What No One Else Sees, He Sees

pastor’s wife

A hush and a heaviness fell over us, and as Shauna moved toward her in empathy, every single woman who was sitting, standing, or scrunched in a corner of the room started crying.

Excerpted From

How to Thrive as a Pastor’s Wife

By Christine Hoover

What No One Else Sees, He Sees

Several years ago, I stood at a lectern in a room filled to overflowing with pastors’ wives, teaching with my friend and fellow pastor’s wife Shauna. At the conclusion of our talk, we took questions. One young pastor’s wife stood up and, with her voice trembling, asked, “What do I do if I feel my husband loves the church more than me?”

A hush and a heaviness fell over us, and as Shauna moved toward her in empathy, every single woman who was sitting, standing, or scrunched in a corner of the room started crying.

We cried because we knew.

We instinctively understood the pain she was feeling, the complexity of church ministry and how the wife of a pastor could come to such a conclusion, and the panic of uncertainty of where to turn or what to do when you are the one people constantly turn to, looking for answers. We knew the isolation of smiling when you want to cry and enduring when you want to escape. We understood the weight of the pastor’s burden, so we knew the burden this young woman carried as well. We were crying for her but also for ourselves—not out of self-pity but rather the God-honoring groan of longing for wrongs to be made right and tears to be wiped away forever.

As Shauna responded to her question, I felt a desperation to erase this woman’s difficulties or give her a simple solution, but in ministry, as in life, difficulties can’t always be deleted and solutions don’t come easy, if at all.

This is every Christian’s calling: to move through a broken-down world with faith, our eyes set on Jesus and our feet running the race he’s set before us. And the specific race he’s set before you and me is being a pastor’s wife: loving our pastor-husband, serving God’s people, and setting out the gospel for others like a lit-up city on a hill.

As you know well, the race he’s marked out for us has unique joys and challenges. Now, in this section of the book, we will turn our attention to the challenges and how God meets us in them.

Fellow pastor’s wife, I ask that you trust me with your heart and your hurts in this and the following chapters. If you’re anything like me, you often don’t want to read someone else’s take on the difficulties of being a pastor’s wife. You live them, for goodness’ sake, and on the one hand, you don’t want more unnecessary tears. You don’t want to wallow in how the challenges of ministry have affected you. You’ve done that before, and you know it’s not productive or helpful. Your latent anger doesn’t need fuel. Your wounds don’t need reopening.

On the other hand, you don’t want anyone to paint a rosy picture of ministry that ignores the reality of your experience. You don’t want anyone addressing the life you live by glossing over challenges and putting a Bible verse as a bow on them. You want honesty and vulnerability.

That’s why I ask for your trust. I promise to give honest voice to the challenges of ministry and also to remind you of truth and your very real hope. We will neither gloss over nor wallow. We will, together, walk the narrow path of faith toward our good God.

That’s what we did that day when the young woman stood and asked her brave question with quivering lips. We cried, acknowledging the pain and difficulty. Sometimes it hurts so much. And then we said what’s true in the midst of this broken-down world we seek to impact: God sees, he is with you, and he will never leave you.

He’s worth it all.

Turn to Those Who Understand

During a difficult period in ministry, I tried voicing a tiny sliver of my pain to others when they sought me out to share their own pain with me. I wanted to empathize with them and communicate that they weren’t alone, but I also felt as if I were dipping my toe in the water, testing to see if they’d probe further and seek to minister to me.

None did, and I later realized why: I was attempting to reveal some of my hidden vulnerabilities with people who had little ability to understand them and no meaningful authority to affect my circumstances. 

I remember thinking, Is this my lot in life: going it alone?

The answer is a resounding no. As I already noted, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share all of my hidden vulnerabilities with those my husband and I serve. But I can share them. As Andy Crouch puts it, “No one survives hidden vulnerability without companions who understand.”

Friends are an important component to our spiritual and emotional vitality, which we’ll discuss in later chapters, but who are companions who definitely understand? Other ministry wives!

I think again about how it felt to stand in that room of pastors’ wives, seeing tears on every face. All it took was one brave woman to voice a struggle we each knew well for a sense of togetherness and unity to fill the room. To conclude our time, Shauna had us all stand and link arms. As she prayed, asking God to help us fulfill what he’d called us to, I thought to myself, What a picture of who we are to one another.

Pastors’ wives are a gift to one another. We can spend time together and get right to the heart of things, because we don’t have to explain. We know.

Enjoying the gift of a companion who understands does require vulnerability, however, and I’ve been in many a room of pastors’ wives where authentic transparency was severely lacking. I can only speak for myself in saying that I often go into those spaces thinking, I’m the only one struggling. It seems like everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing.

I’ve found, however, that when I voice an honest struggle combined with an honest desire to honor God, other women meet me in my vulnerability.

I encourage you, ministry wife, to go to the God who sees and find comfort in him, but then consider who are your “companions who understand.” Don’t wait for others; make the first move. Gather ministry wives in your church or in your community. Join an online network. Call up your long-distance friend who is also in ministry. Attend an event your network or denomination is hosting for pastors’ wives. Wherever you can, develop relationships with companions who understand. Link arms with them and bear one another’s hidden vulnerabilities with the help of the God who sees.

Excerpted from How to Thrive as a Pastor’s Wife by Christine Hoover. Published by Baker Books a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2022. Used by permission. BakerPublishingGroup.com.

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