Finding Joy in the Journey as a Pastor's Wife

Oct. 15, 2010 Holly Elliff, Kimberly Wagner

Session Transcript

*This message was transcribed from Holly & Kim's True Woman Indianapolis workshop.

Holly Elliff: We’re glad you’re here today. We really are just going to chat with you today. Believe it or not, Kim and I have been friends for . . .

Kim Wagner: . . . many years.

Holly: We have been through some deep waters together. You want to tell them about some of that?

Kim: I think when I met Holly, I may have been living in the flea house, maybe. That was before I was living in the camper.

Holly: After I had been living in a trailer for three years traveling with Life Action. So we have some stories! If you want some, you can hang around afterwards, and we’ll give you some good stories.

What we’re going to do today is just kind of walk through some of those areas that God has taught us something about in the past couple of . . .

Kim: . . . almost three decades in ministry for me. Holly looks younger than me, but she’s, like, almost my mom in the ministry.

Holly: Oh, puh. . .leese! (Laughter)

Kim: I told her we can do this “good cop/bad cop” because we’re trying to figure out: How will both of us do this? I said, “Holly, I’ll tell them everything I’ve done wrong and what I’ve asked you: ‘How do I fix this?’ and you’ll be the good cop. You’ll tell them how to do it right.”

Holly: Actually, we have no serious plan, so we’re just going to chat with you.

Kim: You have a handout. We’re not going to all of those Scriptures today. What we thought was, when you leave here, we want you to be able to take home something that, when you are struggling in one of these areas, when you have hit the wall, when you are just: “What do I do now, Lord?” you can take this handout. It will be a help with what you do when you’re in this crisis: You pull it out, and you go to Truth.

Holly: What we’re going to do is just hit on some topics that we really felt like were the key areas where we had struggled as women in ministry. Now, we may just be weird, and you all didn’t struggle with any of these things. But in our conversations with other women in ministry and pastor’s wives, we really felt like these were some of the hot button issues that needed to be addressed.

Kim: Some of these topics may not necessarily be what we struggled with, but what we came to realize in our struggle. These were things that I needed. For me, the most important one is the first one. Are you ready?

Holly: No. We have to go in order.

Kim: The first one.

Holly: I know. That’s good. I thought you were going to jump somewhere else.

Kim: We do this all the time, and we love each other very much.

Holly: Kim and I have done some radio with Nancy, and so we do a thing called “Table Talk” where we just kind of chat and talk all over each other. So this is very normal for us. I hope you’re comfortable. (Laughter) I just didn’t want you to start on number four because we can’t do that.

Kim: Right. We’re going start with the most important one on your list. How do I maintain hope and joy?

It is abiding in Christ. It is remembering the purpose that you were created for, and not just you as a pastor’s wife.

When I married a pastor, my mom wasn’t that familiar with ministry or what pastor’s wives do. So when she would call me and find out I was baking another meal for a family who was ill or running to do some kind of Bible study or something, she would often say, “Now, is that because you’re the pastor’s wife?” And I would say, “No, mom, that’s because I’m a believer. That’s what I am to do.”

Our purpose is not to be the best pastor’s wife. It’s not to have it all together as a pastor’s wife. Our purpose is in Numbers 14:21. It’s God’s purpose. It is His motive that we fill the whole earth with His glory, and in order to do that, our heart has to be tied to God’s heart. We have to learn how to abide in Christ.

Holly: You can see the little symbol up there; it’s a little bucket. The reason for that is, so many times as pastors’ wives, if we’re not careful, we’re ministering with an empty bucket. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever reached the point where you just thought, “I know I have to do this, but. . .”?

I actually said to my husband one Sunday, “Do I really have to go to church?” (Laughter) I was serious. I did not want to go. It was hard at that moment. We’re going to talk some more about that in a minute, but the little bucket represents the fact that if we’re not careful, we will minister empty. Then we have no hope, and we have no joy, and that is a miserable place to be.

How many of you know what I’m talking about? Raise your hand. Yes. It’s hard. What’s so wonderful is that God enables us to maintain hope and to maintain joy because He has provided a way for us to run to Him for grace.

I cannot manufacture grace in my life. James 4:6 talks about that God. . .what?. . .”opposes the proud.” But what does He do for the woman who is crying out to Him? “He pours out grace on the humble.”

What does it mean to be humble? It just means that I recognize my own spiritual poverty. I know I’ve got holes in my bucket, and I’m in big trouble. Right? I have absolutely nothing to do ministry with, to love my husband with, to love my children, to respond in the right way, to sit through one more business meeting. I just don’t have anything left.

That seems like a really bad place to be, but in reality, that is an excellent place to be because when I have nothing left, then what I have to do is run to the Lord so that I get from Him everything I need.

