The Supportive Wife
If your husband is on the brink of the abyss called termination of employment with the church, you are in for a wild ride. Lots of people go through times of unemployment or job change and just work their way through it. There are many government and private organizations which deal with helping the unemployed get back into the work force. However, we have not found many agencies which understand the unique situation in which pastors find themselves when faced with unemployment.
Many employers won’t even look at a resume that says a man pastored a church for “x” number of years if other work experience is not listed. It seems the common conclusion is that the man will not stay long but will just find another church. We know that is not so easy or likely especially if the reason for termination is that the man is totally burnt out and going through deep soul searching of who he is. Most employers don’t realize that the man needs a time away from the pastorate and that he will most likely be an excellent worker who will stay at the job for at least 18 months or more.
Even Christian ministries tend to overlook men from the clergy unless there is a previous relationship to build on. They would prefer to find some bright young college or seminary graduates who can be shaped to their world view rather than take a seasoned, experienced man of the cloth who already has a world view of his own. It is a shame that they cannot see the wealth of depth and experience available to them in these former pastors.
Many pastor’s wives already work outside the home and feel the pain of having to take up the slack that will be there as their husband looks for other work. If you have children at home it is an even heavier burden. You now have to be the major bread winner, prop up an exhausted and often brooding husband, keep your children on an even keel so they don’t suffer too much and do your other functions in a cheerful manner.
Only the Living God can give you the grace to survive this! Don’t lose that most precious source of power you have. This is a time when every moment on your knees and whispered prayer throughout the day and night has tremendous importance. You may have to be the spiritual leader of the family, for a while. There may be times when your husband cannot even pray at the table. He may not want to attend church. Please understand that this will pass if you, in all faithfulness, don’t give up. He is probably having to spend a lot of time in his cave waiting for that still small voice from the Father which will give him the courage to go on. In the mean time you may have to weather all kinds of earthquakes, windstorms and even fire before your husband finally hears that wonderful voice.
Yes, you are overworked, over-stressed and heading for your own depression. But I firmly believe that God will give you the grace sufficient for today! He has promised that He will not try us more than we can endure. He will provide a way of escape. I hope you can find a few friends who can pray for you every day and give you whatever support you need, groceries, cash, babysitting services, a ready smile. They may not be in your home congregation. They may belong to a women’s ministry in another church, but seek them out. They are there. God will provide some kind of support when the need is crucial. He has for me. Even one friend to confide your helplessness to will make a big difference.
Don’t run down your husband. He needs allies, friends, supporters right now. Not more critics. He is probably at the lowest place he has ever been in his life and because he is your husband you just have to go with him. It’s one of those things you agreed to when you married him – you know, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, ’til death do you part. None of us expected to have to really go those places when we said our vows but God tests us to see if we are really serious. In some cases I think He is taking us through our paces just like He did Abraham. After we finish this trial He will say, “Now, I know you, that you will obey all my commands and will keep my word and will teach your children to do the same thing.” It will be worth all the pain when we come out on the other end with white garments and golden crowns. If you think about the trials of our brethren in other nations it helps to put our present trials in a more bearable perspective.
As your husband searches for a new job or career be patient with him. He has to find out which of his skills and gifts are marketable in the workplace. He probably needs you to tell him what he is good at, what he really enjoys in work, why he is valuable. Be gentle, positive, and realistic. Pray for the right words whenever you have to give him an evaluation. He is especially sensitive right now. He will take any negative remark and exaggerate it out of proportion, so be careful. Search your memory banks for his many successful accomplishments.
Don’t be upset if your husband leans toward a career working with his hands and body. Right now, he is mentally weak and needs a rest. It will be good for him to exercise and strengthen his body even for a little while. Encourage him to get daily exercise and keep the blood flowing well. Try to keep the home as cheerful as you can. It will be a challenge. Help the children to enjoy having their father around more often. Be as positive as you can be. You are usually the barometer of the family feeling the pressure going up or down. Try not to blow your stack. If you need to scream go sit in the car or go out to a field somewhere and cry your heart out to God. He will listen even if He doesn’t instantly offer you the answers. He holds you in the palm of His hand and your screams and cries will not hurt His ears. Be totally honest with God even while you are very careful what you say to your husband. Only God can see the whole picture. He knows you feel like you’re walking through hell right now. Ask Him for lots of help and encouragement and take any that comes your way as from Him.
Another thing to be careful of is your own health. While you are facing this severe trial it is easy to lie awake at night and worry. But it won’t really do any good. You need your sleep to cope with each day of responsibility. Take your vitamins. A glass of milk and some calcium capsules may help you sleep. Get exercise even if it is walking the dog or taking the children to the park. Walk and pray at the same time. And when you lie down to sleep ask God to take all your worries, nail them to the cross and help you to walk away for another day. He will!
Don’t give up. Don’t quit on God. Don’t quit on your husband. Don’t quit on your children. You may be in your hour of greatness and the determining factor in the marriage and in your husband’s life. You are vital to his future! You are a holy vessel doing what you were created to do! In your tongue is the power of life and death. In your hands lie a man’s heart, as you have never seen it before. He is the wounded soldier and you are the nurse with compassion and medicine. God has called you for such a time as this. I pray you will shine more brightly than you have ever shone and your children will rise up and call you blessed and your husband will also praise you saying “Many women have done wonderful things, but you have outclassed them all!” And above all that the Lord will say unto you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, come and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!”
Do give me (Kathy) a call and we can pray together over the phone. 918-919-1490. Through our shared experience we love you deeply even without knowing you – yet!
– Kathy Wenzel