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Joe McKeever Christian Blog and Commentary

“Do not be unequally yoked…” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (a reference to Deuteronomy 22:10 where Israel is told not to plow with a team composed of an ox and a donkey).
We all agree that Scripture teaches believers should not marry unbelievers.
But, would it be an unequal yoke for one called into the ministry to be wed to a Christian who resents his calling and resists the demands that this life places on her?
Surely we can agree that not everyone should marry a preacher.
(The obligatory disclaimer: In our denomination, preachers are men. I know some women pastors in other denominations and respect them very much. But I know nothing of the pressures they face. Thus, for me to write for their situation would be highly presumptuous. Please do not write accusing me of sexism or prejudice against women. Thank you.)  
When I began this list a few days ago, mostly I intended it as a light-hearted piece since I’m a preacher and love pastors and their families.  Any woman who marries a called servant of the Lord should feel special to Him, I’m thinking, and she needs to know what she’s getting into. And then, I decided to ask for help.
I invited Facebook friends to suggest reasons why someone “might not want to marry a preacher.”  I expected soft answers. Oh my, the responses.
But first, here is my original list…
1. A preacher lives with his work 24/7/365.  Even on his off days and vacations, his mind is always on his work. If you want to be married to a husband who works 8 to 5, this man is not the one for you.
2. A preacher wakes up at night and gets out of bed to look things up and write down ideas.  HIs getting up and coming back to bed will disturb you. This is normal.  If you would resent such interruptions, do yourself and him a favor and say ‘no’ if he proposes.
3. Preachers live by faith, as depicted in Hebrews 11.  They will sometimes do the strangest of things for the flimsiest of reasons and the only explanation they can give is “I felt the Lord wanted me to do this.”  If you want a man who is never a mystery, keep looking.
4. Preachers live for others.  If you want a husband who is devoted only to you, choose another husband.
5. Preachers do not live as well materially as others, for several reasons.  One, the profession is not one of the higher paying careers. Two, they give a tithe and more to their church.  Three, they are generous in every other area of their lives. And four, even if money is plentiful, they would not want to live lavishly and set a bad example.  If you want to live in a mansion and have servants, choose another husband (and good luck with that!).
Soon, the comments from Facebook friends began pouring in.  To my surprise, most were as serious as a heart attack. According to several, young women not only “may” not want to marry a preacher but would be crazy to do so. 
So much hurt and anger came spilling out. These ministry wives were quick to say…
–“The preacher is never at home.”
–“You are the last of his priorities. Everyone comes before you and the kids.”
–“The church boards are cruel and selfish and demanding.”
–“A pastor’s wife is never allowed to have friends.  I’m so lonely.”
–“I have wished a thousand times I’d never married a preacher.”
–“The pay is insulting, the benefits imaginary, and the support from the churches undependable.”
Yikes. What is this, I wondered.  So much hurt, so much pain.
I was surprised that very few wives of ministers countered these statements with their own testimonies, saying how wonderful a life it is, how the rewards outweigh the burdens and stresses, how special a pastor’s wife should feel.
Their silence ought to tell us something.
Bottom line for all this…
–You do not feel a similar call from God on your life.  Otherwise, your expectations will be directed toward your husband and you will be eternally frustrated.
Someone asks, “Where in the Bible do you find God calling ministers’ wives?”  Answer:  Nowhere.  It’s just basic common sense, I think. You don’t find Him calling artists or agriculture specialists or communication consultants, but every mission field has people with gifts in these areas who can testify of God’s call upon them.
–You are not a person of prayer.  Only the strength of the Lord is going to protect you and empower your service.  Abide in Him always.  We “ought always to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Of all scriptures, the verse which seems to fit pastors’ wives is 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”
–You think a husband should be home every night for dinner and put you and the children first in his life.  (This is about you and your expectations.  We can hope the pastor/husband/daddy will get this right, but if you demand it, it’s all downhill from then on.)
My observation is there will often be tension between where a pastor wants to be this evening and where he should be.  No one can tell him what to do.  Pray for God to give him two things: great wisdom and an understanding wife.
–You do not love the people of the Lord. Nothing helps us to treasure the Lord’s people more than a great love for Him and a healthy understanding of our own sinful, needy natures. “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30) should be the mantra for all of us.
If, however, my love for Him is a sometimes thing and my life revolves around me and my needs, this life is going to be a nightmare.
–You expect church people to always act like Christians.  We all—every church leader!–do well to lower the expectations we put upon others. Remember these people are “but dust” (Psalm 103:14).  Most will get this right, but some church members can be childish, demanding, mean-spirited, and as carnal as anyone in the worst tavern in town.  Do not be blind-sided by their misbehavior. Stay prayed up.
