We, women, are known to have what I would call a survival kit – a small pouch that holds what you need for whenever you travel, whether short distance or long distance. Some kits would have a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, dental floss, nail cutter, safety pins, baby powder and lip balm. Others may need to include a deodorant, lipstick, eyeliner, cologne, travel tissue, comb, etc. Then you learn a thing or two from an embarrassing experience and add something else here and there.
As pastors’ wives, we could use a survival kit as well. The contents of this kit vary, depending on the situation we find ourselves in. And then as we learn from one situation, we could add something to our kit that we would not want to be caught without for our next journey.
What should we have in our survival kit? You could name a lot of things that would be valid, including some of the following survival items I have gathered from other pastors’ wives. These things you should never be without – and, may I add, we should also invest in others.
We need the Word of God in our lives! I cannot reiterate enough how much we need it. We cannot do life and ministry without it penetrating our life. We need God’s Word to move us, to influence how we live, think, speak and act.
Whether we are in ministry or not, the role of God’s Word in our lives is necessary. Especially when you are in ministry! You cannot give what you do not have. If you do not live by God’s Word, you cannot speak life to others. If you do not let the Word of God be your standard for living, you cannot expect to live out life in a Christ-like manner.
The Word of God is the first thing that will minister to you in times of discouragement and doubt. From both my and my husband’s experiences with ministry-related hurts, the one thing that we both found comfort in was in God’s Word. All the time. There was a time when the shock, pain, and all the emotions that we went through were too difficult to even describe. And even if we wanted to, we couldn’t find comfort in each other because we were both hurting. We wept together, and we wept alone. I took to the Word; so did he. God’s Word ministered to us individually and uniquely, and yet powerfully. God, through His Word, cried with us and hurt with us.
You do not have to be a Bible school or seminary graduate to be a student of the Word. But you do need to desire to learn from it. We are in the business of spirituality, where more than anything else, we deal with spiritual things. Whether we like it or not, people will come to us for a word of wisdom or a word from God. Again, we cannot give what we do not have! We want to make sure that the word we give is always from God’s Word. We cannot give godly wisdom from the Word if the Word is not powerful in our lives.
Let us take our encouragement from Psalm 1:2-3, which says that those who delight in the study of God’s Word are like trees that are firmly rooted in the source of life. You can expect it to bear fruit; you don’t expect it to plateau. It is just full of life! “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (v3)
This is something that we do need, but oftentimes ignore or brush aside as…optional. I say, encouragement is not an option. It is necessary.
The apostle Paul exhorts us to encourage one another:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and to do so daily:
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
No one is immune to discouragement, and the cure is encouragement. We all need it, some more often than others, but needed nonetheless. Encouragement from others is a lifeline especially if you are in ministry.
The Apostle Paul asked for encouragement. He did not minimize the need for it. Even as he was in prison, he called out to Timothy and his ministry partners to encourage him. He didn’t wait for encouragement to come, or for someone to go to him. Paul simply asked for it when he needed it the most. And when he asked for it, he surely received it.
And when you give encouragement, don’t be scrimpy on it. If you are going to encourage someone, be generous with it. Proverbs 3:27 (NET) says, “Do not withhold good from those who need it, when you have the ability to help”. Encouraging others is good! If anyone needs it, give it!
To encourage someone means to push that person to continue to do what she is doing, to support her, and to cheer her on. We all need encouragement in many areas of our lives – in our marriage, in ministry, at work, in our studies, and in our spiritual journey. And the most effective encouragement will come from someone who understands what you are going through. When we don’t understand what the person is experiencing, we may even end up saying the wrong things. But when we truly understand what the distress is all about, we can extend our encouragement with words and truly empathize because we’ve been there.
It has been said over and over again, and will continue to be said because it is true: Prayer is a necessary tool in our survival kit. Prayer is our lifeline to God. It is an invisible but powerful cord that binds each and every believer to each other and to God.
