Pastors’ Wives Can Burn Out Too

by | Jun 19, 2016 sich gehenI received a lot of positive feedback on last week’s post about a pastor who admitted his need for physical rest, spiritual renewal and relational retooling. One of the most insightful responses came from a different pastor’s wife, who described how both she and her husband also came close to burn out.

I read your last post with great personal interest. My husband, who was also a pastor, hit a similar wall. It was a huge thing for him to be vulnerable enough to speak to the church about it, but he did – and by God’s grace, he finished well.

What no one knew (including me or him) was that I was addicted to that same kind of stress.

The way I dealt with it was to just keep adding more “stuff” to my ministry so I could continue to “prove” my worth. My husband trusted me more than anyone else on our staff so he found it easy to ask me to take on new ministries. The more I accomplished the more people (including my husband) admired me … and I savored every minute of it!

But it took a toll. I didn’t realize how tired and burned out I was until we retired. Then I emotionally collapsed. It took two years for me to even consider volunteering for anything at all. I didn’t even want to attend any kind of women’s events, let alone help with them.

Looking back, I now realize that active pastors’ wives are always vigorously supporting their husbands … but they are also working overtime in their own roles. In my case much of this was sinful pride, and I knew it even while I was burning the candle at both ends. I now have to live with the fact that much of what I did was “wood, hay, and stubble.”

A pastor’s wife does not carry the weight of the entire church, so she usually just keeps going and doesn’t realize she is emotionally and spiritually depleted. As a result, she is not always there for her husband to be the support he needs … or to realize that he is about to crash himself.

When I talk to new pastors’ wives these days and they ask me how to do things, I change the focus and instead encourage them to NOT take on so many things and to instead keep their focus on serving their husbands and children. I tell them that it is ok to say no and that it’s wise to always keep open space in their schedules so they can easily flex to meet their families’ needs.

I wish I had learned to do that, even with my husband who always thought I was invincible.

~ A Wiser and Happier Wife

Chances are you know a wife who might also be spreading herself too thin … even if her husband is not a pastor. If so, please forward this post to her with your encouragement to learn how to say “no” and to pace herself for the long race of serving and enjoying the Lord, her family … and then the church.

– Ken Sande

PS – If you were encouraged by last week’s post, I encourage you to listen to Rankin Wilbourne’s subsequent sermon, which provides some fascinating comments on how his church responded to his remarkably humble message. I was particularly struck by how excited he and his congregation are about where God will take them as they “stop leading in their competence and start leading in repentance and prayer.”

Reflection Questions

  • Why is it that many of us keep taking on more and more activities even when we’re already too busy?
  • Do you do this? Why? What effect has it had on your relationship with the Lord? With your spouse and children? With your friends?
  • What responsibilities have you taken on that are not really essential for you to do? What might have both the time and the gifts to take over that responsibility? How could you approach that person to ask for help?
  • If you can’t see where you’re overloaded, ask your family for their feedback. They will often see things more objectively than you do.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

Would you like to receive a post like this every week? Subscribe now!

Share this post