Kim: It helps to remind yourself in times when you are empty, broken, you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and everything looks very dark, remind yourself of times when you’ve seen God be faithful in the past. Remind yourself of His faithfulness.

Romans 15 says that we have the Old Testament illustrations of Scripture to see where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego got out of the fire. God showed up. So remind yourself from Scripture but also from times when you’ve seen Him come through.

This morning as we were having our prayer time after Fern Nichols, I just thanked the Lord. I said, “I am at a very broad place right now, a place of thankfulness, but there’s been times when I’ve been through those prayer meetings where I thought, ‘I cannot see how God is going to bring good from this.’”

Holly: Tell them about a time in your life, Kim, where you lost hope and had no joy.

Kim: Wow.

Holly: Just one of them.

Kim: She gives me that illustration. (Laughter) How about if you watch the video tonight when I share a time in my life that was very dark. I loved God—it wasn’t that I ever lost my joy in my relationship with Him, that was what I was clinging to. But still, my circumstances seemed very dark to me, and I had lost joy.

Holly: I remember vividly that, as a 20-something-year-old pastor’s wife, I really, really believed that if I just loved Jesus and did all the things that I was supposed to do, that everybody would love me; they would love my husband; we would never be in a difficult situation, and that everybody who said they were a Christian would act like a Christian. I believed that.

I was not only terribly naïve about people and God’s will for my life, but I was also terribly ignorant of Scripture because it doesn’t say that at all. I don’t know where I got that belief system, but it wasn’t biblically grounded because the Scripture says exactly the opposite of that. Right?

But it does not change the fact that as women who know Christ, there is always hope. Even if you can imagine the worst possible thing that could happen, there is always hope because God has an inexhaustible supply. He is never going to run out, and He is never going to leave me or forsake me. It’s a promise that I have from Him.

Kim: Do you want to talk about how we keep on trusting the Lord when life is so hard?

Holly: Sure.

Kim: One thing, in the bottom of your list under that heading, one thing that has been such a blessing to me has been friendships with women like Holly and Nancy who will speak truth, and particularly Holly, as a pastor’s wife—she’s been there. She’s gone ahead of me just a little ways, and many a time I have called, or, no, this has happened more often: Holly will call and say, “The Lord just set you on my heart.” And I will say, “The Holy Spirit was talking to you.”

I want to encourage you if you don’t have honest friends who are godly women, who are knowledgeable in the Word, maybe a little further along than you are in their walk, ask God to bring some in your life if you don’t have any. Until He does, do what I did. Pick up some good resources, some good books that will take you to a study on God’s sovereignty, on the character of God, the nature of God.

It has been such a blessing and help to have friendships where these women will speak truth. There have been times I’ve said to Holly in the midst of tears, “Just speak truth to me.” That’s what we need when we’re at the point when we feel like, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out.”

Holly: There are those moments, and I have been there, where your circumstances are just so hard. I can remember weeks and months where I was fine if I was sitting in my chair with the Bible open in my lap in the Lord’s presence, but everywhere else was very, very difficult. A really tough time in our church, really hateful people . . . we’ll talk about that aspect a little bit later. But when life is really hard, and there are moments when life does get really hard, there are some other things that can help us.

One is to just be honest with somebody about how bad you’re hurting. If you don’t have a friend in your church and you don’t have a godly woman you know close hand, like Kim said, the wonderful thing about our culture today is that we can have long distance encouragers.

Kim and I are in a prayer group of women. We see each other maybe once or twice a year, but we pray for each other weekly and send prayer requests over a little thread on the Internet. We keep up with each other that way. I can send them an email or a message at 2 in the morning, and the next morning, I know when I’m going to bed and somebody else is getting up a few hours later, there will be somebody praying for me when they get that message.

If you don’t have somebody right there, then ask the Lord to link you, even today, to some other women in this room who need to be prayed for by you and would love to pray for you.

In the last session I met a gal who sent me an email about three years ago. Every time she emails me I just write her back, and we chat a little bit. Today she was in my session and came up and introduced herself. I never met her, but we’d been corresponding online. It’s a great way to get encouragement and help if you don’t have somebody right there that can do that for you.

As Kim said, make that a request of your heart. Look at your circumstances. Ask the Lord, “What can be changed?” There may be some things you’re doing that are creating stress or tension or hardship. Sit down with your husband and say, “What can we change to make life not so hard?” Obviously you can’t ship all the deacons off to Africa or anything like that (laughter), so I can’t do that, but usually there are some things that can change.

It might mean that you all need to get out a little bit. It may mean that you’re needing time one on one with the Lord. Look at your life. Ask the Lord what can be changed to make this easier.

