by Mary Somerville
While we receive more joy from giving than from receiving, we must allow others to experience that joy, too, by ministering to us as a family. Paul allowed the Macedonian Christians to minister to his needs. He told them that they would be enriched by their liberality in giving (2 Cor. 9:11). If we don't allow our flock to minister to our needs, we are robbing them of a blessing.
It would be good to examine ourselves in this area. Do we sometimes stifle people's desire to minister to us by not letting anyone know about our needs? One way to receive help and encouragement is to ask an older pastor's wife to mentor us, either in person or over the phone. What an incredible blessing this can be to both parties!
Bob and I were very interested in hearing what our seminary president had to say in his seminar entitled: "How to Overcome Stress in the Ministry." His main point was that the best way to manage stress is to observe one day of rest every week—that is, obey the Fourth Commandment. What a basic solution to a big problem!
Resting one day in seven is not only a nice idea; it is God's idea—see Exodus 20:9-11. God always knows what is best. I can't overstate this truth. We must rest, for the good of our own body and soul and increased productivity. It is especially important because of the constant weight of ministry responsibilities upon our shoulders. Understanding our bodily limitations is part of taking care of our body that is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Since Sunday is not a day of rest for us in ministry, as it should be for the others in our churches, it is wise to have another day off, if possible. We have found that it's important to do something fun and relaxing together on our day off, such as taking a drive to the mountains, reading in our lawn chairs, going for a walk, or playing tennis. A change of pace is important for our emotional and spiritual well-being—especially because we're involved with people all the time. Outdoor activities seem particularly refreshing, as our husbands are in an office most of the time.
Unfortunately, some men in ministry do not take time for their families. Their life is their ministry, and the family fits in the cracks—and sometimes falls through the cracks. One wife expressed, "To have any time with my husband, I would need to have a problem. Then I could make an appointment and get an hour of his time." This is so very sad because the first ministry a minister has is his family.
If your husband won't rest, you should appeal to him in the spirit of meekness and pray that God will make him sensitive to your concerns. But if he is still not convinced of the importance of rest, you have two choices: You can cover it over and ask God for the strength to continue on in support of your husband (1 Pet. 4:8); or you can confront it biblically through the process outlined in Matthew 18:15-29. But no matter what you do, it's very important not to let anger or bitterness creep into your heart. God can give you His patience and perseverance, as you trust Him to work in your husband's heart.
Let's face it—ministry is taxing physically. We get tired and worn out. Paul compared our bodies to a treasure in a fragile clay jar. We get tired and ill and are subject to sicknesses and diseases that limit our ability to minister. Sometimes, because we are so busy, we don't get the proper food, rest, or exercise for God's optimum use. Bob and I have found that we feel better and have more energy when we work out several times a week. Exercise improves our energy, endurance, and physical well-being.
If we are overweight, we need to examine the cause, because being overweight puts greater strain on our bodies. If we have an eating problem, we need to bring it under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being in ministry often means being offered meals, which include rich desserts. We must think of polite ways to turn down foods that would be detrimental to our health. Paul said, "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27).
We're called to be good stewards of our bodies and that means asking God for self-control and disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). While our appearance is not the most important factor in life, we do want to care for ourselves in a way that reflects positively on God and thus brings glory to Him.
Vacations are a must for ministry families. Most churches recognize the need for a complete rest from the pressures of ministry and allow the pastor a month or more off.
Vacations are comparable to Old Testament feasts, which God commanded His people to celebrate throughout the course of their year. There were the feasts of the New Moon, Pentecost, Purim, Tabernacles, the Passover, Trumpets, anniversary feasts, the Sabbatical Year Feast, and the Feast of Jubilee. He was so generous in giving them times to stop work and celebrate as families and as a people of God.
Also, vacations need not be expensive. When our budget was tight we went camping or traveled to visit friends or relatives. Camping is not only affordable, it provides beautiful places to explore and enjoy, such as the ocean or lake. We put a priority on spending time with our families and have tried to see them regularly, even though we are on opposite sides of the continent. Another form of vacation is to attend Christian camps and conferences.
Some might argue that you have nothing to show for all you spend on vacations except pictures in an album. I would say that you have built into the lives of your children the unity, love, and enjoyment of the family that is so important in today's world—along with the albums of pictures.
It's great to take a small break with your husband to just get alone with the Lord for a day or part of a day. We go to a park or the mountains and take our Bibles and meet with God. In the rush and hurry of our busy lives this is a time to be still and listen to God, enjoy His presence, and get focused on why we are doing what we do. Jesus set the example. He often would slip away from His busy ministry to commune with His Father. And on one occasion He said to His disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).
Another purpose of a mini-break would be to spend time alone as a couple to set goals and evaluate. Some friends of ours take a day every six months to see how they are doing on keeping the goals that they set as a couple.
It is so important to regularly meet together as wives of staff members to fellowship and share each other's burdens. Our husbands have staff meetings and see each other often, so they feel like a team. But we wives can feel isolated and alone with our burdens and responsibilities. This is especially true if your children are small and you are housebound much of the time.
It is important for someone on the staff to initiate this vital fellowship. Our group meets early in the morning so that our husbands are able to be home with the children. It is a sweet time of fellowship as we share and hear what is going on in each other's lives. We also pray for one another with sympathetic prayer out of our mutual position as ministry wives. We have also chosen to hold each other accountable by asking some questions to spur each other on in our walk with God.
We can take comfort in knowing that there are seasons in life for different focuses. Your role in the body of Christ will change over the years. At one stage of our ministry, when our children were babies, my husband asked me to give over all my ministries in the church and merely care for the children and responsibilities in the home, which included hospitality. Now that the children are grown, I can be especially active in the work of the church. If your children are young, let me encourage you that this season of life—devotion to their care—is just as valuable in God's eyes as working alongside your husband in church-specific activities.
One young missionary wife who is a mother of seven children (nine and younger) finds comfort in calling these her "underground years." If she devotes herself to nothing but raising godly children, think of what a platform she will have in years to come. Women will want to know how she did it and how they can learn from her.
Whatever season of life you are in, savor it and enjoy it to the full, because it won't last.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>