satisfy me with his steadfast love every morning so that I may rejoice and be glad all my days (Psalm 90:14). And he is faithful.”
Heather is grateful for the friendships the Lord has given her, but ultimately she looks to the Lord to satisfy her with his love. May we do the same.
© 2023 Katie Faris. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.