By Cynthia White *
I have been in ministry for over 25 years; however, the last 9 have been as a Pastor’s wife. Although I cherish and honor His call on my life, I have gone through several seasons that have changed my name and identification because of the way they have impacted my life. Yet God, in His love, has reminded me, like Joseph in Gen. 39:21, that He is with me, showing His kindness as the consummate giver of life in ministry.
Your ability to relate to this statement may depend on where you are in your journey in ministry as a Pastor’s wife. So, to better explain, allow me to reflect on one of my favorite books of the Bible, Ruth. In Chapter 1, we meet the cast. Naomi, whose name means “pleasant”, is married to Elimelech (“God is King”), but because of the famine in Bethlehem (“house of bread”) they feared losing their lives, and fled. Looking for life, they fled to Moab (“the trash dump”), seeking life in the wrong place rather than remaining in Bethlehem with the resolve to live and lead from a difficult place with complete confidence in El Shaddai. They forgot that His presence was with them every step of the way, giving life in the midst of brokenness.
I too, have had times in ministry when I allowed the famines in my life -- the empty and broken places caused by the loneliness or isolation of leadership -- to impede my ability to live and lead well. Instead, I too, have unfortunately chosen to find life in Moab-like relationships or activities that God never intended to be life-giving. I simply forgot to find refuge in His presence as the All Sufficient One.
Naomi loses her husband and two sons and gains the added burden of having to be a life giver to her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah (“stiff necked”) and Ruth (“faithful friend”). She decided to return back to Bethlehem once hearing that the famine had ended. She was accompanied by Ruth only, because Orpah decided to return to Moab. Yet when Naomi returned home, her confidence and countenance had been altered by her dry, dreary and difficult days of leading and living. As a result, she changed her name to Marah (“bitter”), believing the Almighty had dealt bitterly with her.
Likewise, there have been times, while leading in ministry, when I too have lost perspective and questioned the kindness of God because of my bitterness over the things He has chosen to sift through His fingers of love. My dry, dark and dreary “Marah Moments” can present like this as a Pastor’s wife:
- Financial strain - increased responsibility with limited financial provision
- Rejection - by disgruntled members who leave or remain in the fellowship. Feeling bitter by their betrayal, rejection, slander or unwillingness to resolve conflicts.
- Sickness - health challenges that make it difficult to keep up with the pace of ministry.
- Parenting issues - choosing to extend grace to your children who oftentimes are forced to publicly work through their private struggles.
- Marital strain - forgetting that the attack on a marriage started in the garden with the first couple who too were on the front lines.
- Death - forced to grieve the loss of loved ones in the context of having to care for/minister to others
I am so grateful that God is capable of using these circumstances to bring us as leaders to the end of ourselves, yet allowing us to return back to Him to find life in Him alone! He is always present (Heb. 13:5) and has provided Jesus, our Boaz, to be the kinsmen redeemer, our life giver, the one who rescues, restores and reframes our lives by giving us encouragement and hope. Like Naomi, I am so grateful for the rough spots, because they have allowed me to find my sweet spot in ministry again. I have tasted and seen for myself that, according I Tim. 6:13, Jesus gives life in everything!!!
* Cynthia is the wife of Pastor James White, senior pastor of Christ Our King Community Church, 1500 Garner Road, Raleigh, NC. They have been married for almost 25 years and have 3 children: Christa, 21, Alexis, 19 and Justin, 17. She is the director of their Women's ministry, a sought-after speaker and the owner of Cynthia White and Associates LLC. Visit her website at cynthiawhiteandassociates.com.