To the Pastor’s Wife Who’s Ready to Quit
I see you.
I see all the things you do that no one seems to appreciate.
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I see how you bear up under the burdens of ministry life and help to hold up your husband when things get too heavy for him to carry alone.
I know how many times people from the church that you’ve committed your whole life to have hurt you.
But the pain is still there regardless of the giver’s intent.
And the quick platitudes of, “sheep bite” or “Jesus suffered more” don’t actually make you feel any better.
Because you can’t truly love and serve in the church if you simply view all the people there like sheep.
They’re not just sheep.
They’re people and so are you, so their actions hurt more than just an animal nipping at its shepherd.
I know that you have had great joy in serving, but somewhere along the way the joy left and now you just feel very empty.
Tired down to your bones.
Tired in your soul.
You go to bed at night exhausted and wake up the same.
And as you cry out to Jesus, you wonder why he has called you to this life because you’re pretty sure it’s too much for you and you’re ready to just quit being a pastor’s wife.
And you’re not the only one who is hurting.
Your husband is visibly aging before your eyes.
You remember the first years of ministry together and how excited he was about serving God together.
You remember all the plans and ideas and energy he had for ministry.
When’s the last time he talked to you about a new idea?
He too is worn out.
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And not worn out from the things that he was prepared for.
He was ready for the late Saturday nights perfecting his sermon, the nervousness he has every Sunday before he gets up to preach, the middle of the night calls to go and comfort, the marriage counseling, and the emotional drain of funerals.
No. It’s none of those things.
It is God’s people, constantly bickering over silly things that are exhausting him.
How does the temperature of the sanctuary effect the headcount of heaven??
It’s ten complaints to one compliment. It’s ten problems for every step of progress.
Sure, they concede, his sermon was great, but there was a child crying in the back and that was very distracting. And no, they don’t want to actually volunteer to help in the nursery because they’ve already done their time, but somebody sure needs to because children in the service can cause quite a ruckus.
And the meetings, and the committees, and minutia of ministry make him want to shake people and yell, “this isn’t what Jesus wanted!!!”
But you both knowingly signed up for this, even if you weren’t fully prepared for what it would do to your health, your heart, or your marriage.
Your children, however, did not.
They had no choice in your husband’s acceptance of his call to ministry, but they’re hurting too.
The pressures of being the pastor’s kid are great in and of themselves.
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But when adults take their frustration with you and their pastor out on your kids?
It’s just too much.
Not to mention how smart and perceptive your kids are.
They hear the terse conversations you and your husband have when you think they’re not paying attention.
They see your heavy sighs and eye rolls when that person is brought up in conversation at the dinner table.
They notice how their dad drags in from work every day and looks so downtrodden.
And you’re so worried that this will affect them forever and they’ll leave the church the first chance they get because why wouldn’t they??
There are days you want to leave the church, and you accepted a call to this life.
But before you quit being a pastor’s wife, let me remind of a few things.
1. This is season.
And just like seasons in real life, there can be long seasons.
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I remember an exceptionally long winter one year when we lived in Tennessee.
My husband and I moved to North Tennessee after living our whole lives in Texas and winters were rough for us.
People told us we’d eventually acclimatize, but we never did.
This particular winter lasted exceptionally long. Snow in March, freezing temperatures at Easter. We were ready to abandon seminary and go home for some sunshine.
And then spring came.
And it was the most beautiful and appreciated spring of my entire life.
In years past, the seasons always passed so quickly, three months of cool, three months of cold, three months of warm, three months of hot. But after the longest winter ever, I noticed every single detail about spring.
I saw the flowers blooming as if I’d never seen a flower before. I watched snow melting to reveal green grass and could not believe what a beautiful vibrant color the grass was.
The ridiculous duration of winter made me appreciate the spring in a way that I absolutely could not have done without suffering through the seemingly endless months of winter.
God does that in our life too.
So if you are a pastor’s wife who’s ready to quit, perhaps you are just in a really difficult season.
If so, remember that another season is coming.
2. Use your time well.
There is a parable in Luke 16 that really had me scratching my head for many years.
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. – Luke 16:1-9
To sum it up – there’s a money manager who has mismanaged his employer’s money, and he’s about to get fired. So he decides to go to all the people that owe his employer money and reduce the amount that they owe so that he can gain favor with them.
Here’s the tricky part – after he’s done collecting the reduced amount of money his employer actually commends him because he acted shrewdly.
Because when I read this story, I feel like a 3rd grader in Sunday School all over.
The manager is wrong because he was sneaky and self serving. Obviously.
Jesus tells the crowds to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself.”
