By Amy Corbin, NAMB Spouse Development
I vividly remember sitting with her during a retreat I was leading, as she wept and wept and wept. She was broken, she was exhausted, and she was utterly burned out. This precious wife had been on the church planting journey for seven years and she had no idea how to continue on. Their church was doing really well, despite the typical Church planting highs and lows, and she was an incredibly strong woman who was rooted deeply in the Word and in her faith. But she had reached her limit and she was just so weary.
The retreat had been a time and space for her to simply meet with Jesus and to rest (literally rest) at His feet. But this time set apart for renewal would soon be over and then she would be re-entering a life where her circumstances had not changed at all. So how do we become changed women without expecting changed circumstances? How do we deal with burn out and soul depletion without expecting a journey that is easier or more comfortable? And, if this is your wife, how can you walk alongside her and encourage her to embrace the adversity you will most certainly continue to face?
This might be one of the most important tasks as a church planter you will ever face. If your wife is drowning, your whole journey will be affected. Ongoing care for your spouse is not an option, it is a requirement. This is an issue much more complicated and intricate that one article alone could ever tackle but here are three places we can start.
1. Help her become more aware of God’s story in HER life.
In the last few months, as I’ve lead various trainings with planter wives I have been blown away by how many are not aware of God’s story in their own lives. They see it in your life. They see it in your church, and they often see it in their children. But they rarely take time to sit and process through God’s story in their own heart. As Christ followers, we all need to be deeply aware of where God has brought us from, where He is currently working and where He is leading. It encourages us, it inspires us and it feeds our soul.
If your wife is burned out, there is a very good chance she has lost sight of this to some degree. She needs, just as much as you do, to know that God has a purpose and plan and is intimately involved in every detail of her life. When your wife is encouraged to intentionally process His story in her life, she is reminded of His goodness, His presence and His sovereignty. She becomes energized by her relationship with the Father and not depleted by the task set before her.
2. Help her discover more about herself.
More than likely, as a pastor or church planter you have had multiple opportunities to explore or discover your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses and your leadership style. And more than likely, your self-awareness has made you a better leader, a better Pastor and a better husband/father. Your wife would benefit greatly from some of these same opportunities.
When we become women who have a full understanding of our own strengths, weaknesses and personal tendencies, our service becomes more life-giving and soul-feeding. We are fully aware of how we respond in difficult circumstances and can counter that response with what we know is more Christ-honoring. We know well the areas where God may use us most as well as the areas where we need the most refining and transformation and we are completely open to God’s work in those areas.
3. Help her discover the value of investing in herself.
I can pretty confidently say that your wife struggles with the lie that investing in herself is, at the very least selfish and lazy, and at the very most, sinful. I’m not entirely sure where the lie originated from, but I am confident that as ministry wives, we have bought into it hook, line and sinker.
Your wife desperately needs permission and encouragement from you to care for herself along the journey. And, let’s be realistic, this is going to require some sacrifice on your behalf. It may require you to “hold down the fort” for a few hours, or a few days while she can get away. But I can promise you that the small sacrifice it will require of you will be multiplied immensely in the blessing it is for her soul.
When she is given the time and space to invest in herself, she more than likely will find (or be reminded) of her freedom in Christ, which will almost always lead to finding the freedom to rest and not wrestle through her ministry role. She will more intimately understand that God’s grace is essential in this role and that it is grace that enables Him to do in and through her what she cannot do for herself.
The reality is that you have received some incredible training, coaching, and mentoring along your journey that has helped you process through some of these very things. At the end of the day though, if your wife is not also receiving ongoing care, everything you have received is for naught. She is an essential part of this journey and it is critical that she is equipped for the same battle you are being sent out for.