To the Leader with Heartache at Home

To the leader facing heartache at home:

I see you there, my friend. 

I know how difficult it can be to fulfill the role you’ve been called to within the body of Christ, while dealing with a tumultuous home life—particularly in marriage. It is exhausting, confusing, and often, very lonely. 

More importantly, God sees you. He knows your heart and your heartache. You have not been forgotten, deemed unusable or ineffective. 

Remember, it’s natural to have seasons of struggle within your marriage. Stressful and uncertain times—like those we’ve experienced recently—can add a heavy burden to husbands, particularly if they haven’t found their hope and security in Christ. Perhaps you are experiencing that sort of season, or maybe your marriage has been a struggle for a long time. Either way, you may not realize that you’re vulnerable to believing lies of the enemy—faint whispers that (like your marriage) you lack worth, value, reliability, and productivity.

May I commend you to not fall prey to those lies? Your leadership is valuable, and it’s possible that leading in humble obedience in the midst of these trials will set the stage for a showcase of God’s grace in your life.

Marriage problems change your perspective, not your position in Christ.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38–39)

Though once separated from God you are now a new creation, righteous through the atoning work of the cross. Nothing can change that, not even a difficult marriage. No sin can wipe away your identity in Christ. 

Your sin is your responsibility; you are not liable for his. At times, God’s loving discipline towards your husband may affect you, but you can be assured that His knowing, caring hands remain in place upon your life. In many cases, wives share some responsibility for the condition of the marriage. However, if you have repented and asked for forgiveness for those sins, you are free from the bondage of unconfessed sin and its condemnation.

God will deal with your husband’s sin. You cannot change, persuade, or manipulate him into righteousness. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. You can, however, be confident in knowing that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. You are a beloved daughter of God.

Your influence reaches beyond what you perceive.

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom. 5:3) 

You may feel limited in the ways you are able to minister to women during this time, but being a leader in women’s ministry isn’t limited to organizing, planning, overseeing, speaking, teaching, or mentoring. While others are watching you lead with grace through the inevitable trials of life, they are learning from you. Your willingness to lean upon the Lord and bend to His will through personal heartache shows them a beautiful life of surrender. Women need to see a leader who trusts in God rather than one who projects self-sufficiency. 

Sorrows furrow the ground for seeds of compassion.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Suffering develops a heart language that is communicated to others through tenderness and compassion. Your own suffering is developing in you the ability to hone-in on a woman’s pain. In future ministry, you will view a suffering woman not as a project, but as a person—like Jesus does. 

You will understand that words should be measured carefully and chosen wisely. You will know the importance of not making light of a serious situation or hardship. You will be familiar with the cost of entering into another’s suffering, as well as the duration often necessary in walking alongside the wounded. You won’t steer away from hard places; you’ve been there yourself. And you can truthfully say to a hurting sister, “I understand.” Her vulnerable heart will feel safe because you’ve shared how God proved Himself faithful through your own sufferings.

Comparison only offers frustration.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Cor. 10:12 KJV)

Comparing yourself to others will lead to pride or shame. You will either feel that you are better than others or as if you don’t measure up. Envying another woman because her husband is loving and supportive distracts from what God is doing in your own life. Wanting your marriage relationship to be healed is a worthy desire and should be sought earnestly with prayer, but harboring bitterness by focusing on what you don’t have will leave you miserable and ungrateful. Focus on what the Lord is doing in your life. Nothing is wasted—not your tears, your struggles, or your crying out. Although you cannot see how the Lord will use your troubles to magnify His name, even now, you bear the witness of a faithful and loving God.

Give yourself grace.

For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16) 

When things aren’t as they should be at home, frustration can occur as a result of not being able to control the environment. As women in leadership, we sometimes transfer that desire for control and perfection to our ministry. But both marriage and ministry can be messy. That doesn’t mean that God isn’t working in both. You cannot organize or orchestrate your marriage—or your ministry—into what you dreamed it would be . . . only God can do that. 

Just as in ministry, God is the faithful hand that carries the messy marriage. He knows how your heart aches. He hears your desperate cries. You aren’t meant to slap on a smile and go about as if nothing is wrong. Invite the Lord into your sorrow. Weep and wail before Him on behalf of your spouse and your marriage. And if you need to step away or pull back from your role for a time to tend to your marriage and home, that is an honorable thing. There should be no shame or feeling of failure for tending to your most important earthly relationship.

Seek wise counsel.

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. (Pro. 11:14 NIV)

As with many other trials, when your marriage is in trouble, it is wise to seek counsel. Be diligent in pursuing wisdom and discernment from a pastor, counselor, or other trusted friend. While blogs, articles, and resources can be helpful, you need the Word of God, prayer, and a community of believers who will hold up your arms during this season. Protecting your husband, your pride, or your appearance will exhaust you. Prayerfully seek out the help that you need.

Your identity is in Christ alone.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)

When there is an absence of affirmation within the home it can be tempting to seek it elsewhere, leading to continual striving for approval. It feels good to have someone compliment you; it feels really good when you are steadily torn down within your own home. But your identity is in the Lord, not in man’s opinion of you or how many women follow you. 

Ministry is serving in order that Christ might be glorified, not building a platform in order that you might be known and applauded. The Lord sees how starved you are for affection and affirmation. Sit with Him. Allow Him to wash over you with His compassionate, tender care.

God has always been faithful to His daughters.

One final reminder: you are in good company. The names of Leah’s children reveal her longing to be loved by her husband, Jacob. Abram asked his wife, Sarai, to lie about their relationship on two different occasions in order to protect himself. Abigail was married to a ruthless and cruel man. God was faithful to these women who were not always treated with gentleness and love. The Lord worked in and through their lives despite their challenging circumstances. 

Men will fail. Women will fail. We all fall short and yet the Lord chooses to use us. You must trust that His plans will not be thwarted, that He speaks to you through His Word, and that His Spirit is alive in you. 

Invite Him into your weariness.

Grieve what is broken. 

Know that He is doing a work within your own heart. 

Wait as He reveals His faithfulness. 

He sees you, my friend, He sees you.

About the Author

Joy McClain

Joy is the author of Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. Married to her beloved for over three decades, Joy and her husband are passionate about discipling the wearied and wounded in the context of a farm setting where biblical applications abound. They have four children and eight beautiful grandchildren.