In the heat of the battle the dirty sweat drenched and blood furrowed brow of the commander perks up as he peers at his scanty remnant. He has seen his men put up a fierce resistance. The devastating onslaught has been from all fronts. Menacingly sustained at times. The reserves are running low. The platoon is now surrounded. There is no time to reminisce or sleep. Fatigue and final consumption never felt so close. His muddied badge barely sticks to his bosom while a few pips are clearly missing from his right shoulder. Despite the haggard silhouette there is no mistaking the undiminished authority he still wields. It will be at least a day or two until the 1st Calvary Division would arrive in the eastern skies –if only they would hold on for that long. However if all failed-the platoon had gone through this worst case scenario over and over; the last resort would be to die fighting than be taken in. Stand firm! He whispers to his deputy. The grey bush two yards ahead suddenly rustles. He knowingly nods to his deputy-this is it! Stand firm!
The scene above is reminiscent of many spiritual battles. It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Christian walk is no different from the life of a military recruit. More so for the average pastor. A 2009 Barna Group pastoral survey highlighted over 1,700 pastors abandoning ministry every month citing stress related crises, inadequate training, loneliness and spiritual disillusionment as some of the catalysts. With many of these pastoral casualties are there spouses who still hold fast to a faith with untold stamina and stoicism?
What training school prepares the preacher’s wife for the life ahead?
It has always been said that the position of pastor’s wife is not only one of rare difficulty but calls for an exercise of unselfishness and self-effacement which is quite contrary to the natural instincts of human nature. She must to a very large extent sink her own individuality and claims and become absorbed in those of her husband.
Did you ever read that story of the boy scouts group and their camp? Well, just because you asked I will tell you. Their truck mistakenly took a fatally infamous detour after an ambiguous sign post read Camp but pointed them to a top military training boot camp just two minutes from being raided by a rebel group. While a summer paint ball camp twelve miles away received a disillusioned band of hard nosed, tough battle hardened marines armed to the teeth.
* 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
* 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
* 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
* 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
* 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
* 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
* 50% have considered leaving the ministry in the last months.
* 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
* 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
* 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
* Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. 2009
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Cor 16:13
A pastor’s wife watches from behind closed doors the effects of contentions and defence of the faith on the man of God. She prays and intercedes that God’s grace may soften the hearts of the most ice cold visitors that God may have drawn to attend on Sunday and that God will encourage and strengthen the faith of the back row Christian. She is sometimes privvy to a few internal issues but she is not paid for the advice she may give behind these closed doors. She must be prepared to part often with the one she loves best on earth, in order that he may serve others. She must render every assistance in her power and yet not expect to reap the praise from men. She must initiate and carry through new plans of Christian effort and be satisfied that they shall be regarded as nothing more than a legitimate part of her husband’s ministry.
Could you pray that this Saturday night, the preacher’s wife will go to bed whispering stand firm into her husband’s ear. The whole week she fought the temptation to be like the other pastors’ wives who seem to have it easy. One wife advised that the present trials and tough times were due to a hidden sin in their lives- after all aren’t they supposed to be more than conquerors and doesn’t God want every one to be prosperous? Another whispered that probably she had not positively decreed or spoken enough confessions. Another muttered that probably she did not pray in the name of Allah and wasn’t universally relevant enough. The list goes on as many as the channels she flips to on Christian Television. She almost suggests to him that they should read more motivational and self help books and less of the Bible. But she knows to dilute and water down the Gospel may provide instant temporary life enhancement, exponential growth in church numbers but at what spiritual cost and eternal detriment?
” …But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities…” 2 Cor 6:4
The bible says a virtuous woman who can find? She seeks to please God as a workman approved and rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Her speech is always graceful; seasoned with salt that she may know how she ought answer each person. She knows her thoughts and ideas while at home may determine a lot about what direction the church group ultimately takes. A gracious wife knows when to point to the source of all counsel and when to whisper stand firm!
No grander example of the possibilities which the position of a preacher’s wife affords, could be offered to her sisters of the manse or to the world at large than Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon. Then when the storms of abuse, and slander broke on her loved one’s head, she might well have been crushed and broken, but she bore up and by her words of comfort, her strong affection and her piety and faith, helped (Charles Spurgeon) to weather the gale. In every branch of his work she threw her heart and soul, she stinted herself to render financial assistance to the various causes, and to the smallest detail acted with her husband as a faithful steward of the God in whom she trusted. Her life was one long self-sacrifice. She need not have expended the strength she so much required for herself; no one would have blamed the invalid for seeking comfort in rest, but what she did, she did with a will and as “unto the Lord.” Her life is a brilliant example of what can be done by a weak woman who devotes herself to the service: of the Master and not only as the wife of Charles Haddon Spurgeon will Mrs. Spurgeon live green in the memory of all true Christians, but as herself, as the woman who found solace in suffering by ministering to the needs of others, she will stand out through all time.
In memory of Susannah Spurgeon (1832-1903), The Spurgeon Collection
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Prov 3:5
Today as you pray for your pastor, remember his wife. Who prays for the pastor’s wife? Who would whisper to her that therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Pray that the pastor’s wife will only… stand firm!