Have you ever felt like a wallflower? I have and so have many of the pastors’ wives I talk with. (Whether or not you’re a pastor’s wife — even if you’re a man — you may relate. Or God may lead you to empathize and pray for a pastor’s wife you know.)
I hear the desire of pastors’ wives to be supportive of their husband’s ministry and service to the Lord and love for the people in their congregation.
But inside they carry a deep pain. They feel as if they are a wallflower.
“There’s no room for me to have feelings,” one pastor’s wife shared. “I don’t know what do with my needs. My frustration has become resentment. I’m paying a secret price for my husband’s ministry.”
Many pastors’ wives tell me they feel expectations to serve in a church ministry role without being paid and yet their husband’s modest salary requires them to work a job in the secular marketplace.
Some pastors’ wives feel like they’re living in a fishbowl in which everyone in the church is looking in on their life and family! “If I don’t dress and look like ‘the pastor’s wife’ other women make comments,” a pastor’s wife said to me. Yet, deep inside she too felt like a wallflower.
Another pastor’s wife explained, “Our family life and even our vacations are controlled by my husband’s ministry calendar. It feels really confining.”
Sometimes I hear from pastors’ wives that they feel a sense of envy or jealously because while they have been raising the family and caring for the home their husband has been developing in his spiritual life and his career and calling. People affirm him and seek him out for his expertise, but not them.
These wives and mothers often have not been afforded opportunities to advance in their learning or career. They feel conflicted about this: on the one hand, they wouldn’t want to hold their husband back or not be fully available for their children, but, on the other hand, they feel this deep sense of loss and insignificance.
Feeling Alone and Guilty
Some pastors wives don’t share their feelings or personal struggles with their husbands — their husbands think they do, but they don’t.
They have emotional needs, but don’t want to feel like they’re a burden to him. “He works all day caring for people I don’t want him to have deal with my problems too!”
They feel guilty if they’re “needy” or “emotional.” They’re really sensitive to the burdens their husband-pastor brings home from church.
They see him preoccupied with his sermon leading up to Sunday morning and then tired or emotionally flat afterwards.
They feel his stress about an elder meeting or conflict in the church or low finances.
They feel his pain when he’s criticized.
These are godly women: they love the Lord, they love their husbands, and they love the people in their church. But, they have feelings too. Feelings they don’t know what to do with or who to share with so they feel alone.
They feel unappreciated, unheard, unseen.
An Anxious Pastor’s Wife
One time a pastor’s wife came to see me because she was having symptoms of anxiety and was physically sick.
She was spiritually mature and devoted to her family and Jesus. But she was very distressed because she was no longer attracted to her husband, even though she loved and respected him so much. She had been repressing her emotions, trying to be strong for him and her family and the church, and it was causing her BIG problems.
With the Lord I listened to her longings, hurts, fears, hopes, and secrets. I invited God’s touch in her soul.
As she gained courage to be emotionally honest with me, God, and her own self she was then able to take the even bigger step of taking courage to share her true feelings with her husband.
She and her husband learned to take time to really listen to each other with empathy. They prayed together for each other, their marriage, and their kids. She felt closer to him. Then she felt the attraction for him that she’d lost!
Her anxiety decreased and she began to feel better physically too.
You’re Not a Wallflower to God!
If you feel alone, forgotten, lost please hear me: God sees you, my precious friend! He loves you and desires for you to grow in intimacy with Him. He wants you to have safe spiritual friends to listen to you, pray for you, and nourish your soul. He wants you to have the marriage you’ve dreamed about.
It starts with by reaching deep into your heart and praying. Then taking a step to trust someone to be Christ’s ambassador to you (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Dear Lord, bless each pastor’s wife reading these words and anyone else who feels like a wallflower. And help us share your compassion and encouragement with the pastors’ wives we know. In Jesus’ name. Amen.