'I Haven’t Seen Them for A While'

It's not a unique experience, but it still stings. It starts with a simple Sunday afternoon question, "Have you seen Bill and Amy lately?" "No, I haven't seen them for a while, have you?" You both realize that they have been MIW ("Missing In Worship") the past few Sundays. Over coffee the following week, they tell you that they have decided to try a different church.

What? Where did that come from? Why? How? You search your conscience trying to understand what happened. This was a couple you invested in so deeply. You shared many meals around your table. You hosted a baby shower for her little one. You met with them when they were suffering and sat in the waiting room when she had surgery. You promised to pray when they had a need, and you did. You brought meals over when they were sick. You built bridges for them in your congregation and offered them meaningful ways to serve Christ among your members. And you envisioned a loving friendship stretching far into the future.

Then they slipped away. You feel the loss, rejection, and guilt of somehow failing them and perhaps even the Lord Jesus. Sadness seeps in when you think about them. You see them from afar on social media and wonder how they are. Her birthday comes around—should you send her a card? You even begin to wonder if you have the courage to keep opening your home and heart to others.

Has this ever happened to you? If you have been in pastoral ministry more than a year, I'm confident it has. How can we as wives of pastors keep serving our King and His people well when we give and give but it never seems to be enough? Here are some suggestions that I think will help.

1. Listen to Jesus.

First of all, listen to Jesus instead of muttering to yourself. Don't waste your spiritual and emotional energy (which is limited to begin with) fussing within your own head. Let Jesus speak to your heart. Is He speaking words of conviction? Are there ways He wants you to change? If so, then do it. Immediately.

But if He is not—if you cannot hear His words of sacred conviction as you try to explain this loss—then ask Him to help you lift these friends up to Him as an offering, a sacrifice of service to your Savior.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Heb. 13:15–16).

2. Look to Jesus.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Imitate Him. He came to serve, not to be served. His life was an offering to His Father to do with as He pleased. Jesus gave all of Himself, knowing even before He offered His life that there would be pain and loss and rejection in the offering. And He calls us to follow Him:

"So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17:10).
He understands. Look to Jesus. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. As we draw near to the throne of grace, we will "receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

3. Live for Jesus.

Let your life be a sacrifice to our King. He is worthy of any and all effort. He is no man's debtor. You serve the One who will not "overlook your work and the love you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do" (Heb. 6:10).

The time you invest, He sees. The money you spend, He values. The love you offer, He counts as love offered to Him. Let's encourage each other to minister with open hands—ones that welcome people in lovingly, serve them generously, and let them go without bitterness. All ministry is an open-handed offering to Him, and "in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58).

Has the above situation (or something similar) ever happened to you? How are you learning to serve with open hands to the Lord?

About the Author

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund is the Executive Vice President of Renewal Ministries. Serving Jesus through writing, speaking, and discipling are her chief passions in life. Jani and her husband Ray, Pastor of Immanuel Church, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren and minister in Nashville, Tennessee.