So basically, the manager had a little bit of time and a little bit of money and he used it well.
What are you doing right now to use your little bit of time well?
God has led you to this place in life.
And while it is incredibly tempting to burrow down and hibernate through this difficult season, don’t.
Pray that God will reveal what you can do during this time, and then do it.
If this is a season of financial hardship, perhaps you can find a side hustle doing something you love or are already good at that will bring you joy and ease the financial burden.
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If this is a season of loneliness, perhaps you can find a mentoring relationship with one person at church or maybe it’s time to reach out to friends from outside of the ministry.
My best friend lives 5 hours away. We sometimes go weeks without talking, but when we do, we just pick up like we never left off.
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If you’re feeling totally burned out and unappreciated, maybe God is telling you to stop doing so much at church and to really focus on your marriage or your family.
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I cannot say what God wants you to do with the time that He’s given you.
But I can say that He is good all the time, and He has a plan for this time.
If you ask Him, He will show you what to do.
And my guess is that His plan is not to lament your situation.
So take a day or week to do some self-care and pray fervently, and then pivot to whatever God is showing you.
And if you still aren’t sure, serve.
And yes, I know that you serve all the time.
You are the pastor’s wife.
But for this season, maybe it’s time to stop doing all the things that are sucking the joy out of your life, and serve somewhere else.
That may mean going to your local pregnancy center and helping scared girls deal with what seems like the worst news ever.
It may mean serving at a soup kitchen or reading books to kids at the library.
Or it may just mean serving your own family.
It may be time to deep clean your own home and read more books to your own kids and start making all those recipes you’ve pinned.
3. Love Others
Before you roll your eyes or start thinking about how loving others is what made you want to quit, remember Matthew 22:36-40.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
It’s really easy for me to sit here and type this. My husband is currently on staff at an AMAZING church filled with people that love us well, so it is easy to love them.
But that hasn’t always been the case.
See, I’ve wanted to quit before.
I’ve been in seasons of ministry that were so dark I was sure God had let me fall into a pit and forgotten me there.
And while it would be very cathartic to share all of my ministry horror stories, it wouldn’t be very productive.
Because the truth is God never forgets us.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10
And while it’s easy to know that in our heads, sometimes, in the dark, we forget that in our hearts.
The best way to remember God’s steadfast love for us, even when we can’t feel it, is to love others.
Even when it’s tough.
Even when you’ve already “turned the other cheek” a hundred times.
Even when they’re unkind to your children and you want to go full She Bear on them.
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Love them anyway.
So what does that actually look like?
It means praying for the people who hurt you and your family.
Even when your prayers are said through gritted teeth and feel like the fakest thing you’ve ever done.
It means not retaliating.
Even when you’ve got a snarky snapback that would get thousands of likes on Facebook.
It means closing your mouth.
Even when you want to tell everyone with ears what really happened because people keep spreading lies.
Jesus knew Judas would betray him and He still washed his feet.
Think about that.
Jesus knew that He was about to suffer one of the most humiliating and painful deaths known to man and that the person who turned Him over to receive that horrible punishment was sitting at dinner with Him.
And THEN, not only did Jesus eat with him, He WASHED HIS FEET.
His nasty, grimy, sandal-wearing feet were washed by the savior of the world who knew that Judas had already gotten money in exchange for turning Jesus in.
And, backing it up a minute, Jesus ate dinner with him.
When I’ve been hurt by people, I can’t stand to shop at the same store as them.
I’m getting groceries and they walk in to buy some milk, and I think, “Nope. I can’t do this. I’ll just abandon all this food I’ve gathered because I can’t be in the same Walmart as them.”
Jesus went through an entire meal knowing Judas was totally okay with Jesus dying.
He wanted Jesus dead.
And if you back up even further than that, Jesus knew when He asked Judas to be one of His twelve disciples that he would betray Him.
Jesus knew for His entire relationship with Judas that Judas would be instrumental in His death.
Judas’s betrayal did not surprise Jesus.
And He loved him anyway.
So love people.
Even the ones who are making you think that quitting ministry would solve all your problems.
I’m not saying you have to invite them over for dinner and scrub their feet – I know you’re not Jesus.
But do your best to act as much like Him as you possibly can.
4. Write in a Journal
One thing that I’ve found to be instrumental in getting me through hard times has been to journal.
Writing it all down will help you to get it out and feel heard.
It will also give you a place to look back and see how great and faithful God is.
I try to write in my journal during my morning and evening prayer time. My journals are basically a prayer journal but the formality of a prayer journal sometimes makes me nervous, so I don’t officially call it that.
