January 13, 2016

For the Struggling Church Planting Wife

It’s hard, I know. The uncertainty, the all-encompassing nature of the work, the homesickness, the discouragement—church planting is simply not for the faint of heart.

Church planting is like taking the leap into marriage or becoming a first-time parent. As much as others tried to prepare you, as much as you and your husband read and conferenced and created strategies, nothing could have truly prepared you for the high-highs and the low-lows of church planting.
As I speak with fellow church planting wives, what I find is that, although we are in wildly different contexts and churches, we tend to have similar highs and lows. We cherish the joys of seeing that first salvation or seeing our husband come alive in his calling.

But we also have similar struggles, struggles native to those the Spirit has called out where fleshly strength is not enough, where faith is required. Sometimes it feels as if those struggles are going to crush us and we can’t see a way out from under them.

In my years of church planting alongside my husband, I’ve found it helpful to reframe what I’ve experienced. Thinking about the common struggles you and I face from different angles enables us to catch a glimpse of what God is up to and to press on. Here are some of the things you may be thinking and the frames through which I encourage you to see your struggles:

It’s too hard.
It is hard. There’s no getting around that.

Reframe: Church planting is hard, but does God have purposes in our trials and difficulties? Absolutely. Church planting strips and sanctifies. Let it. Let it show you your false hopes. Let it show you that you can only have true hope in things that are sure and steadfast. Let church planting be the sanctification that God intends it to be. Embrace the hard, because God will absolutely grow you through it. He will teach you what it means to walk by faith, to serve sacrificially, and to love people. These are incredible gifts that come out of a temporary difficulty.

I feel uncertain about myself and this role.
As opposed to a traditional church, church planting offers you a blank slate in regards to your role, which can be overwhelming when we just want a bullet-pointed job description or a checklist to know how to be the “perfect” church planting wife.

Reframe: This blank slate can crush you in uncertainty, or it can be seen as your freedom. Church planting offers you the opportunity to be involved in various ministries and roles, which in turn offers you the freedom of discovering over time how God has wired you and designed you for ministry.

(P.S. It will help tremendously if you throw off the “perfect” mantle. There is no perfect church planting wife.)

I’m so scared.
I get it. You’re scared about the future, about what church planting means for your family, about financial provision, and about whether or not your church will even exist in three years.

Reframe: But are you not in the perfect position to tangibly observe the faithfulness of God? Not many people get this kind of vantage point! We are among a people who get to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. The place where you’re standing feels shaky, but if you purposefully look for the ways God has been and is being faithful to you, you’ll find Him faithful. If you purposefully look at Scripture each day, you’ll discover that His Word speaks so specifically to where you are. This purposeful looking feeds faith and banishes fear. Engage that process.

I’m so tired.
Sometimes we feel bone weary, so tired from caring for the emotional and physical needs of others. Sometimes resentment builds in our hearts, not toward the people, but toward God. We believe that  God has given us a heavy burden and sent us out in the world alone to carry it, but He isn't caring for us. 

Reframe: Every time I recognize this resentment building in my heart, God reminds me of the command in Scripture to take a Sabbath, and then He nudges me to consider whether I am receiving that gift. If we aren't, we are resisting one major way He wants to care for us and nurture us. We do have a Father who cares for us; we have not been left as orphans. He shows that care to us in many ways, but when we are pouring our lives out for others, He specifically asks us to come and receive physical, emotional, and spiritual rest from Him.

So, my fellow church planting wife, how will you reframe your struggles? What does the Lord have for you in the midst of them? I know one thing for sure. He has Himself to give you—His sanctification, faithfulness, rest, and care. He will enable you for what He’s called you to do. Receive Him and He will reframe your struggles.