Kim: How do I deal with hurt and offense?

Holly: This is our favorite one, by the way, because we’ve had so much practice. (Laughter)

Kim: I believe it was my first week as a pastor’s wife. I was a young pastor’s wife. My husband was already pastoring when we got married. I had always taught Bible study. As a high school student in my high school, kids came, we did Bible study. So I thought it would be easy for me to step into that role as a pastor’s wife. They didn’t have a ladies Bible study going. Have any of ever seen, do you know who Dawson Trotman is? Navigators? Did you ever see the little booklet (this is dating me, but they may still produce it) called Born to Reproduce? Do you know the booklet I’m talking about?

It is about reproducing others in Christ, bringing them to know Christ, and then discipling them. That’s what it’s about. So I passed this out to all of my little ladies at church. “I’m so excited. We’re going to have Bible study at my house Thursday morning. I hope you’ll come.” I passed out the little booklet. It’s very safe, isn’t it? Solid doctrine, isn’t it? I’m glad I have a few here who know what I’m talking about.

I pass it out, and the chairman of the deacons’ wives met me on Wednesday with that booklet, shaking it in my fist, and saying, “How dare you pass out something like this to us here.”

Holly: Born to reproduce. (Laughter)

Kim: Later, many years later, it finally occurred to me, “Did she think I was teaching sex education?” (Laughter) I don’t know what the problem was really, but that was my first entrance into how to deal with hurt and offense.

I thought, “Oh, my!” I thought all believers were excited about growing in Christ and getting to know the Lord in a deeper level of intimacy, but I found out—guess what?—no, not every person in your church is excited about that.

Looking back now, we can laugh about that, and I’m thankful that we can. Let me encourage you, there will be things that right now you feel like they are crushing you, but they may be the very things that God has orchestrated in your life to conform you to Christ’s image. And, again, that goes back to what our purpose is: to glorify God.

Because He allows, not that He orchestrates evil, but He allows difficulty to come into our life. He allows those little ladies who shake their fingers at us or say, “How dare you.” He allows that hurt and offense to come into our lives in order for us to follow Christ’s example. As 1 Peter says, we don’t return reviling with reviling, but we give a blessing instead.

I had a woman—Rachel [my daughter] will remember this from when she was a little girl. This was our first practice for the Christmas program at a new church we were. How many of you live in church parsonages? Aren’t you usually right beside the church? So we were right beside the church, and they ran across the yard for their first practice. They were so excited about their first Christmas program, to have their first practice, but then they came back. Their little faces were like this . . . their expressions were . . . and they were crying. They said, “Mom, she yelled at us, and she was so mean.”

So as the new pastor’s wife, I knew I had to go and find out what was going on down there. Ladies, as a pastor’s wife, you’re going to be put in so many difficult situations. That’s why it’s important for us to walk in wisdom, walk under the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. And even from that conflict, God was faithful to teach me something I needed to learn, that I needed to know.

Holly: There’s a suitcase up here, and there’s a reason for that. Not that you’re going to pack up and leave town when it gets hard, but one moment in particular that I remember was when I was in a church business meeting. It was at a very tough time in our church. I had come in late, so I was on the back row in the back of the chapel. Seated in front of me was a little group of senior adult ladies who did not know that I had come in behind them.

So I sat down right behind the women who were not very fond of my husband at that moment, and I could hear everything they said to each other throughout the whole business meeting. Of course, they were popping up and making comments the whole time, and then they’d sit down and say some more things, but I could hear all of it.

So I was very angry when I left. It takes a lot to get me angry, but I was livid when I left there. I was hurt; I was frustrated; I was angry, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

I left that place and when home. About five minutes later there was a little knock on my front door and it was a faithful friend who had also been on the same row that I was on and could also hear everything they said. She walked in my den, sat down, and said, “Well, how are you doing?”

I said, “How do you think I’m doing? I’m not going to lie. I’m furious!”

She just looked at me and said, “Well, what are you going to do about that?”

I wanted to strangle her. (Laughter) But she was my friend. During that time, God began to teach me a principle, and that is to get out my suitcase of grace, take whatever it is that has hurt me or has made me angry and realize that it does not have to belong to me. Why? Because Christ has already paid the price for that thing in my life. He has already provided everything I need. He has enough grace for anything that I encounter, as hard as it may be.

So after wrestling with the Lord for a while that night, I finally got up, got on my knees, and said, “God, You’re going to have to show me what to do with this hurt because I don’t know how to do this.” God gave me this principle of taking the suitcase of His grace, taking the hurt that does not need to belong to me, packing it away in that suitcase and closing the lid. One time when I was teaching this, a woman came up to me later and said, “Honey, I don’t need a suitcase. I need a semi.” (Laughter) But take the suitcase of God’s grace and then intentionally choose to carry that thing out to the curb and hand it to my Savior because even when I have absolutely no ability to deal with that circumstance, God has everything I need.

