Having the opportunity to serve as a full-time minister of God is such a blessing. And for those of us married to men in the ministry? There is nothing more beautiful than seeing that man of ours light up with joy and enthusiasm as he sees God’s people enter the kingdom and gain a deeper relationship with the Saviour.
But serving in God’s vineyard, whether at home or in a foreign field, is not always a bed of roses. There are a lot of things that can lead to discouragement: isolation, persecution, disputes, disagreements, apathetic members, homesickness, and the feeling of a lack of progress. Sometimes we can feel helpless as we watch the man we love begin to crumble under the weight of his many cares and stresses.
“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
One of the most common questions I hear women in minister’s wives circles desperately ask is: “How can I be an encouragement to my husband in his ministry? He’s so discouraged and I have no idea what to do!”
While I am no expert on these matters (and fail miserably and all too often), here are a couple of things I want you to consider:
| HE NEEDS YOU TO BE IN THE WORD
The more you are in the word, the more of an encouragement you will be to your husband and the more you will be able to help him in his ministry. While he is to be the spiritual leader of your home, your husband will profit greatly if his right-hand-woman is able to give valuable suggestions and feedback from her own study and meditation. He will likely ask for your opinion and trust you to help him make godly decisions – so make sure you are ready with your cup full of God’s wisdom.
While the immaturity of certain congregations can get discouraging and like-minded souls may be few, your husband can know he has you to discuss biblical matters over with. To be a woman of the Word is one of the most encouraging and beneficial things you can do for your husband.
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).
| HE NEEDS YOU TO GENUINELY PRAISE HIS EFFORTS
I once had an older woman tell me that I had to be my husband’s worst critic so that he wouldn’t get a big head. Let me tell you that this is among the worst and most worthless pieces of advice I have ever received. Your husband needs you, more than anyone, to be his cheerleader. Your husband might be working in a place where he gets little-to-no praise every Sunday. When a man pours his heart and soul into an address that he feels meets his congregation’s exact needs – this can be incredibly discouraging.
It is most important that your feedback be genuine and specific – and for it to be genuine, you will actually have to listen. “Good lesson!” every week doesn’t really cut it. I know that listening can be hard at times (I’m looking at you, young mums), but it’s not impossible. Whenever you possibly can, do your best to write down what your husband says. If you can’t write down everything, write a few snippets – a few quotes, a thought you liked, something you want to explore further, even questions you have. My husband especially likes it when I write down verbatim quotes of something particularly poignant he has said – and even more so when I share them on social media! If you can’t get anything at all – consider listening to a recording of his sermon the next day (hooray for modern technology!).
If you do have a constructive comment to make, 1) remember the “feedback sandwich rule” (compliment-criticism-compliment), 2) make sure the criticism is something that he can change, and 3) try your best to never, ever make a criticism on the same day as he speaks.
Unlike that woman told me – you can’t praise your husband too much. Praise him in private and public. Praise him specifically and often. Praise him online and offline. The gift of our sincere words of praise is a simple way we can build our husbands up in a world full of discouragements.
| HE NEEDS YOU TO CARE ABOUT THE MINISTRY AS MUCH AS HE DOES
As a minister’s wife, your husband needs you to do more than just listen to his struggles – he needs you to care about them as much as he does.
An attitude I often see displayed amongst minister’s wives is, “They’re paying for my husband – not for me!” – whenever they feel there is any expectation laid upon them. Let me tell you: they may not be paying for you, but Christ has already paid for you. Whether or not your husband is a paid servant or not is of little consequence – you are called to be a living sacrifice. You were bought by Christ and placed into a body to serve. You both were. We all are.
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).
To truly listen, you will have to truly care – and to truly care, you will have to invest. And by investing in the church, you will not only be doing what the Lord asked you to do – but you will also be greatly increasing your husband’s effectiveness and job satisfaction.
Your marriage will be at its strongest when you are both united in working towards a common goal – and there is no greater goal than Heaven.
“I beseech you, brethren, you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,” (1 Corinthians 16:15)
Your husband – spiritual leader, rock, and pillar of strength though he may be – is still a man. He needs your friendship and support. He needs your listening ear and words of wisdom. He needs your love. He needs your grace when he messes up. He needs your prayers. He needs your help.
You know your husband and will learn the ways he needs and receives encouragement best (if you’re struggling to learn your husband, might I suggest reading His Needs, Her Needs and The Five Love Languages). Keep learning him. Never stop pursuing a knowledge of God and your husband, even when things get stressful – especially when things get stressful.
Be his confidante. Be his sister. Be his lover. Be his friend.
Seek God with him.