August 25, 2014

Dark Days for a Pastor's Wife

A pastor's wife, who normally encourages church members in their struggles, sometimes finds herself in difficult circumstances where she is the one in need of ministry. This is not a comfortable place for her or for those who look at her as unflappable. It may be unsettling for new Christians to see mature believers stricken. Here is my experience.

Deep Waters
April: Troubles within the church seem to be on an upward cycle and weighing on my husband. People are coping with unemployment, marital issues, difficult children, serious illness or the dissatisfaction of others.
Almost three years to the day after his cancer surgery, my husband gets a blood test that indicates chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a second type of cancer.

May: After several medical appointments for a definite diagnosis and three weeks of not being able to tell the church, we announce that their pastor, my husband, has cancer.
Because he must avoid infection, close contact with people, crowds and visiting the sick (essentially, his pastoral duties), he has to take a medical leave of absence.

June: The first cycle of chemotherapy is delayed, twice, because the medical insurance would not approve it.
Chemo is approved. A day after the first round of chemo ends, I get word that my mom is dying in an ICU in another state. My husband did most of the driving on previous trips to see my parents. This time, I have to go without him. I am the only child, which adds to my loneliness.
My mom dies.

July: My father is still grieving the loss of his wife when his only sibling, my favorite aunt, is diagnosed with acute leukemia.

August: My aunt dies. The summer seems like a blur of medical professionals and tears.

Bright Spots
People are praying. In our church. At home. In other churches around the world. We can feel the effects of prayer every day in a way we have not before.

Our gifted associate pastor has previous experience in stepping in for a senior pastor. God is using his knowledge of the congregation for a smooth transition while my husband is sidelined.

Many people engage in mercy ministry. Health care advocacy. Transportation to my mother's bedside. Rides to medical appointments. Meals. Human contact. Yard work. Flowers and plants. These acts of kindness reflect God's love to us.

The cancer center staff is very compassionate. The treatments have fewer side effects than we anticipated. My husband's overall spirits are good.

We enjoy fun times with our immediate family. They are able to be here at the same time. It is so encouraging to see the next generations following Christ.

God refines my priorities by taking away people and things that I value. In addition, he helps me empathize with the sufferings of others in a new way.

These circumstances are really hard for me. My husband has his own struggles.

Being a pastor's wife adds a unique dimension to all of my life. And, I am often unclear about how God wants me to navigate through it, especially now.

Not everyone knows what to say to me. This makes it seem like they don't care.

Although I am sure where my true comfort lies, I don't always flee to Christ and His Word the way I know I should.

As we all do, I need God's grace in my life to "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1: 2-4.)


  1. As a pastors wife myself I just want to say that I'm so sorry for all that you have faced this past summer. I just prayed that your husband will make a full recovery and that God will continue to strengthen your heart x Shelley

    1. Thanks so much, Shelley. God is showing His goodness in spite of our struggles. I am glad that I have hope in Christ. I don't know how others without that hope can cope.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Patsy. So sorry for your losses, your grief, and the return of the cancer. This summer we had three church members or their family members in ICU. We talked a lot about what about when it is our loved one in the ICU? What about when it is one of us? Thanks specifically for sharing about your hope in Christ.

    1. Thanks, Melinda. These sorts of trials do make you examine what you really believe in a practical sense. I don't want to just mouth the words, but I want my faith in Christ to grow deep in my heart.

  3. I'm so sorry for your suffering. I wanted to share with you a poem I wrote for several friends going through similar crises. Part of my reason for writing it is I wanted to people to know that making a meal for someone in need is not a burden but a privilege. For them to accept that meal is actually serving the body of Christ because it allows others to minister to them. God's blessings to you and your family!

    Food for a Friend

    If food can heal,
    Please, God, let it heal
    If food could talk,
    Let it be the voice of love
    Let it taste of encouragement
    Let it smell of hope

    Please God make this meal
    These good gifts from you
    Lemon, so fresh and fragrant
    Rosemary, crisp and savory
    The first press of olives,
    Salt from your earth
    Born of the seeds you nurture and grow

    Oh, God I beg
    Transform them for my dear friend
    Oh, God I plead
    Lift her up
    Oh, God I cry
    Relieve the burden of ill health, of sorrow and uncertainty
    Let these gifts of food remind her of you
    Your love, your grace, your care

    All I can offer, all I can bring,
    Is but a taste of your great bounty
    But you, mighty God,
    Hold the very universe in your hand
    Take my offering so finite
    May it rise to your eternal love
    Oh love, be evident in every morsel
    Oh simple meal
    Say more than words could ever say

    This is my body broken for you
    Eat it in remembrance of me

    Christa J.S. Sutherland


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