That suitcase is not too heavy for Him, but it’s way too heavy for me, and God didn’t build me to carry it. So I have the opportunity to hand it to the One who gave His life for me, who will willingly take that suitcase from me.

So when it’s left at the foot of the cross, it is no longer mine, and you know what? I could go back that next Sunday—I worked in the welcome center with one of these women for three hours every Sunday morning—and that’s where I really became a student of God’s grace because it was not in me to do it, and I had to constantly run to the Lord and access what He could provide for me if I would just ask.

So, it was either sit here and be miserable and mad and angry, or it was don’t let the sun go down on that anger. Quickly put it away, hand it off to the One who is built to carry it, and then I am free from that anger and that hurt.

That is a principle that I have used for many, many, many years now in so many settings. It sounds trivial, but it’s a biblical principle, and it’s true.

Kim: Holly just referenced there Ephesians 4—not letting the sun go down on your wrath. But if you look at verse 32, if you go on through that, we are to forgive others and demonstrate to others the grace that we’ve been given, that we’ve been shown.

It helps so much in ministry and in life to live with the perspective and remember when that hurt . . .

Holly: By the way, the little glasses that are there—see the little glasses? That’s so you can step back and get perspective on your life. Now you know why they’re there. Go ahead, Kim.

Kim: So the perspective in dealing with hurt and offense, the perspective that we need to have is hurting people hurt others. As they’re dishing out this hurt to me, recognize there is a need there. They are hurting.

If you do a study of Jesus’ life, look at all the times that He was ridiculed, He was attacked, He was criticized while He was doing ministry. I’m not just talking about at the cross—as He was going to the cross. You see at the end of Matthew 9:32 when it says He looks out at the crowds, and as He’s viewing them, He sees them as sheep without a shepherd. His heart was filled with compassion because He looked past the ridicule; He looked past the offensive remarks, the offensive treatment. He looked past all of that, and He saw the need, and then He was filled with compassion.

That’s what we’re to do. That is how we can be filled with compassion—ask Him to help us see their need.

Holly: I’ll tell you that it’s a lot easier if you’re a mercy person like Kim instead of a truth person like me, because I want them to pay for what they have done (Laughter). Kim is much quicker because she has that tender heart. If you have that heart, you’re still going to get hurt, but it will be easier for you to forgive perhaps than somebody who’s a . . . My husband says I’m a high truth person that wants it to be justified. “That’s just not right. They shouldn’t have done that. It’s wrong.” So you want God to fix it before you forgive them.

Let me give you one other picture here of how to deal with hurt, and that is when you encounter somebody who you know you may have a difficult time with. Think of putting on a big, yellow slicker like the kind that comes to your ankles and has a hood. You put on that slicker and what that does is allow things to roll off. So instead of constantly having to pack your suitcase, you just get better at not ever picking up the hurt in the first place.

So instantly, when somebody attacks you or does something that hurts you or you hear about it or whatever, you have the opportunity to say, “You know what? I’m putting this on. I am clothed in Christ. This hurt does not belong to me in the first place, so I am just not going to pick it up.” If I don’t pick it up, I don’t have to spend so much time hiking out to the curb. So it makes my life more simple.

Kim:How do I maintain balance and freedom from expectation? First of all, examine the source. Holly, why don’t you talk about that.

Holly: It’s real important. When I became a pastor’s wife, I can vividly remember all these well-meaning people bringing me these books like, How to Survive Life in a Fish Bowl and How to Survive the Ministry and Live to Tell About It. Honestly, I looked at the covers of the books, and I got depressed. They were just . . . I thought, “My goodness. How can it be that hard to be a pastor’s wife?”

If we’re not careful, we will allow expectations to put us under, and we will allow expectations that come from the enemy to put us under. So when something occurs in your life, it’s really, really critical to do a little litmus test on it and find out the source of this. Is this conviction, which is going to lead to hope because if God convicts me of something, and I respond to it, then my life is better. Right? I’m united to Him; with Him the sin is out of the way.

Conviction leads to hope and change, but condemnation is from the enemy. Condemnation will just always make me feel like I want to go sit in the doghouse and never see another living soul again in my life and certainly never go back to church and see that person again.

So when any kind of condemnation or false expectation comes, do that litmus test on it—ask yourself: “What is the source of this?” What does Scripture say? “What’s the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is the source not your own desires?” That’s happening with every person you encounter.

