I never dreamed of being a pastor’s wife.  Never did a thought enter my mind that it would be a possibility for me.  In fact, when a friend wanted to introduce me to my future husband, I told her no because the thought of dating a pastor was so odd to me.

Well, here I am 14 years later.

My husband, having grown up a pastor’s kid, tried to warn me about the life of a pastor’s wife, which included the basic hardships of:

Frequently moving
Low income potential
Competing for your husband’s time
and more…

But, because, I had fallen in love with this man, and he happened to be a pastor, I told him I’d follow him wherever he felt led.

And so we went!  When we first met, my husband was a youth pastor on staff at an amazing church.  The people were loving. The community was great.  The leadership was strong and supportive.  Soon after we were married, we transitioned to another church where my husband became the College and Young Adult Pastor.  It was another great church with wonderful, loving people in a great community where we really saw ministry grow.  Therefore, my experience as a pastor’s wife wasn’t too bad.

After leaving his second staff position for seminary, we took our first Lead Pastor position.  It wasn’t long before we realized it was a different ball game having our “own” church.  There was no one above us making decisions or giving guidance.  No else taking care of the “hard” things.  We quickly realized that the buck stopped with us, and, at the end of the day, it all fell on our shoulders.  So, we started learning, adapting, and doing ministry according to our gifts, seeking the Lord’s guidance every step of the way.

And then… the hard stuff came.  The decisions, the lack of help, the people who’d vanish in the night and not explain why, the friends you thought you had that really weren’t your friends, the isolation from not having people who know what you’re going through, the issues with hiring/firing staff, the finances, the complaints, and on and on and on.  And now having been a lead pastor’s wife for 10 years, I’m well versed in the hardship that ministry can bring.  We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs.  Some truly high highs, and some really low lows. And by low lows, I really mean really low lows.  And in the low-lows, I’ve realized more recently, that you can get yourself into a really dangerous place.

The dangerous place comes when we are hurt, or maybe we are angry, or maybe we are seeking justice for the wrongs done against us, and maybe we are letting those feelings lead to bitterness.  And when we find ourselves in a place of bitterness- now that’s when the enemy starts to win.  Because if we aren’t careful that bitterness really takes root and grows down deep, and starts to bleed into other areas of our hearts.  And I’ve been here.  And in some ways I find justice in that.  In feeling those things because I think I deserve to feel that way.  And really it’s easier to let it fester than to do something about it.  But I’ve realized that if we don’t stay alert and aware of these feelings in the lows, that they can easily destroy us.  And so I’ve searched for ways to get from the lows to the highs, and I’ve learned how I need to take responsibility in these times for myself.  And there’s a couple of things that I’ve had to realize.

One is to choose to go to battle.  In these seasons of hurt, pain, and hard stuff, I have a choice to make. I either succumb to my feelings and let them change who I am- or I fight.  I fight because I know who my God is and I know what truth is.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

And so we are told that a battle is being waged- for our souls.  And because we have the Holy Spirit, we can suit up and get in the fight.  The hard thing is that the battle isn’t a one time thing.  It’s not like we can battle one day and then our problems are gone. The battle is on-going.  I can’t tell you how many times I made up my mind to find joy, or to forgive someone even though they haven’t asked for my forgiveness, or I commit to surrendering my thoughts to the Lord- when I set my mind to these things, it isn’t long before I’m knocked right back down.  And so, I can get up and claim victory by using God’s word, or I can lay there in the fetal position and wallow in my sorrows. (the latter is usually what feels most appealing.) I’m learning more and more that forgiveness, or walking through pain, is often a moment by moment thing.  It’s constantly bringing our thoughts and feelings, even words, to the Lord over and over again.  And laying them down.  When you pick them up- because you will, lay them down again…and again.. and keep surrendering those hard things to the Lord.  When we do this, we are constantly reminding the enemy who has already won!  I promise that the second you start to battle, you’ll get knocked down.  But I also know that Jesus will help you win the battle and you’ll find peace and joy along the way!

The other thing I have to remember is to keep my eyes on Him.  In the lows, it’s easy to keep our eyes on ourselves.  How hurt we are, how bad things are, how life isn’t fair, and so on.  We can get really bogged down in our humanness with the yuck of what we are going through.  And it’s not until I truly look up and get my eyes off myself that I find freedom from those feelings.  I love the new Lauren Daigle song, “Look Up Child.” It reminds me of how often I shoulder things or get caught up in my stuff that I simply don’t look up. I love this portion of the lyrics where she’s declaring who God is and what He desires from us.

You’re not threatened by the war
You’re not shaken by the storm
I know You’re in control
Even in our suffering
Even when it can’t be seen
I know You’re in control

Oh I hear you say

Oh I hear you say

Look up child.

Jesus tells us to come to Him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We can come to Him in prayer, in whatever state we find ourselves.

In life’s hard places, it’s easy to wrestle with God, blame him, and question His sovereignty.  And believe me, He can take those thoughts and questions.  He simply tells us He’s there and that He will give us rest.  And when we worship- when we truly worship- we look up.  Worship is about shifting our gaze from our circumstances to our Creator.  On how mighty, awesome, powerful, and loving our God is.

When we hurt, He hurts.  And I have to remind myself that it wasn’t supposed to be this way.  People are messy not because God created them that way, but because sin has made us imperfect.  And I’m just as messy as everyone else.  I have to be thankful to Jesus for giving us the opportunity to get un-messy.  To find peace.  To extend forgiveness.  To love the unlovable.  To show grace.  And to see clearly that He is so much bigger than our present circumstances.

Friends, if you’re in a season of hurting- let me join you in praying that you’ll let Him lead you through. That you’ll choose to fight, and that you’ll keep your eyes on Him.  He’s shaping you along the way.

Shannon Bradford is the new Pastor’s Spouse Connection Director.  She currently lives in Wheaton, IL where her husband is the Senior Pastor at One Line Church.  She has 3 kids and works in the Admissions Office at Wheaton College.  She loves pizza, football, and shopping.  Feel free to reach out to Shannon at pastorsspouse@wesleyan.org