April 8, 2013

Planting a Garden, Putting Down Roots, and Cultivating Contentment When You Might Not Stay Long

This is a guest post written by a pastor's wife who has experienced several transitions; she preferred to write anonymously as one still seeking and finding grace in the midst of uncertain circumstances.

How do you handle a ministry job that seems so unstable? How do you live in a situation where you feel your husband’s job won’t last and you’ll end up moving again? 

These were questions a reader had, and they are questions I do as well. 

Let me tell you a little of my story as I begin. I have been a pastor’s wife for almost ten years and have been blessed with four children eight and under. We are in our third church position in a small town, and my husband has always been a solo pastor. The first church was “not a good fit” as we might say in the South, and we were only there for two years. My husband spent two years pursuing another degree and took a job outside of ministry. Then we were called to a country church that came on hard financial times after five years and lost our job last year. My husband is now in an interim pastor position at a church as we wait on a permanent call. 

I am asking God to help me live here, in the moment, knowing we could be here a few months or years. 

None of us know the will of God for our lives. None of us know the future, but God calls us to live where He has us right now, and He will give us the grace to do just what He calls us to do.

I understand not knowing if a place is permanent.  We had to leave one church over tension (“not a good fit”) and then one over money problems. I know what it is like to ask your husband if he still has a job after he comes home from a leadership meeting. I know what it is like to not want to commit to things in the church or community because you think you may be gone soon. I know what it is like to be jealous of others in ministry in churches that seem to adore their husbands and their job seems so secure. 

I know what it is like to face the facts that ministry for us has not been exactly what we thought it might be.

Unfortunately my ugly heart of discontentment, jealousy, and fear lurks its head sometimes, much of the time. It is not pretty, but it is forgiven. It is washed clean and God is letting me know through His Word that His path for my family has been what we have needed and need. My husband and I have had to look at our own hearts before the Lord and be real with our hurts, sins, and longings. 

I believe we both know Jesus better because things have been difficult at times. Isn’t that what God wants, for us to really know Him? Praise God for the good and the hard times. 

Our faithfulness in the uncertainties glorifies Him.

I was hesitant to write this article because even today I struggle with these questions. I struggle with wanting my ministry life to be stable, comfortable, and secure. I long to own a home (we have lived in three church houses now) and paint the walls the colors I would like to paint them. I want to be in a place that my kids say, “I grew up there.”

This is what I want, yet God’s Word does not promise a secure job in ministry, a permanent home, it promises a heavenly city that He has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:13). He calls us to lay aside every weight, and sin which so easily ensnares us, and to run the race, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12). God’s Word promises us Jesus when we put our faith in Him, and He will finish what He has started in our hearts. 

Stay grounded in His Word and in His unchanging promises.

I am learning that God’s plan is bigger than all we think is going on. He is molding our and our husband’s hearts into something beautiful. He is taking hearts that want to say we are hurt and afraid, we want something different, to saying we want what God wants. We want Him to be glorified. It is impossible for Him to not be working good in this hard situation in our lives. Even today, by His grace I thanked Him for all the trials, all the tears. I know He is up to something big. 

God wants me to be living where things seem unstable right now to find my strength in Him. The missionary Jim Elliot that died a martyr for Christ said this, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

You do not know what tomorrow brings, but you are called to serve the people in your path where you are planted right now. I say, plant your garden where you now live. Get involved in people’s lives. If you are there for a season, you can say you poured your life into the people there. People may come to Christ in this time and they will be changed forever. You serve God right where He has you. 

Today is one of the first days in a long time I have been joyous over our rocky year. I see God doing a work in me to want more of Him. I am so thankful. 

I want to be joyous in Him today. 

I know that tomorrow I will more than likely be looking at all the mess I see in my life, in the uncertainties and the longings I have for our future, and I will again need to look to Jesus. I will remind myself that I am not in control as I unclasp my hands off of yet another problem I am trying to fix. He is in control, He knows what He is doing, we trust Him, and by His grace can serve where we are right now. I have had a wide range of emotions in our conflicts in ministry, but I have always seen God work them out and I have grown through them. 

I encourage you to not let this time be wasted. See this as a time where He is calling you to trust a little more. Don’t hope so much in security of a ministry job that you miss what God is teaching your heart. 

He will take care of you, He promises He will and in this time He may have some wonderful things to teach you.

8 comments:

  1. Every earthly situation has some degree of uncertainty. I often think of the words of Randy Alcorn: "You are made for a person and a place. Jesus is that person. Heaven is that place." to keep my eyes fixed on the eternal.

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    1. More love to Thee, O Christ! Thanks for having your friend write this. It reminds me that every time we look to people or circumstances to give us contentment, we will be discontent and perhaps even afraid, even if we have the most stable of circumstances!

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  2. Whoever wrote this article, please tell her "Thank you!" It can be so difficult to voice these struggles as a pastor's wife, but she did it in a way that honored Christ while being honest regarding the issues we each face.

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    1. Agreed! I passed your thanks along.

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  3. I appreciate the honesty of this post! Especially, "I know what it is like to face the facts that ministry for us has not been exactly what we thought it might be." Not only is that a lesson I've had to learn (and continue to learn) for my life in general, but even in our service to the Lord in full-time ministry. Trusting the Lord's perfect sovereignty for every detail of our life is easy to say, but sometimes difficult to walk in when we're struggling with our circumstances. I also appreciate the encouragement that "Our faithfulness in the uncertainties glorifies Him" and to "Stay grounded in His Word and in His unchanging promises." An encouraging post!

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  4. It is an encouraging post! I like that Jim Elliot quote.

    I've often found comfort in these verses from James (especially in times of transition): Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to day, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." Here it goes hand in hand with "He is in control, He knows what he is doing, we can trust him . . ." from above.

    Praying for my friend!

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  5. Today, I read this quote from an 1800s Scottish minister, Andrew Bonar. "Faith has a good memory; unbelief forgets. Let us ask the Lord to give us better memories for all His benefits, that we may fix our minds on His grace, in spite of all that may happen to us." This applies to "what tomorrow brings" the pastor's wife.

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  6. My dear sister,I think as pastor's wives we would all join together in thanking you for such open transparency. It is a fresh reminder to us that we are sojourners in this world. Life in the ministry typically entails providences that cause us to cling less and less to this world and to fix our hope on eternity. For most of us, that pushes us outside our natural comfort zone. We all desire satisfaction, security and significance. I thank our Savior that he does not fulfill these desires in any earthly circumstance, but rather in an intimate knowledge of, and walk with Him. May he continue to sanctify us all as He sees fit to do. Catherine

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