So when you sense that, you know that it’s condemnation, and it’s coming from the enemy, and you see it for what it is, and it keeps that from weighing on you like it shouldn’t.

Kim: How do you maintain balance for your family? That is one of the challenges in ministry. For me, as a young mom, one of my challenges was I have my children. I need to be ministering to my children. I have my husband. I need to be ministering to him. I have opportunities to minister within the church, and then I have those unexpected opportunities to minister when they just drop in at your home and you’re not even prepared.

Maintaining balance—that’s a critical issue. I remember early on at a conference much like this writing on my prayer card: “This is my biggest prayer request—how do I maintain balance?”

I think you need to remind yourself and even in a grace-filled way remind your friends and church members that right now my mission field and my priority of ministry is my children. That is my priority of ministry. There will be a season in my life where I can do more, but right now, that is my priority of ministry. That is the ones God has called me to disciple now.

Build strong community within your family, with your children. How many of you were in the last session with Holly? Well, you missed some great stories, but one thing I’ve always loved about Holly is that she has eight children, and they have many fun activities. We used to have Saturday night game night. Friday night was our house cleaning party. That was fun, wasn’t it, Rachel?

Find ways to build community and loyalty within your family.

Holly: Let me just say this: How do I maintain balance from expectations? The little picture of the home there—sometimes the greatest source of tension in your home is not external but internal, and it comes from just being out of whack with God’s order for the home.

If you’re a strong woman and it’s very, very hard for you to allow your husband to lead, you’ve got to get better at that. You will kill him. When you see Kim’s video, that was a major, major issue. Bill and I do a lot of counseling with pastors and their wives, and so often the husband will say, “My wife does not support me. She doesn’t think I’m a good preacher. We can’t have any discussions because she’s always so critical, and her viewpoint on everything is always negative.”

Sometimes that’s coming out of hurt, but sometimes it’s coming out of us just not getting to God and being the women He’s called us to be. If you can read through 1 Peter and skip the part on submission, or you can read through Ephesians 5 and skip that part—those are in there not just for our church people. They’re in there for us. If we can’t live that out, how do we expect any family in our church to maintain balance?

I would encourage you and challenge you, as an older woman, to many of you—I say that hesitantly—but take a hard look at the structure of your home right now. Is it right? Is your husband able to lead? Does he know, does he feel that you love him, that you’re on his team, that even when everybody else is attacking him, you are going to stand up for him and be behind him and hold his arms up?

Take a hard look at your kids. How are they doing? Do they have a form of spirituality that’s not genuine, or are they genuinely building for themselves discernment and wisdom that will help them when they leave your home to make wise choices? If that’s not there, they’re going to be sunk because the world is a mess. Right?

Ninety-six percent of your children’s peers will not know Christ. Only four percent are coming to Christ right now in this generation. So what that means is if my kids have not seen the truth lived out at home, they will struggle a whole lot with understanding how God’s Word can possibly be applied to their own life.

Now, they’re going to make their own choices, and we cannot stop that, but we need to be sure that we are not one way at the doors of the church and then two seconds after we walk home, or we get in the car with our husbands, we are berating him, or we are yelling at our kids. We need to get very, very honest with ourselves because when we get honest, then God can bring change, and He can work.

Kim: And the way to do that is what we started with—getting with God, abiding in Christ. Pour your heart into prayer before God specifically over areas of need in your husband’s life. You know your husband better than anyone else—or you should. Become a student of him.

Holly: We’re actually already into the last point. We’re talking about this one already, so you can put that one up.

Kim:Become a student of him. Pray over him. Pray for him. If he’s not praying with you every day, in a loving way, in an encouraging way, appeal to him, and just let him know that’s a need you have, for him to pray over you because not only is he your husband, he’s your pastor. He’s your spiritual leader.

Now you may say, “My husband is not my spiritual leader.” He may want to be but feel like he cannot be because you have not given him that invitation to be that. So pray specifically for him, for your children, and really go to God with areas of need that you know they have. Intercede for them.

Holly: It’s very, very critical as Christian women to make sure that we are meeting our husband’s needs the same way we’re telling all these other women to meet their husbands’ needs. You need to be meeting your husband’s need physically. So many times when there are so many pressures on him in a situation at church that is tough, what he needs is you. He doesn’t need you to try and figure it out for him. He needs you to put your arms around him. He needs you to put your hand on his shoulder and say, “I am so sorry. I know this is so hard for you.” He needs you to love him.

Kim: And say affirming things to him, like, “I know you’re going to God on this, and I’m going to follow your lead. I trust you because I know you are seeking God to do what’s right.” You know what, ladies? He may not do what’s right. He may fail. He may make a foolish choice and decision. Don’t use that as an opportunity to berate him or to say, “Well, I told you you should have done it my way.” Go to him and pick him up and say, “We’re going to go to God on this together. I’m with you, and we’re going to get through this, and we’re going to see God glorified in spite of this.”

