When my husband and I first went into ministry I asked my mother-in-law for some advice. I never pictured myself being a pastor’s wife, but she has been either a PK or a PW her whole life. Her advice to me was to have “thick skin and a soft heart.”
Now, the past year I’ve really been working on that thick skin part, and I’ve been wanting to write about that for a while. But…I’m also working through the various levels of forgiveness and not becoming bitter about all we’ve been through lately. So that will have to wait for another post (hence the “part 1” part of the title…)
Today I feel like writing about having a soft heart. I naturally have a soft heart. I cry at sentimental movies and Hallmark commercials. I want to pledge to feed all the hungry children when the World Vision ads pop up on my screen. I even divide up the change in my pocket when I go to Wal-Mart during the Christmas season because I can’t stand to walk past the Salvation Army bell ringer without putting something in the bucket. But I never realized how hard it would be to have a soft heart and be in ministry as a PW.
In the last year I’ve sat in hospital waiting rooms with families who’s loved ones are dying, tried to encourage deacons’ wives in the face of a serious cancer diagnosis, watched helplessly as teens graduate and choose the world’s way instead of God’s, cried with a dear friend whose teen son & his girlfriend chose abortion instead of life, and (just this week) was a listening ear for a church lady who woke up one morning to discover her husband had left…maybe for good. I don’t know if my heart can take much more.
My husband is good at compartmentalizing things. He can go running at 2:00, counsel someone in serious need at 3:00, help the girls with math homework at 4:00, meet with other pastors at 5:00, and watch UK basketball at 7:00 and handle all of it without flinching. I, on the other hand, hear of someone in need and it affects everything else I do for the rest of the day…or week. I hurt when others hurt, cry when others cry, and, thankfully, rejoice when others rejoice, too.
It’s so hard to watch people you care about go through difficult things in their lives. But I’m thankful to be able to be a part of bringing God’s truth into their situations and to be able to offer encouragement through it all. It makes me nervous to think that God wants to use me to be His hands and feet, but it’s also a great privilege that I wouldn’t trade for anything! Carrying the burdens of others weighs me down a lot, but I’m learning to give their burdens to Him just like I give my own burdens to Him. And I’m learning to let my heart stay soft because that’s when it’s most able to be used by Him. Plus, it makes me extremely grateful for the life He has given me: good health, stable finances, Christian children, and a loving, godly husband. I thank God more for them every time I see others who don’t have what I do.
So what about you? What burdens are you carrying today? How do you help others through difficult times? How do you keep from getting overwhelmed by the burdens of others? And how do you keep your heart soft?