October 20, 2014

Pray for the Pastor's Wife: Love

“Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

A pastor’s wife has plenty of people to love. She has her husband, and perhaps children. She may have parents or siblings. She’s got friends from her past, friends in her community, friends online. She may have co-workers or bosses. And she’s got the church.

The church is certainly a unit (the Bible calls it a vine and a building and a body) but it is not homogenous or generic—lovable in some abstract way. The church is a gathering of unique individuals, with unique needs and gifts and personalities. Christ laid down his life for each one, and so, too, the pastor’s wife willingly lays down her own priorities and time and preferences for the good of the individuals in her church.

In short, she loves them.

Recently, someone told me the story of a pastor’s wife on the foreign mission field in a place made chaotic by strife between people-groups. When Christians back in the United States asked how they could pray for her, she replied, “Pray that I would not have contempt for the people I am serving.”

Most pastor’s wives won’t have the experience of church members fighting to the death over territory, but each pastor’s wife will encounter individuals she finds it difficult to love. Pray that, in the strength of Christ, she will.

I have a friend who frequently asks me , "Would you pray that I could be what my husband and kids need?" Every time she asks, I am freshly astounded by her humility and love. She is a very gifted woman who would have much to offer her family. She understands the Scriptures, the human body, and children better than almost anyone I know. But she doesn’t insist on always using those gifts. Instead, she is willing to be molded to exactly what her family needs, even if it’s dish-duty. This kind of self-giving, other-serving love is exactly what I’d like to have more of.

I pray for myself, and ask that my church would pray with me, that I would “abound in love” (I Thess. 3:12).

October 13, 2014

Mourning with Those Who Mourn

This summer, I lost four people who were close to me. One was my mother. I am mourning. As therapist Jan Bentley said in an article on bereavement ministry, "Grieving is the price we pay for loving."

The process of mourning is very individual, but I identify with some of the generic grief symptoms listed online. Anxiety about losing another loved one. Check. Lack of energy. Check. Difficulty concentrating. Check. Questioning God's providence. Check. I need all the love and support of the body of Christ that I receive. Here are some things that others do for me while I am in mourning.

Praying unceasingly. Lately, I am prayed for in an unprecedented way, and I can feel it. Christians, even those I don't know personally, pray specifically and with faith for me and my family. My own prayers have been of the "groanings too deep for words" variety. But, the Holy Spirit has used this wordless weakness and the ongoing prayers of others to give me a deep sense of peace. Prayer is a real ministry to anxious mourners.

Supporting practically. Church people have sat with me in hospitals, cut my lawn, repaired my plumbing, made my meals, given me rides and bought me treats. Many of these deeds of mercy are things I normally could do for myself. But, when I feel like I can't put one foot in front of the other, God sends help to fill in the gap. Completed menial tasks encourage the drained and discouraged.

For those who want to do something but have no clue, I suggest that they think about how the bereaved has ministered to them in the past. We often show love in the way that we want to be loved. For example, if the grieving widow came to your loved one's funeral and signed the guest book, she would probably be touched if you did the same for her in her loss. Personally, I appreciate the woman who gives me food in a disposable container and tells me, "I don't need this back."

Thinking wisely. Other believers urge me not to make rash decisions when I am blinded by grief. They are willing to share their knowledge of the Bible and help me apply it to life as it is right now. What I need are clear directions, based on biblical wisdom, and not "on the one hand, on the other hand" ambiguity. Wise advice cuts through the fog of grief.

Living hopefully. Some caregivers' information I saw recently said, "It is impossible to go back; it is hard to go forward." When I am feeling like this, my Christian friends help me see my situation from God's eternal perspective, which gives me hope. They model for me how I can trust in God's goodness for the future. Hearing God's truth leads the bereaved to "the rock that is higher than I."

Note: The inscription on the 1814 tombstone depicted above reads, in part:
The grave is now my home,
But soon I hope to rise,
Mortals behold my tomb,
Keep death before your eyes.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...