Holly: God intends for us to complete our husbands. That’s why so many times you find that husbands and wives are opposites. They’ve very different. My husband is so different from me. But together, we are stronger than we are apart. So if I will cooperate with the Lord, love my husband physically, love him emotionally, take care of his needs. It’s okay to have an honest relationship. It’s healthy. But make sure like Ephesians 4:29 says, that your purpose is to build each other up, that you’re going to speak words that are good for edification, that are fitting for the need of the moment.

When he’s just come out of a terrible meeting, and he is at the bottom the pile, that’s not the moment to tell him everything that’s wrong in your home or everything he’s doing wrong at church or what the kids did wrong that day. Give your husband some space. Sometimes he’s going to be so far in the pit that he needs time himself to get to God, and he’s going to have to run to the Lord because you can’t fix it for him. While he’s in that moment and needs God so desperately, you can hold his arms up. You can be praying for him. You can come alongside and say, “What can I do to help?”

Kim:He needs to know you’re on his side when he doesn’t know if anyone else is. It’s been more than 20 years ago that—and LeRoy, my husband, still tells about this—a deacons’ meeting he was in on a Saturday night—why would they choose to have that on a Saturday night?—and he did not get in until after midnight. He tells people to this day, “My wife was on her knees for me throughout that night, praying while I was there in that deacons’ meeting.”

Now, you may not be able to do that. You may have little ones everywhere, but you can be praying in your heart, and you can let him know, “I have been interceding for you, and I trust that God is going before you.” You speak truth to your husband. You counsel him with the truth of who God is.

I love the story of Martin Luther. When he was at a point of great depression—now, I don’t necessarily recommend this—but he was at a point of great depression. He came in, and Katie, his wife, was all in black, in mourning clothes. He looked at her, and he said, “Who has died?”

She said, “God has died.”

He said, “God has died?”

She said, “Well, Martin Luther, that’s what you’re acting like right now.” (Laughter)

Now, I’m not recommending that, but I am recommending this: Keep speaking truth to your husband when he can’t see it, but in an encouraging way, not in a preacher way, maybe not in Katie’s way, but keep reminding him. “God is faithful. God has brought us through so much, and God is good.”

Holly: You can’t do that if you don’t go back and do that first thing. If you have no hope and no joy yourself, you have nothing to give your husband. So it’s critical for us to maintain a personal relationship with the Lord that feeds our soul. Don’t depend on him to do that.

We need to be women who know how to get to God so that we can find what we need from him. Don’t expect your husband to meet all your needs. He is human. He cannot do that. But God can do that. God can meet every need you have at any moment.

We’re going to take some time here before we have to go. I’m really proud we got through with any time left because we love to talk. But here’s what we’re going to do: If you have a question or maybe a particular situation that you think will apply to most of the women in the room . . . If it is something that you don’t think will apply to most of the women, Kim and I will be here afterwards. You can come talk to us privately. But if it’s something you think will minister to the other women in the room, or you just have a question about something like that, come on to a mic. We’ll just do some questions here for a minute before we finish.

Kim: If you would just speak into the mic, say your name.

Holly: One more thing, as you’re sharing, don’t reflect negatively on anybody else. If your husband is a jerk, don’t say, “My husband is being a jerk.” Try to say it as gently as you can. (Laughter) Somebody else come on up to this mic, and we’ll just keep these going so as soon as a mic gets empty, somebody else can come on up. Let’s start back there.

Casey: I have like a million questions, but I’ll just ask one for Holly. You gave the illustration about the ladies that had hurt you so much. How did you know when to pack that away in the suitcase and when to biblically confront them and talk to them about their sin because they were sinning against you. So how do you know when to confront them and when to pack it away?

Holly: Well, for me, if I’m still really hopping mad . . .

Kim: Can you repeat her question, Holly?

Holly: Yes. Her question was: When those women hurt me, how did I know when it was time to carry the suitcase out and when it was time to lovingly confront them because they were doing something sinful?

What I do is look at the barometer of my own heart. If I am still angry at them, that’s not a good moment to go confront them and speak truth to them because I cannot speak truth in love. Right? So I have to wait until my heart is right with the Lord and I know that He will put a guard over my lips, that I can go to them, and can speak truth out of love to them.

