My father was a church planter and my mother was an extraordinary support to him. Constantly praying for him, very active in the church, a strong source of encouragement and wisdom. But it was a hard role to play – wife, mother, ministry support. The world saw a beautiful family always smiling and committed to reaching our community with the gospel.
I saw that, too, but I also experienced the other side of being a family called into ministry. The uncomfortable side that’s difficult to talk about: church splits, struggles in marriage, loneliness and the burden of shepherding a flock. Fast forward 30 years, and I’m experiencing some of the same struggles my parents endured. Most, if not all, of my ministry couple friends also have been tested, tried and brought to their knees in desperation because of difficult times of suffering. The deaths of family members, church doors closing, marriages tested, betrayal from those closest to them – and the list goes on.
Maybe this is you. Maybe you’re going through this right now.
Maybe you’re wondering where God is and whether He has abandoned you. When will this season of suffering pass? Will God show himself victorious in and through your experience? I can say this with confidence: God has not abandoned you. God has not forgotten you. He has not turned His face from you. Though you’re suffering in silence, your cries for help have not fallen on deaf ears. The Lord’s heart and face are turned toward you. His arms reach out to you. He has collected and counted your tears. His thoughts toward you are full of compassion and empathy. Our Savior is no stranger to suffering and rejection. And He’s the perfect guide on your journey. Romans 5:3-5 reminds us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The past few years have been “interesting” for my family. More like terrifying, lonely, confusing, and supernaturally miraculous – all at the same time. This is the life we’re called to, right? The life of ministry. A sacrificial life of suffering, but with an incredible eternal reward at the end and glimpses of that along the way.
So many questions: Why did we choose this life? Or did it choose us? Why do we have to go through this? Why did we say yes? Will it always be this hard? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel or are we called to be the light in the tunnel? The Bible calls us to rejoice in our sufferings, but how do we do that when it feels like your world is collapsing all around you? How do you rejoice, gather your faith and remember there is a kind, gentle loving God who is beckoning you to Him when your head and heart are not in agreement and there are external voices that just add to the already deafening sounds in your mind?
How? I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know the formula or recipe for perfect living but I do know this: This is the life I am living, and this is the body I have been given. My ups and downs are the circumstances dealt to me, and I can’t escape it. I refuse to live in denial of my realities – good and bad.
One thing I have been unable to escape from, however, is the glorious giving nature of the Lord Jesus Christ! I am constantly raised to strength when I’m collapsing under the weight of anxiety and depression. I am jolted to faith again every time His Word reminds me of His constant saving nature. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will fill your heart with hope and that His sweet voice will whisper words of compassion while you’re enduring your most difficult and darkest times.
I am coming out of another season of hardship, and once again seen God’s persistent and abiding faithfulness.
In 2020, my husband and I launched a brand-new church, but had to close the doors five weeks later due to the global pandemic. Shortly after that, I found myself in the hospital sick with pneumonia while six months pregnant. That led to the discovery of cancer in my left lung. In the midst of that, the precious child I was carrying developed serious kidney complications and wasn’t growing at the proper rate. He was born two months premature, followed by a long NICU stay and multiple surgeries – while I was also going through my cancer journey.
And for some crazy reason, I decided to enroll in school as a full-time student!
My husband, doing his best to care for us, was now being forced into a new way of doing church – everything online. It was a lot to handle. A lot of physical suffering. A lot of emotional and mental suffering. Our marriage was tested. Our faith was tested. But in the middle of our wilderness moment, God sent NICU nurses who would pray over our son. My cancer treatment was relatively quick, and I was cancer-free not long after my diagnosis. Our son’s surgeries were challenging, but his surgeon was a believer and would pray with us before and after each operation. And the body of believers God sent to us surrounded us with prayers, love and support. The Lord sent many to help carry us when we couldn’t stand.
All these experiences forced my husband and I to deal with our flesh and weaknesses in a way we never had. Our marriage was strengthened. We saw God’s provision through the medical staff that cared for us, through donations that helped cover the costs of our medical bills and our church plant that has continued to grow and be a light in our community.
It was a lot to go through but now there’s a story to tell. A story of victory, healing, restoration. A story where God gets all the glory and He’s the main character. A story forever written in my heart that I will recite when the next storm rages and I will be reminded of the Lord’s grace, goodness and faithfulness. So the next time you’re caught between a Red Sea and an enemy in full pursuit what will you do? Panic? Probably, a little. Pray? Hopefully, a lot. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” In this Scripture verse, we see the realities of life and the reality of a good God. Get ready because trials will come but be hopeful because God is a promise keeper.
God’s miracles are found not only in the Bible. They are still being written in our lives.
Check out these helpful resources:
– NAMB resources for planting wives
– Christine Hoover: The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart
Published February 2, 2022