Prayer is needed especially when you are down and discouraged – during the winter of the soul. Mark Buchanan in his book, Spiritual Rhythm, says, “There is work in winter that only winter knows…hard work, and good, and needed, and restoring…it is prayer.”
Pray in every situation: In UP times. In DOWN times.
Many books have been written about the praying woman, and not to be outdone are books on how to pray. I don’t see a lack of books in the area of prayer, even in the future. There is an obvious reason for this. It is because we need it!
If you struggle in prayer, don’t be discouraged — and most of all, don’t give up. Prayer is a discipline, which means it doesn’t always come out naturally. It may even be safe to say that it is not natural for us to pray. But if we want to achieve the goal of being closer to God, then we must immerse ourselves in developing this discipline in us.
Prayer not only helps us; it could also help others. We must develop the same eagerness to pray for others. Be generous with your prayer as well. Pray for the people around you! Pray for your fellow pastor’s wife.
“If there is one Person who can sympathize with the need for friends in the midst of ministry, it is our Lord Jesus.”
Each of us need friends – a community, a group of people whom we can relate to because we were made to relate. We cannot and will not survive the challenges we will face as pastors’ wives and all the undue expectations flung at us if we do it all alone. If we don’t belong to a community, we may disintegrate emotionally. We will soon find ourselves becoming lonely, tired and depressed.
Community is a dose of “caffeine” for a PW to belong to a group of fellow pastors’ wives who have similar experiences and can understand the uniqueness of this particular journey.
What happens when we are in community?
When we belong to a community, we band together toward conquering the Everest-like expectations of this world. A seemingly impossible task or goal can be conquered when done as a community, rather than alone.
When we belong to a community, we can get accountability. We will have people who will tell you the truth in love, ask the hard questions, and do whatever else it takes to encourage us in our walk with God. This is important if we intend to become better wives to our husbands. We cannot police ourselves; we need others to help us and walk with us in our journey.
Whether it is a personal or group retreat, either would be a breath of fresh air for the pastor’s wife, especially after a really hectic schedule or church event. Done on a regular basis, it can be a real treat and do wonders to the spirit. It can be up on the cool mountain or down by a sandy beach, away from the city or just in the mall (Yes, I know a mom whose idea of relaxation is malling the whole day ☺), a relaxing staycation at home, alone, or a getaway to another province.
There are things that happen in our lives that should not be forgotten: – milestones, lessons from God, trials, triumphs, painful events yet filled with God’s presence, etc.
A journal is helpful in two ways:
putting them down on paper from out of the confines of your heart. Even as you write triumphs, joyful experiences or answers to prayer, you will begin to see the details of God’s hand in your story.
then I begin to remember how much He loves me. And then I feel all my burdens just become lighter with the reminder that He will carry me through any storm, always.
Do not underestimate what a hobby can do to one’s soul!
Hobbies can range from nature trekking, camping trips, road trips, photography,
writing, bird-watching, knitting, embroidery, gardening, cooking…the list could be endless. If you don’t have one yet, start one now!
*This Article is an excerpt from the chapter SURVIVAL KIT in my book BRAVE AND BEAUTIFUL: SERVING GOD WITH COURAGE AND GRACE IN MARRIAGE AND MINISTRY (CSM Publishing, Manila: 2018)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Donna Tan, from the Philippines, is a pastor’s wife, a pastor’s kid, a counselor, professional editor (for both academic and popular writing), resource speaker, blogger and book author. Her passion is to minister to women (pastor’s wives in particular), couples and families. Donna’s ministry experiences span ages and cultures; having led youth and women ministries in the Philippines, as well as women ministries in the US.
Donna is married to Dr. Jason Richard Tan (Ph.D.), and they have two children – Joshua (17) and Elisha (13). They have been married for 19 years.
Jason and Donna are missionaries under GlobalGrace Fellowship (Pasadena, CA) serving globally from their home-base in the Philippines. She is the Admin Director of Great Commission Missionary Training Center. You can connect with Donna through her blog TonesOfHope.blogspot.com. or through her FaceBook Page.