by Melissa Small, pastor’s wife, Liberty Baptist Church, Appomattox
Sin can take us farther than we want to go, but God’s restorative power can lead us right back to Him. He often uses the dark places in our lives to help others, and it is with that thought in mind that we share a powerful story of God’s power to restore a pastor’s wife to Himself and to ministry.
My Life as a Christian
Growing up in a Christian home as a pastor’s daughter, I experienced truth and love. At a young age, [even] though I [had] accepted Christ as my Savior, I began the battle within my flesh to win the praise of man versus the praise of God. I found that there was something in me that craved praise and affirmation. I served with the desire to be told that what I did was of value, and I saw love as something to be earned by actions done for people. I began to build my identity in accomplishing acts of worth to reaffirm my value. The problem is [that] no one is perfect and nobody can make everyone happy. This was a shaky, ever-changing foundation for finding worth.
Lies of the Enemy
Nonetheless, as a Christian, I still loved God and wanted to serve Him as a pastor’s wife—but the appetite for praise continued. This was ultimately a sin rooted in pride. I wanted to find value in myself rather than offering all glory to God. This desire to matter led me down a road of willingness to sacrifice my faithfulness to God in my own life. Over time, I convinced myself that there was a greater value in the praise of man than the love of God. It was tangible and instantly gratifying. I came to a place where I believed that the love of humans was greater than the love of God and even questioned whether or not His love was real. The way I questioned God and His love for me ultimately affected my service to God, His Church, and anything associated with His love. In the context of the church, as a pastor’s wife, the pressure to succeed and the opportunity to fail were too great. The hamster wheel of conditional-love-based thinking became too fast. The crisis of belief became exhausting to try and outrun. They only way out was…to jump off. To leave everything. To leave everyone.
But God, in His grace and sovereignty, would not let me go. He chased me. I was meant to be His. I was His child, bought with His blood, and He reminded me of that every day I ran from Him. It was during this time I believed God’s love was real, it was for me, and it was more filling than the love of any human. It is in our darkest places that the light of Jesus shines brighter. That light was shown through His people, too. The strength and support of my husband and church family whom I had been used to serving reached out and showed compassion, grace, and patience. And in the end, God was victorious through the process.
God’s Redemptive Power
Through a process of renewal and restoration, God began to reveal to me that He was not just filling me for me. He wanted others to know His love in a great way, too. God showed me love is not earned—it is freely given. It must be accepted and believed. God’s power is real and true—it is saving grace to be embraced. And with that revelation, He brought me to a Women’s Ministry leadership retreat through the SBCV. The theme of the weekend was “Surrender.” I felt I had already surrendered to God, but He spoke to me about the difference in being resigned and being surrendered. Being resigned is agreeing not to put up a fight. Being surrendered is passionate proactivity to accomplish what is needed. Through godly women in my life and the Holy Spirit, God has provided forgiveness, freedom, and motivation to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, NIV).
If you are a pastor’s wife struggling with your identity and church expectations in a changing church environment, you are not alone. You may not be discouraged to the point of quitting, but you may be overwhelmed by the expectations on your life. Do not be isolated in your struggle. Know there are other pastors’ wives and women in ministry who lose sight of the hope that we have at times, but that does not change the truth of the hope that is promised through Jesus Christ. He is our purpose and our future, and we can find Him when we seek His strength.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa Small, Ed.D. Melissa is a pastor’s wife of 12 years at Liberty Baptist in Appomattox, Virginia. She serves as the Women’s Ministry leader at her church, teaching Bible studies, leading in worship, and putting on fun new events for women. She is passionate about women learning the truth of God’s Word to experience victory and joy in their lives. She also loves running, cooking new recipes, and sharing laughter with friends.