The phrase, “Don’t let the disappointment in a ‘few’ keep you from loving the ‘many’,” comes from a chapter in my book, Ten Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know. In recent days, I’ve gone through a season of disappointment and I’ve had to remind myself of my own words. And unfortunately, I am pretty sure I will find myself there again in the future. You may say, well, that’s just ministry life. But it’s not. It’s everyone’s life, regardless of the occupation of your husband.
As ministers’ wives, we can be tempted to withdraw or retreat, become bitter, give up, or be resentful of hurts. But when we do that, we end up lonely and isolated, and we miss the blessings of the “many” God has called us to serve and serve with. We sometimes determine in our hearts we will never allow ourselves to be put in that position again—we determine not to be vulnerable or transparent ever again. We tell ourselves it’s not worth the effort or the hurt. Unfortunately, that gets us nowhere in the eyes of others, or more importantly, with the Lord.
So how are we to respond when we feel that keen disappointment in others? In my recent season, I deliberately decided to respond exactly opposite of how I felt on the inside. Rather than choosing to withdraw and retreat (my natural inclination), I chose to take advantage of an opportunity to honor and commend others.
Rather than focusing on my personal disappointment, I asked the Lord to show me how I could be an encouragement to others.
As I started to work on this “heart project,” the Lord began to give me an actual list of attributes of the women I serve and serve with. This list included attributes from godly women of all ages and circumstances. And my list reminded me I am not alone in this battle, and that others walk beside me in ministry life, also fighting the good fight.
This list included:
- Women who had walked by their husband’s side faithfully for many years of marriage and ministry.
- Women who are young moms, trying hard to raise godly children in the midst of our very challenging world.
- Women with aging parents, as they attempt to care for ALL family, immediate and extended.
- Women who do well at balancing work outside the home, family life, and ministry life.
- Women who have overcome tough backgrounds before salvation.
- Women who had experienced miscarriages, and some who desperately desired to have a child.
- Women who struggle with physical challenges, from severe allergies, to weight issues, to chronic illnesses with little hope for healing here on this earth.
- A woman who’d suffered the loss of a child and lived out faith in front of us—grief and hope mixed together, honoring the Lord with faith and longing for the promise of heaven.
- Extremely creative women and women with a sense of humor—destined to keep us laughing!
I acknowledged what I’d seen lived out in the lives of these women.
- Women of heart
- Women of depth
- Women of self-sacrifice
- Women of submission
- Women of integrity
- Women who are wise
- Women who juggle many balls with great grace
- Women with grateful hearts
- Women who love the church
- Women who recognize their God-given gifts and use them for His glory
Without a doubt, if you’re reading this, you could very well come up with your own list, plus a few more based on your individual ministry life. These are women you do ministry life with—women you serve with—women you watch faithfully live out the life God has called them to.
So what do we do when people disappoint us? This certainly is a reality I would not and cannot deny. I’ve been there too many times as a pastor’s wife and I’m sure I will return there again. First of all, I pour out my heart to the Lord. I ask Him to help me not give up. I ask him to help me forgive. I sometimes ask a very trusted friend to pray for me. I seek His Word for help because I know He has the answers better than anyone else.
And in this particular season of disappointment, I did something tangible. This heart project turned my focus from my own personal hurt to honoring and acknowledging some extraordinary women God has placed in my life! Disappointment in others can be very depleting of our energies. Honoring others is refreshing and renews us.
My final words to you who may be going through a season of hurt or disappointment come from His Word.
This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between what is important and what is not and choose what is important; that you will be pure and blameless for the coming of Christ; that your life will be full of the many good works that are produced by Jesus Christ to bring glory and praise to God (Philippians 1:9–11, ERV).