To the Pastor’s Wife with Chronic Health Challenges…

PastorsWifeHealthChallenges

I got your email the other day…along with all of the others. You’d be surprised how many pastors’ wives are facing what you’re facing. You’d be moved to tears, as I was, if you read their emails.  Some of you I know in real life, and some of you I know only online. Yet, because you shared a bit of your deepest sorrow with me, I feel like I know you all in the same way.

Your sorrow is this: you have chronic health challenges. You live with pain and discomfort that just about drives you crazy sometimes. You are weak, and you have this….this “problem” as the medical professionals might say. It just won’t go away, and secretly you know that it never will. It hinders your ability to be the fully present helpmeet that you want to be for your pastor-husband. It keeps you from attending church at times. It limits what you can do in women’s ministry. It makes household tasks take longer than they should. It renders child rearing so difficult.

It confines your dreams to borders that you wish weren’t there, just like the wheelchair you are in or the walker you have to use or the medications you have to take in order to get through the pain…to get through the day. It’s a true thorn in the flesh. If he were still on the earth, the apostle Paul would be kindred spirit to you. He would “get it.”

In some ways, I have no idea what you face every day. In other ways, I understand very well what you are going through. God gave me a taste of what it is like for almost an entire year- the year I was pregnant with our first baby, and nearly lost my life and his. If you’ve been with me at Embracing Grace for very long, you know that I suffered from *Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a rare, life threatening condition that afflicts only 1-2% of women. It is basically an allergic reaction to the abnormally high levels of the pregnancy hormone. There are {limited} treatments, but there is no cure.

For the most part, I spent that year either in the hospital or in bed, dealing with debilitating nausea, vomiting, migraines, dehydration, and dangerous side effects of powerful medications that cancer patients use. There were a few times when I made it to church in the early part of that year. Those times were so few and so exciting that I recorded them in my journal. Often it took me hours to get dressed and ready. I would make it to church, only to have to leave shortly after I arrived. Eventually I was medicated heavily enough to be able to stay out of the hospital, but I was so very weak. Mine was a medicated health, very fragile and unpredictable.

That year- that was also our very first year in ministry. So much for playing the piano and making meals for shut-ins. So much for speaking to the ladies and writing note cards and making phone calls. So much for having people in my home and so much for being there to support my husband.

So much for being the ‘perfect’ pastor’s wife. So much for being one at all.

“God, why did you call us here and then incapacitate me so that I can’t do anything with the ministry?!” I cried out over and over, often sobbing inside because I was too weak and sick to actually cry. I felt guilty that I was such a “blob” to my husband, unable to even do basic household chores.

The feelings- I know them. The guilt and the hopelessness and the near-craziness from the ongoing pain. The wishing to die at times because living is harder than dying when you’re trapped in a body that refuses to function correctly. The anger, and then the exhausted surrender when God says “no” to your pleas for healing and relief.

Which is why your greatest sorrow is also one of your greatest joys.

It bleeds through your emails as you tell me that, from your wheelchair, you can spend a lot more concentrated time praying than most people can. You tell me that you see God’s grace in so many amazing, practical ways because you know- you know– that you can’t do anything without God’s enabling.  You share how, because of your trial, you can empathize with the suffering of others.  You tell me how God is shaping you, conforming you to be more like Him through “the fellowship of His sufferings.”

So, I’m not going to write back and tell you to “just trust God” because I know you are already trusting. I’m not going to quickly remind you that “His strength is made perfect in weakness” because I know you found that out {again} this morning when you got up. I’m not going to say that God is doing something you can’t see because you already see a little of what He is doing. I’m not going to tell you not to ask “why” because it’s totally fine to ask your best Friend why. I’m not going to say that I feel sorry for you because you already know that people do and it doesn’t change anything. I’m not going to remind you not to complain because I know you already try hard not to. I’m not going to suggest medical treatments or essential oils or miracle cures, because I know you’ve already tried them all.

I have a feeling that you just need to know you aren’t alone.

So that’s what I want to tell you- you’re not the only pastor’s wife facing this. There are many like you, who serve through challenges. Some of their struggles are visible, and some are invisible. All are very real.

I have something else to say that I think you need to hear: I appreciate you. We in our churches appreciate you. We love you and admire your strength of character and your testimony of God’s power. Your Godliness shines through your struggle just the way God desires. You are beautiful and valuable and created perfectly for God’s plan for you.  When you smile, we smile too.

We smile because when we see you or read your words, it’s almost like your challenges fade away. And all we see is Christ. In you. This is the hope of glory. This is a reason to carry on. This is why I will be honoured to meet you in heaven and to share in your joy of being made whole.

Today, I will smile when you smile. I will cry when you cry. I will pray for you. I will listen when you want to talk. As a pastor’s wife myself, I will tell you that you I look up to you and want to learn from you.

And I will whisper that I love you.

XOXO,

A Kindred Spirit

P.S. Are you a pastor’s wife who needs a place of encouragement and hope? Send me a message. You will be blessed by the support of others who are walking in your shoes.

*General excerpt taken from my book, “Expecting Grace: The Miraculous Survival Story of a Hyperemesis Gravidarum Pregnancy” {Affiliate link below}

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About Leah {Embracing Grace}

Leah Highfill accepted Christ as her Saviour and became a child of God at the age of 18. Originally from the USA, she and her husband moved to the mission field of Canada in 2005, where she served in full time ministry as a pastor's wife for 10 years. During their tenure there, they became dual citizens. Leah and her family recently returned to NC and are currently enjoying a much needed sabbatical for the year of 2015. She homeschools her children {Small Son is 9 and Tiny Daughter is 7} and teaches private piano lessons on the side. She can be found reading, writing/blogging, playing the piano and violin, or ice skating. A friend to ministry wives everywhere, Leah has a passion to inspire hope and to encourage women in their walk with God. Her first book, Expecting Grace, was published in 2013. Expecting Grace is the story of Leah's experience and survival of a life threatening pregnancy, and of many medical and financial miracles along the way. Her second book is currently in process. Join her grace-filled journey right here at Embracing Grace!

8 thoughts on “To the Pastor’s Wife with Chronic Health Challenges…

  1. Thank you so much for this! I feel all of these things very consistently and am learning slowly to surrender my idea of what ministry is to what God’s idea of ministry is. I am 16 years with Rheumatoid Arthritis and 5 years with chronic vertigo. I often get frustrated because my desire is greater than my ability. The Lord reminds me constantly to lean, trust and use the “talent” He gave me and not envy the “talents” that others have. May God bless your ministry. Thank you for ministering to me today!

  2. Thank you Leah for your ministry to pastor’s wives, you are appreciated. I am a pastor’s wife and have multiple chronic health issues. It can be challenging as I am not always able to do things I want to do and/or others think I should do. I like what Mary said above, “I often get frustrated because my desire is greater than my ability”. God knows the motives of our hearts and I know he finds ways to use us right where we are on any particular day, regardless of what kind of day our health is dealing us.
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