There are several benefits of journaling that I’m sure you’ve heard of or you could think of on your own, but you may not have thought about how beneficial journaling could be for your marriage.
Balancing ministry and marriage is hard.
Being married to a pastor means that I know a million things that I can’t talk to anyone about.
Except for my husband.
So a lot of our conversations revolve around the church.
Which is fine when things are going good and ministry is exciting and growth is happening and the worship service was good.
But when things aren’t good, and you keep talking about them it creates a really negative feedback loop.
Your husband has a rough day at the office, comes home and tells you about it, you spend the evening stewing over the problems at the church, and then your entire day has revolved around the church and what’s wrong. He wakes up the next morning and heads into the office to deal with the same problems because they didn’t magically disappear overnight and then the cycle repeats.
Home isn’t a respite anymore.
It’s just a place to rehash everything that went wrong.
By journaling, you have a place to put down your thoughts and hopefully, leave them.
You can be a sounding board for your husband, put your two cents in, and then talk about anything else.
It’s great to have an open and honest relationship with your husband.
My husband is my best friend and he tells me everything.
Well, everything that he can.
He does confidential counseling and stuff that he doesn’t tell me about obviously.
He also holds some things back to guard my heart because I am a fierce little badger when people are mean to my family.
And he knows this about me.
So if someone makes a joke about his thinning hair, he does not tell me because I will devise 48 ways to embarrass that person and that’s not good for my heart. I will never drop it. I will talk about that person being an awful human being for the next 6 years because of a joke they made about my husband.
He does not tell me those things.
Likewise, if he tells me about a problem at work and we talk it through, I used to keep bringing it up.
All night long.
All morning long.
I want to help him solve it and really explore all. the. options.
He just needed to tell somebody and then let it go for a little while.
So now, I journal about it.
It’s really what is best because I’m giving it to God rather that dwelling on it.
Plus I’m not badgering my husband with it.
So try journaling.
It’s awesome to look back and see that my desperate prayers have now been answered. My heart is so grateful when I read my entries from six years ago when I desperately wanted to stay home with my kids.
This is especially good for me to read when homeschooling is making me want to pull out all my hair.
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In conclusion, quitting is always an option, but it’s never the best one.
Remember that story of Jonah?
God called him to do something, and he quit and ran away.
I’m not saying God will send a large fish to swallow you and spit you where you need to go.
That was a pretty unique situation.
But I am saying that God will equip you to do what he’s called you to do.
He didn’t choose the wrong girl.
You know, because He’s God, and He doesn’t make mistakes.
You can do all that he’s called you to do, but not all at once.
So remember to use your time well in this season, to love others, and to start journaling.
Have you ever wanted to quit being a pastor’s wife? Tell us in the comments!
LIKE THIS? PIN TO THE PASTOR’S WIFE WHO’S READY TO QUIT TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD!
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As a fellow pastor’s wife, I can relate to so much of this! I love the tips that you gave- super practical! Serving is definitely the thing that helps me regain some perspective when I’m having a hard time ministry-wise (both inside and outside of the church, as well as at home). ❤️
Halee Anthony says
Thanks for reading Katie and I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post!
Great post! I’m a fellow pastor’s wife and fierce little badger too. We’ve learnt that my husband needs to be selective about what he shares with me because I’ll come out fighting for him. 😄
Being less reactive, and being kind and prayerful instead is my mission. But boy is it hard.
Halee Anthony says
YES!!!! It is so hard! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with that. Thanks for reading, Angela!
Thank you for this. My husband and I are in a difficult season at our church. I’m tired, broken and we have seriously considered leaving the ministry all together after 23 years. God has clearly told us to stay and persevere, but it is so hard. It helps to know others have been there too.
I am sitting the car rider line at my children’s school crying as I read this. Thank you so much for this article. God used it at just the right time. My husband and I are just so weary in this season of leading our church through a pandemic. The silly arguments, the snarky comments, the never ending expectations and the lack of understanding takes its toll. Thank you for these excellent ideas to help me get refreshed and ready to accomplish what God has planned.
Hi Janel! I am so glad that you were able to find ideas to help refresh you. I am praying for you and your husband in this difficult time!
I am struggling with the balancing private life and ministry life. I know it sounds like a fantasy to have a private life but my children are older and I don’t think everything about their life should be common knowledge. Also, I’m a private person with health issues and I don’t think everyone should automatically get to know the information just because they attend Sunday school. It is difficult for me.
I thought I was alone in this journey as a Pastors wife. You took my struggles and wrote them down. I almost feel like I was crazy or over reacting. Thank you for this good read and reminding me I’m not alone in this.