Kim:And you’re going to them with the purpose of seeing them reconciled to God and your relationship being reconciled with them. When that is your motive . . . don’t go to them with the motive of, “I’m going to show you how wrong you are.” You need to go in humility with a heart for them. That’s what Galatians 6:1 and 2 talks about—because you had compassion for them as you see there’s something wrong here or they would not have spoken to me this way. There’s something I may need to learn from this, but there’s also a need for us to have reconciliation with one another. If they’ve sinned against God, reconciliation between them and God.

Holly: They may respond to that and they may not, but you are not responsible for their response. You are, however, totally responsible for the condition of your own heart as you deal with them. So I would caution you. I would not go by yourself to talk to them—take someone with you. Matthew 18 gives that whole progression of what you do with a brother who’s overtaken in sin. So take someone with you so that later, if they come back and say, “Well, she came and held a gun to my head” or something, you have a witness. So take someone with you when you meet with a difficult situation who you know will keep their mouth closed and pray.

Woman 2: When you’ve been in ministry for a long time and you’ve been through the storms, sometimes your husband can become worn down. Sometimes a wife can see the need for a sabbatical or a rest or a break, but it’s very difficult for some men to see that need, especially those that are just intent on continually serving and fervently—it’s wonderful, but inside they’re exhausted.

I’m wondering what your insights are on how to help with burnout, depression in your husband, discouragement—and I’m not talking about a down day. I’m talking about a season that’s very difficult. We went through a very difficult ministry that has just left my husband exhausted. He’s still going, but I can feel the difference, and I’m worried about him.

I’m just wondering what your insights are about how specifically encourage your husband in a church to have a sabbatical and other ideas.

Holly: Could you hear here back there? Did you hear the question?

Kim: My husband did that. In fact, for three years. I was not excited about it being three years, but there was a time—and when you hear the video story tonight, there was a time that he reached such a place of darkness and loss of hope that he reached the point he realized he could not minister with integrity. Not that he lost his love for the Lord, but he knew he was not where he needed to be to be the spiritual leader and pastor.

Sometimes that is just going to have to be the Holy Spirit showing him that. We can lovingly encourage. We can speak truth to them. If they have a friend in ministry or someone who knows what they’re walking through, we might even appeal to them to encourage that. Maybe even share testimony of other pastors you know that have gone through that and have been better able to pastor and minister once they’ve come to the other side of that time of rest.

Holly: My husband, Bill, would not be in the ministry today if it was not for the fact that . . . We went through a very long, difficult battle at a church in Oklahoma. When we got to the end of that, our leadership in that church was wise enough to say to my husband, “You need time to regroup here.” The battle was over, but he was exhausted—spiritually, emotionally, physically exhausted. They came to him and said, “We want you to take three weeks and just go away with your family.”

I can still vividly remember the place where we were driving down the road in Colorado and my husband started singing, then all of a sudden he just started weeping. I said, “Honey, what is wrong?” And he said, “I have not been able to sing in such a long time, and God has restored my heart.”

Pull in some friends, some relatives that he trusts, encourage him in that. There are moments when we need time to get to the Lord and be still and hear Him so that He can restore your heart.

My husband just recently wrote a book on church conflict—it’s not out yet, but in a few weeks. Only one in ten men who start in the ministry finish in any kind of vocational ministry—one out of ten. That is an incredibly high statistic, but that’s true. So it is worth taking some steps and getting some help from godly leadership in your church, from a family member who loves your husband to come alongside, from a good friend to say, “You know what? Let us do this for you.”

Life Action has a facility, a beautiful retreat lodge, center, where they do retreats for pastors. It’s gorgeous.

We have a man in our church who has built a cabin about 30 minutes outside Little Rock. He was in the ministry and burned out and has regretted it ever since. Now, as an older man, he has built this cabin for the purpose of our church being able to minister to pastors. We now have flown in several couples, and this man pays to fly them in to Little Rock, put them up in this cabin in the middle of nowhere—Arkansas is pretty, not as cool as Colorado, but pretty—and just give them time. They come to our church, and our staff meets with them and helps minister to their needs. We’ve now seen God restore several couples who were on the verge of disaster.

So there are resources out there for you, but if you know that your husband is in that condition or that he’s headed that way, take it to the Lord. Ask for provision. Take some positive steps to encourage him.

Val: I’m Val, and I’m from Ohio. I was curious, from your experience, how important are deep friendships within the church and outside the church and the balance between that?

Holly: Kim and I both have good friends in the church. One of the things I was told, and I think Kim was, too, when I was a young pastor’s wife was, “Oh, you can’t have friends in the church.” You do have to be very wise, and you have to be discreet about those friendships. But I have always had a friend in the church who held my arms up, who prayed for me, and I’m so grateful for that.

It doesn’t mean that I could talk with her about everything that was going on at church, but I could always pick up the phone and call her and say, “Okay, I’m dying. I can’t tell you why, but I really need you to pray for me today,” or “I’m really struggling with anger.”