–You cannot live with people scrutinizing everything you do, from how you raise your children to the way you wear your hair.  You must be able to ignore it or laugh it off. One lady used to tease me relentlessly about the suits I wore.  These days, she would be amazed how few preachers wear suits!
I will promise you one thing, wife of a minister:  From your home, you will see the worst side of the best people (God’s children).  But determine that you will love them anyway, and God will use you in amazing ways.
–And finally, do not marry a preacher if you expect your rewards down here on earth. The great payoff for servants of God comes not in recognitions and bank accounts down here but in the promises of God for a later time. “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).
If that sounds like so much smoke-blowing, please do the minister a favor and say ‘no’ when he proposes to you.  Do not saddle him with the burden of a spouse who is forever unhappy at his life-calling.
So, marry the man–if he asks and you and your folks agree this is “of God.”  I will tell you this from personal experience…
–There are 10,000 rewards to serving the Lord as a pastor and wife.
–There are indeed a thousand headaches and stresses. But these come in every career. It’s called life.  The minister’s home will have its share but so does every other residence up and down the street.
–Nothing helps you stay focused on keeping close to the Lord like knowing you have to teach that class Sunday morning (or preach that sermon) and need to stay on your knees and in the Word to do it well.
–God has a few sweet Godly saints in every church who will love you and pray for you and will compensate for the ogres.  Ask Him to show you who they are. Then, pull them close to you.
If God calls you to marry a minister, I pray He leads you to the right one, and that you will have–as Margaret and I did before the Lord took her to Heaven last January–52 years of service to Him, and a lifetime of satisfaction in knowing you made a lasting difference in people’s lives.
Publication date: September 30, 2015
We grieve, but not “as others who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13).
No one volunteers to become knowledgeable about grief.  Life hands you the assignment by robbing you of someone whom you love dearly. Suddenly, you find yourself missing a major part of your existence–an arm and a leg come to mind–and trying to figure out how to go forward.
You discover this ache in you goes by the name “grief.”  Synonyms include mourning. Sorrow. Loss. Bereavement.
Without warning, you find yourself experiencing an entire new lineup of emotions–all of them devastating–about which you had heard only rumors before.
The second discovery you make is people think you ought to be able to help others deal with it. Surely, they imply, if you have come through it and lived to tell about it, you must be wise.
I’m so unwise.
People are kind.  To this date–and I’m almost eight months into this bizarre condition called widowhood–people I hardly know continue to send notes that they’re praying for me.  I thank them for their kindness and stand in awe.
As a pastor, I never kept on ministering to the hurting this long after their initial loss.
I didn’t know.
I’m now getting invitations to speak to groups of ministers on the subject of grief.  “Grief and humor.”  “How to have a grief ministry.”  “How to deal with loss.” “Getting over the death of a spouse.”
Margaret would smile at that.  Dealing with emotions of any kind was never my strong point.  My wife of 52-plus years was the one who felt deeply, thought profoundly, and analyzed everything, while she would have said “Joe denies he has any emotions.”  I would protest, but her point was that I had learned to discount my feelings–they can be so fickle and counterproductive–and to go forward, ignoring them.
There is truth in that. Pastors learn to stifle their feelings if they are to minister to church members who have been working to get them fired but who suddenly find themselves going through a crisis of some kind. Pastors learn to stifle their feelings when they make pastoral visits into the homes of leaders who battle them on every side.  Pastors learn to stifle their feelings when they walk into the pulpit to preach God’s Word five minutes after hearing from a committee that they are being terminated.
Pastors learn to stifle their feelings when they leave an angry wife at home in order to drive to the nursing home or hospital to minister to the hurting.  They send up quick prayers for help to the Father of all comfort, and they walk into the sick room ready to love and care and serve.
Pastors learn to stifle their feelings when they preach the funeral of a precious child they love as they do their own.  They learn to stifle their feelings when they go from a heart-wrenching funeral of a beloved young adult, raised in our church and killed suddenly and tragically, to a wedding two hours later involving other members of our church.  In every case, you “suck it up,” to use a crude expression, and give it your best.
The veteran minister thinks he has this down to a science and that he can endure anything.
Then he finds out how mistaken he was.
Suddenly, life pulls the rug out from under him and he finds he’s the master of nothing.  He cries like a newborn.
To say I’m no authority on grief is the understatement of the year.
