Pastor’s Wife: Remember Why We Do What We Do

In the midst of demanding expectations, declining church growth, and between unraveling friendships, we often question why we do what we do. As pastors’ wives, it is one thing to be looked down on by the world around you. But it is something else altogether to be hurt and even abandoned by the ones for whom you have poured out your life—indeed, the very ones who asked you to come and serve among them. Why do we do this? Why do we choose to absorb the shame and discouragement that can accompany ministry and still carry on?

We make this choice—and it is a choice—because Christ has chosen us, and now we love Him! We follow the One who was betrayed and abandoned by His closest friends. Some of that shame will spill over into our ministries as we follow in His footsteps. What are we to do when we long to be worthy of such a privilege but recoil from what this requires? What does it mean for me—not that other ministry wife who seems to have it so much easier, but for me—to take up my own cross and follow Christ? What does it look like to lose my life for His sake (Matt. 10:38–39)?

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes. Please don’t miss out on the depth of her faith as seen through her books. In A Path through Suffering she writes:

Do the ways of God seem strange to some who are honestly seeking only to be good and faithful servants? There are strong winds, silent years of stress, deaths to be died. The One we serve has not left us without inside information as to the why. All who would bring souls to God must do so through surrender and sacrifice. This is what loving God means, a continual offering, a pure readiness to give oneself away, a happy obedience. There is no question, “But what about me?” for all the motivation is love. All interests, all impulses, all energies are subjugated to that supreme passion.

That love springs from our faith. This kind of faith goes deep and waits long, even in the midst of pain. Our faith doesn’t resolve our pain, it lives with it, enduring with patience through the power of His might (Col. 1:11). Then in God’s own way, He gets the glory and we get the joy.

Why Should We Keep Going?

I don’t know the particular wave of hardship that might be breaking over you now, but I do know that God is allowing it and that He can be trusted. He sees this storm you’re in, where headway is so painful because of all that is against you (Mark 6:45–52). He is using this very storm to help complete the great work which He began in you many years ago (Phil. 1:6). Hang on, and let this storm sweep you deeper into your Father’s arms. It is only those who need Him who draw close to His heart. Keep looking to Him, keep crying out, keep trusting that His word is true for you—because it is!

If you are weak, if you are sad, if you are discouraged, what of it? God gives Himself all the more to those who need Him. Your discouragement is not a problem to Him. He doesn’t scoff at your need. Your weakness is one of His strategies to draw you into ever deeper and more significant communion with Him—the only one who can truly understand and satisfy your longings.

Here are four things I tell myself when I’m tempted to let discouragement reign in my heart.

1. I volunteered to marry this pastor. 

I wasn’t forced into it! In fact, I even asked the Lord to cause Ray to fall in love with me! (I’m sure at least some of you can identify.) So what will I do with the Lord’s answer of, “Yes, my daughter. I will give my servant to you as your husband, and I will give you to him as his helper. You are my favor to Ray Ortlund Jr. (Prov. 18:22)”? How will I continue to respond to God’s answer to my prayer?

2. Do not be surprised that ministry is hard. 

This took me some time to accept. I’d thought life—and especially my life in ministry—would be easier than it has been. But even the hardest difficulties have become precious to me as I have been cared for by God. He sees (Gen. 16:13). He knows (John 10:14). He cares (1 Peter 5:7). And He rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Life is hard—but God is still good. His goodness trumps the hardness at every point along the way. The harder my life is, the more I need him, and that is the most wonderful blessing in all of life—more of Jesus!

3. Remember the cross. 

Jesus gets my lonely days. He understands what slander feels like. He knows what it means to work hard. He experienced sufferings way beyond the trivial trials I experience. I am His servant. My whole life is an offering. Therefore I can hold it loosely, with an open-handed love. If I don’t base my happiness on my hopes and dreams, I have less to lose when they aren’t fulfilled according to my expectations. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

4. This is not the end of my story

My earthly life had a beginning and it will have an end. My life in Christ also had a beginning, but it will never end. He revealed Himself to me in irresistible love and adopted me as His daughter and has cared for me every day of my life. He has gone ahead of me and is preparing a place for me when my earthly life ends. How would He ever desert me on this bridge to that place? When darkness seems to cloud my heart and my path forward, I go to His Word and find a promise to cling to as a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

Why should we keep going? Because Jesus is worth it! Psalm 84:11 is still true. The Lord God will be both your director and protector. He will give you favor and honor. Don’t give up too soon! He will never hold back any good thing from His righteous ones. Now let Him prove it to you and that pastor you’re married to. May God bless you more and more in your ministry marriage. We will meet one day soon and serve our Lord together forever. I can’t wait! 

Content adapted from Help! I’m Married to My Pastor by Jani Ortlund, ©2021. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers,

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.