Just ask the Lord to provide that. Biblically, we are designed by God to build each other up in the body. Right? So it’s not wrong for you to have a friend in the church, but you do have to be wise and discreet about how you do that. Kim? Anything?

Kim: That was everything I was going to say.

Woman 3: I have two questions. The first one kind of goes along with hers about the friendships. The older generation pastors’ wives have a view of the pastor’s wife looking like: “She’s the strong one; she’s never vulnerable, never shares what her struggles are. You’re there to minister to the ladies.” The younger generation, like myself, I feel gets criticized a lot because I’m very open and honest about my struggles.

I just wonder, I think the older ones are trying to protect us younger ones from getting hurt and cut down and slandered by being authentic, but at the same time I see the need for us to take the mask off and be a real person. So that’s my one question.

My second question is about when you’ve been in a fruitful ministry—our first ten years were very fruitful, like, God just blew us away by the things He was doing. This season of ministry, and it seems like for a long time, you just start to wonder, “Has God removed His hand of anointing because it’s not as fruitful as it used to be?” It’s just hard to take, and it’s hard to understand. I just wondered what your thoughts were on this.

Kim: Were you in the ladies’ luncheon yesterday? We talked about this a little bit. There’s level of appropriate disclosure. I do believe in being vulnerable and transparent. I am a very transparent person. Most of the ladies in my church know me. A lot of them know me very well. But I think that things we share with anyone, whether it’s a woman in our church or outside of our church, we need to share things that are displaying the redemptive power of God at work. We can share, “Yes, I messed up,” or “Yes, I’m struggling with this,” but I think it’s important that we’re not just airing dirty laundry and that we’re always pointing to the fact that God is at work when we share.

Holly: I think it needs to be redemptive. If it’s not redemptive or helpful for you to share it, then maybe hold that off and do that one on one with someone. Again, the word discretion is important here. We need to ask the Lord to give us discernment and discretion so that we know when it’s okay to share something and when that’s better to be done privately or with just one or two people. It’s not that we’re trying to be dishonest because we want to be honest and transparent people who are genuine in who we are in Christ, but we also need to be wise in how we do that.

I think the second question was maybe about God taking the anointing off your ministry? All the way through Scripture you see men who . . . Paul was in prison so much of his ministry, and it was hard. He wasn’t really doing the big fruitful things that he desired to do, but it was the season God had him in. So many times we have a desire for God to operate differently, and He doesn’t do it that way, so we feel like maybe He’s removed His hand of blessing.

Now, you do have to be careful that there’s not sin in the camp. If there’s something wrong that needs to be dealt with, then you want to get honest before the Lord and deal with that sin so He can bless you, but if you look at that, and there’s nothing you know of that is causing that, then you can assume that it’s a moment where God is going to teach you to trust Him in the desert.

You can go to the Revive Our Hearts website, type in desert, and you’ll pull up a series Nancy has taught on this whole topic of desert moments in her life that God led her into. God took the disciples into the storm when they were in that rowboat. Knowing that storm was out there, He took them there because that’s where they had to decide whether or not to trust Him.

So those moments are not always punishment. Sometimes they’re growth moments in our lives if we’ll just hold on and be pursuing the Lord in the midst of that.

Kim: Ladies, it helps so much for you to remind yourself and remind your husband, “We’ve not yet seen the rest of the story. We have not yet seen all that God’s going to do here.” Paul, in that prison, wasn’t able to see great amounts of people coming to know the Lord like Peter did in the book of Acts, but think how fruitful Paul’s ministry was from that prison as we’re still reading the Epistles He wrote from that prison cell. How fruitful.

So you may not see the fruit even in your own lifetime, but you look ahead to the unseen.

I think we are out of time.

Holly: You know what, girls, we just want to pray for you before you go. We appreciate you coming today. We appreciate the honest questions. Those were very valuable. Get to meet somebody around you, and maybe during this conference, get to know some other pastors’ wives that can encourage your heart. Let’s go to the Lord.

Father, I do thank You for every woman in this room. I pray that You would pour out Your hand of blessing on them. Father, I pray that You would allow them, even this weekend, to be renewed and refreshed.

Father, if there are things that need to be dealt with, would You allow them to be courageous enough to have open hands and to yield those things to You so that You can produce in them an eternal weight of glory so that You will be glorified, Lord, in and through each and every one of us.

I pray that there would not be one woman in this room who cannot wave that white flag by the end of the weekend and say, “Yes,” to whatever You are asking of them.

So, Lord, we ask You to do that in Jesus’ name, amen.

Thank you, girls. (Applause)