You mentioned how the Lord has blessed your ministry; now share some of these blessings with your wife so she can rejoice with you. Tell her about the discoveries you’ve made in your devotional reading of the Word. Share your excitement about the sermon outline of a difficult passage you landed on—how it finally came together, and how you can’t wait to preach it on Sunday! It will bless her and encourage you.
You meet up for coffee with a young pastor. He’s pastoring at a small church out in the prairie, and he’s in town for the week for a conference. He has a heart for the Lord and his local church, and is clearly gifted in ministry. He likes to speak of his growing little congregation, and is humbled at the work the Lord is doing there.
However, there is visibly something wrong. You can tell by the sadness in his face. When you prod, he finally admits how lonely he is. He loves caring for his flock, and he loves his family, but he feels so alone. There is no one to talk to about the sermons he is preparing or the counseling he is doing. He doesn’t want to take his burdens to his wife and family, as there is no need to weigh them down with the concerns of the church, and as supportive as they are, he’s not sure they will understand the weight of pastoral ministry. And he is encouraged by his elders, but all of them have full-time jobs and are still learning what it means to be an elder. As their shepherd and mentor, he is hesitant to start needing them. Unfortunately, there aren’t many other churches around his small church in the prairie.
Sadly, your conversation was cut off by another appointment. But you couldn’t get this lonely, faithful pastor off your mind. So you sit down to write him the following letter:
Thanks for stopping by for coffee last week. It was a delight to spend that brief time together and to catch up a bit. I apologize that our conversation was cut short by another appointment, but I was especially pleased to hear that your wife and family have adjusted well and are enjoying living in rural America.
One of the things you briefly mentioned was your occasional struggle with loneliness. That is not unusual, especially when doing ministry in a small church and community. Small communities tend to be made up of tight-knit family clans, and thus it is sometimes hard to break into those circles. My wife and I experienced that early in our ministry, and I suspect you have too.
Since our visit, I have been thinking a lot about you and your situation. I thought I’d write to share a few practical ways that have helped us.
First, you mentioned that you didn’t want to weigh down your wife with this burden. I think you are wise to guard your wife and protect her. It is healthy to use caution in what and how much you share with her. But at the same time, let me encourage you to share the joys and difficulties of ministry with her. She is your closest confidant, your “helpmeet,” someone divinely chosen to walk through life and ministry alongside of you. As your wife, she is more intimately acquainted with you than anyone else, and thus will know how best to come along side you and pray for you. Don’t rob her of this opportunity to minister to you.