This post: encouragement for the lonely pastors wife.
For some reason, loneliness in ministry surprised me.
As an idealist young pastor’s wife, I just didn’t expect it.
You would think that growing up as the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of preacher’s wives would have prepared me- in some small way– for this aspect of ministry life.
But loneliness took me completely off guard.
I hesitated to include “loneliness” in my list of ten things every young pastor’s wife should know.
When that post went viral and pastor’s wives began responding, I understood one thing very plainly:
Loneliness is an inescapable part of ministry life.
But it is not unredeemable.
In fact, I believe that our struggles- like loneliness– can stimulate deep and lasting growth in our lives as women in ministry.
The key is how we choose to respond to it.
Here are three things loneliness in ministry has taught me about God, friendship, life, and even about myself.
1. Loneliness is not just circumstantial; it is a state of the heart.
I have felt alone in a crowd.
In a family.
At it’s core, loneliness is a state of the heart.
It is not merely the absence of friends or mutual understanding or someone to share life with.
Those are the circumstances of loneliness.
But the power of loneliness to conquer and control our souls, that is a choice we can embrace or reject.
I may not have the power to cultivate close and fulfilling relationships at any given time in my life. But every moment of my life, I have the God-given power to cultivate a full and radiant soul.
When I embrace responsibility for the state of my heart and attitudes, giving loneliness power over me becomes a conscious choice. Daily, I can choose how I will live.
The Holy Spirit has gently reminded me (over + over + over) that God has provided everything- everything– I need to walk in joy.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.Psalm 68:19
In his book, The Law of Happiness, Dr. Henry Cloud stated a scientific fact that both surprised me + convicted me:
Forty percent of our personal happiness is directly related to our life choices + habits.
Only 10% is circumstantial; 50% is determined by our genetics/personality.
It’s true, there’s 60% we have absolutely no control over. I can’t change my circumstances, and neither can you. We can’t do much about how we’re wired mentally and emotionally, other than grow in awareness + maturity.
But nearly half of our personal happiness + satisfaction in life is absolutely under our control.
Bottom line: Loneliness may be part of the 60%, but let’s focus on the 40% we can do something about.
2. There is no perfect friend.
For many years, loneliness was a state of heart I carried with me into every new situation, every new circumstance, and every new relationship.
I nurtured the expectation that life would some day bring me a “perfect friend.” A “kindred spirit” who would take away that persistent ache for unconditional love + understanding.
I felt continually disappointed because there is no perfect friend.
In fact, I don’t believe that God intended us to expect one person (other than Himself) to meet all our emotional needs. Not even our spouse.
We need a variety of friends, who each bring their own individual support + strengths into our lives. It’s unreasonable to expect one person be fill all the needs + gaps in our hearts. We need community (we’ll talk more about that in a minute).
Over the years, my life has been blessed with many friends; some near, some far away, some very like-minded, some as different from me as anyone could be.
Not one of those friends has ever been “the perfect friend.”
No one has ever never disappointed me.
No one has ever always understood me.
Not my family.
Not my husband.
Not my mentors.
And, guess what? I have never been the perfect friend to anyone else, either. We are all fallible, broken, limited humans with a great capacity to love, but also to misunderstand, to judge, to mess up.
The moment I stopped expecting another human to satisfy every need in my life is the moment I ceased living in a constant state of disappointment.
Bottom line: Only Jesus Christ will never disappoint our hearts.
3. Our hearts were created for community.
Honestly, I’m a bit of a loner.
I didn’t realize I needed community.
But I do. And you do. (But you probably already know that.)
Because one person cannot possibly meet all the needs in our hearts, what we really need is community. A variety of people to know + love + support us.
God designed our hearts to love + be loved. To give + take compassion, grace, fellowship, time, and all the good + difficult things of life. Together.
That’s why loneliness in ministry hurts. And why our hearts ache to be known + loved.
I know how challenging it can be to find a safe, loving community. Even within the body of Christ it sometimes feels impossible.
Let me offer some encouragement:
Never stop having a heart that’s open to safe community (you will find your people, here + there, along life’s journey).
Never stop cultivating a safe community.
That’s the beauty of being in leadership as a minister’s wife. You’re in position to lead the way in showing others how to be a safe friend; how to love well; how to grow + live authentically.
But you need support too. I know from experience that it’s awfully lonely (and oh-so-tiring) at the top. So seek out mentors and supportive friends who will pour into you.
And give yourself permission to embrace whatever “community” looks like for you right now. It may be a life-giving Facebook group. (We have one of those! Check out GPW Membership right here.) Or maybe a few long-distance friends you only get to see a few times a year.
Chances are, your community of support won’t always look like what you thought it would or should. That’s okay. Lean into the grace to live well right where you’re at.
Bottom line: Adjust your expectations of what “community” needs to look like in your current season of life.
Wholeness Sets You Up to Embrace Healthy Connections
Ever so slowly, I’ve learned to let the aches of loneliness point me to my real need: the need for fellowship with Jesus Christ. In his Word and in his presence, every day; that’s really the only place my heart feels completely known + loved + at rest.
Then from that place of abundance, I can seek out friendships with women who are also pursuing the heart of God.
Loneliness has taught me to be vulnerable. To admit that I have needs; that I don’t have it all together. To show up on the bad days, and believe that there are safe people out there who will love me just as I am.
Because here’s another beautiful lesson I’m slowly learning:
Other women need me to be a safe place too.
Dear lonely pastors wife, God sees your heart. He notices your faithfulness, feels your pain, and longs to meet you in your place of need.
You truly are not alone, because your Father has promised to never leave you.
The Lord himself goes before you; he will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.Deuteronomy 31:9
Rest in the truth of God’s ever-present love. Lean into his faithfulness. Be honest about what you’re feel + what you expect from life right now.
Then confidently follow the Holy Spirit as he leads you into growth + maturity.
If you’re struggling with loneliness in ministry, here are three action points:
- Check your heart. (Are you expecting people to meet needs only God can meet?)
- Adjust your expectations. (People will disappoint you; only Christ is the perfect friend.)
- Cultivate community, both for yourself + others. (Seek to be the kind of friend you wish you had; the safe person. Keep your heart open to community, even if it doesn’t look like you thought it would.)
I would never choose the ache of loneliness, and I know you wouldn’t either.
But it has shaped me, pushed me, made me think honest thoughts about myself and about life.
Maybe, in some strange way, loneliness has been an even greater gift in my life than friendship?
That’s an interesting thought.
Looking for a supportive community?
Let me personally invite you to become a member of the Good Pastor’s Wife tribe. It costs nothing, it’s safe, + it’s completely drama-and-negativity-FREE.
Is loneliness in ministry something you’re experiencing right now? This is a safe place! Drop a comment below + let’s talk.