By Linda Myers
A young, inexperienced pastor’s wife met with a seasoned pastor’s wife hoping to garner words of wisdom. She was surprised when the older lady leaned over and said, “Get out while you still can!”
That veteran saint knew from experience that the pastor’s wife is in a vulnerable position. She can’t respond to critics. Sometimes she is asked to pass on complaints to her husband. She is not involved with the decisions made at church but may have to defend them. When it comes to friendships, she often feels like she is on the outside looking in.
The older pastor’s wife most certainly suffered from what I call spiritual battle stress disorder (SBSD). We are in a spiritual battle and this is how it is played out on earth. Paul wrote about the early church in Corinth, “I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” These hurts and the hard work of pastoring is taken to heart by the pastor’s wife. The devil knows if he can discourage the pastor’s wife it can affect the pastor and even the whole church. The devil uses the same tricks over and over as he knows how effective they can be.
These are some areas that can create this stress disorder:
Disappointments – This comes in all shapes and sizes – from criticism of the church or our husbands to repeating what was said in confidence. Cynicism creeps in as we think, “They’re just going to get mad anyway.” This keeps us in constant defensive mode as we are on guard against more and more hurt.
Recognize we are in a spiritual battle and seek God’s strength, love, and help. He won’t disappoint us.
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Expectations – Some expectations we put on ourselves, others are part of being a pastor’s wife. We want others to think well of us and our family so sometimes we pretend that everything is okay, all the while shriveling up on the inside. We want the freedom to do the good works that God prepared for us and to work in our spiritual gifting but too often we try to please people rather than please God.
Be honest and have patience. Don’t give in to the temptation to withdraw.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)
Exhaustion – Holding down a job, volunteering at church, and meeting the demands of a family leads to physical exhaustion. Criticisms, rejection, and loneliness can lead to emotional exhaustion, which often leads to burnout and feelings of frustration and anxiety.
Healing is a process and takes time. Find a trusted counselor or another pastor’s wife to talk to. Forgive others and yourself.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
BEFORE YOU GO
It’s always a good idea to have a trusted mentor or friend who can help and encourage when the path gets extra challenging. After all, A burden shared is a burden halved. The Conference offers life coaching for our pastors’ wives. I like to think of it as someone in her corner–the sole purpose of the bi-weekly call is to provide a chance to speak freely within the confines of a safe and trustworthy, confidential space. We can all benefit from a relationship like that!
If you’d like more information about Pacific Conference Coaching, contact our Coaching Director, Tom Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org.