When I think about being a pastor’s wife, many different passages encourage and guide me. One passage I particularly love is Exodus 17 where Israel battles the Amalekites. Moses stood on a hill holding up the staff of God. When his arms were lifted, the Israelites prevailed, but when he grew weary and his arms fell, the Amalekites would prevail. Aaron and Hur find a stone for Moses to sit upon and each hold an arm so “his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (Ex 17:12). God chose Moses to lead, but, in his weakness, Moses could not do it alone.
My husband is certainly not Moses. But he too has been appointed by God to lead God’s people—our local church. I want to be like Aaron and Hur. I too want to help strengthen and encourage my husband as he fulfills his God-given role. I’ll mention a few ways I try to do this, and hopefully this will encourage other wives who want to support their husbands for the sake of the gospel.
Prioritize Your Marriage
I want my marriage and, specifically, my role as a helpmate, to be my top priority. After our relationship with God, a wife’s relationship with her husband is of first importance. From the very beginning, God laid out our role. In all of creation, only Eve was fit to be Adam’s helper (Gen 2:20). In the same way, God designed me alone to be my husband’s helper. Likewise, God has uniquely equipped you to serve, encourage, love, and care for your husband. No one else can do this the way you can.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m thankful for the elders with whom my husband serves. Only when my husband became a senior pastor did I fully appreciate God’s wisdom in designing our churches to have a plurality of elders. Together, they carry the weight of shepherding. My husband has been hugely encouraged and helped by these men, and I thank God for them. Yet, no one can take my place. Nor can anyone help your husband the way you can. Ladies, please see your role as a gift, not a burden. Study and know your husband well so you can steward this gift for his good and God’s glory.
Love the Church
It is so important to cultivate a love for the church and to have a deep affection for it. I’m challenged in this regard by Paul’s example. He had a deep affection for the congregations he served. He told the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph 1:16). It pained him to have to correct the Galatians, as he described himself as being “in the anguish of childbirth” for them (Gal 4:19). He compares his care for the Thessalonians to that of a mother for a child (1 Thess 2:7–8). Do we love our church like this? I know we are often quick to serve and care for the body. But do we serve out of a genuine affection for the church?
Love is key. As Paul makes clear, I can have the faith “to remove mountains,” to “give away all I have,” and even to “deliver up my body to be burned.” But if I do this without love, “I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:1–3).
Free Your Husband to Serve
Our husbands are uniquely gifted to shepherd a local church. As difficult as it can be at times, we ought to joyfully free them up to do this work. I understand the sacrifice this may entail—my husband has now been a pastor for over twenty years, both as a lay elder and as a senior pastor. I’ve had numerous evenings and trips interrupted by a hurting member or church crisis. We can be tempted to grow embittered toward the ministry or even our church.
Yet we shouldn’t begrudge the church for taking our husbands away. Rather, let’s see these interruptions as a practical way we can love and serve the church as we give up that precious time. I know most men, including my own husband, need to be careful not to put ministry before their family. We should be their first priority, this is true. But they can faithfully put us first and still, at times, need to attend to the needs of the church.
So how do you respond when your husband tells you he has an additional meeting on top of an overly full week of church responsibilities? What do you do when a counseling situation interrupts a Sunday afternoon with the family? Your initial reaction to these real-life situations can reveal a lot about your heart for the church. I know this can be hard, and only when we truly love our church will we be eager to free our husbands up to serve her. Instead of begrudging ministry interruptions, let’s fall to our knees in prayer as we push our husbands out the door to help that hurting church member.
Long before I met my husband, I used to say that the two careers I never wanted to marry into were politics and ministry. It was with great irony that my husband left the United States Senate to start working at our church on Capitol Hill during our second year of marriage. Two decades later I am thankful and humbled at the role he has given me in being the wife of a pastor. To be set aside to do full-time ministry is a great honor. To be at my husband’s side serving and loving our church together is a gift from the Lord. So, whether I am rejoicing with him over new life in Christ or finding a stone on which he can rest, I will sing the words of the psalmist: “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Ps 92:4).