Readers who have spent their whole careers studying grief, reading the endless books on the subject, writing and teaching and counseling, will smile at my naivete, no doubt. Perhaps it’s like cancer. There are so many different kinds and the treatments vary.  After my little bout of cancer in 2004, I feel guilty when friends tell me of the scary aspects of their cancer with radical surgeries, bizarre procedures, stem cell transplants, and the constant trips to Anderson or Sloane-Kettering.  Mine is hardly worth mentioning.
Maybe it’s that way with my grief. Like the suffering Paul mentioned, my grief is momentary and light (2 Corinthians 4:17) compared to so many. Certainly my understanding of it is so limited.
Here are six realities I’m learning about grief…
1. It’s different for each person. There does not seem to be one kind of grief for mankind. The length and depth and degree of grief all differ.
2. Isolation is the worst possible choice while one is grieving.
The Lord added believers to the Body of Christ, the Church. We need each other for mutual comfort, teaching, encouragement, and a thousand other things.
However, a grieving person is not going to call friends with “Hey–let’s get together.”  They have to take the initiative. And at times, to be insistent.  “Come on, friend. You need to get out of the house.  My wife and I are taking you to dinner. We’ll be over in 30 minutes.”
Friends don’t let friends sorrow alone.
3. The Lord’s disciples will still grieve, even while holding firmly to the teachings of eternal life, eternal presence with Christ, the defeat of death, and the resurrection.
Just because I believe my loved ones–my parents, two brothers, my wife–are with the Lord does not lessen the sorrow caused by their departure.
4. Grief seems to come in waves.
I can go an entire week with hardly a thought about Margaret, but then every day something triggers the memories and I weep.
In the months since she was taken, I have preached in numerous churches from California to Florida.  Almost invariably, when I leave a church and climb into my car to travel home, my reflex is to call Margaret and report in. She’s been praying and will want to know how things went and when to expect me home. Then it hits me.
Darn. There go the tears again.
5. Grief never completely goes away.  We just learn to cope.
After Margaret’s death, my friend Joyce called from Orlando. Her evangelist husband Jim was a precious friend. I said, “When do the tears stop?” She answered, “I don’t know yet. It’s only been fourteen years.”
What are the skills we need to cope?  I don’t know, but these come to mind…
1. A strong belief.  The sorrowing survivor will learn quickly whether he/she believes the promises of the Lord Jesus.  And since “faith comes by…the Word of the Lord” (Romans 10:17), the best thing is to stay in the Scriptures, reading, thinking, digesting, believing.
The gold standard for believing in the face of adversity comes from one who knew a depth of suffering the rest of us can only imagine. And yet he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
2.. Self-talk.  The ability to get tough with ourselves and say what our drooping, sagging spirits need to be told.
The Psalms are saturated with examples of great self-talk. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2).
And another favorite: “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).
3.  A willingness to deal with our anger.
My friend Jude said after her husband died, she was so consumed by anger concerning the mistreatment by him and then the financial mess he had left behind, she knew she had to do something.  “I got two boxes,” she said.  “I marked one anger and the other thanksgiving.  Every time I got angry at Bob for something, I wrote it on a slip of paper and dropped it into that box. Then, I made myself write out two things for which I was thankful and put them into their box.”  She had intended to do something important with them, Jude said, like have a bonfire for the box of angry memos.  “But Katrina took care of that.” Her home was destroyed by the hurricane.
4.  Journaling.
To friends who are having a hard time sorting through their emotions and dealing with anger, guilt, sadness, sorrow, and sometimes relief and gratitude, I suggest they get a wordless book and start a daily journal.  (Handwriting their feelings seems to be more therapeutic than typing into a word document, but perhaps that’s just a personal choice.) In most cases, no one will read it but themselves.
5. Community.  We need friends.
(See #2 above.)
6. Laughter. Sharing memories.
A merry heart does good like a medicine?  (Proverbs 17:22) It does indeed.
One of the sweetest things I will ever hope to see in this lifetime happened a few hours after my wife’s funeral. Our three children were in my house with their families. At one point, when laughter erupted from the living room, I stuck my head in to see what was going on.  The grandchildren–all eight of them–were on the floor in a circle, playing some kind of game.  They were laughing, touching, and loving being together. It must have gone on 15 minutes. Our two sons and daughter live hundreds of miles apart and these children see each other so seldom.
Meanwhile, about five feet behind them on a small round table, sat the mahogany box containing the ashes of the grandmother who adored them so much, and whom they loved fiercely.
She would have loved this.
7. A counselor or therapist. 
Twice since my wife died, I’ve made appointments to visit Beverly, her pastoral counselor for several years. Beverly knows our family inside and out.  When we had our fiftieth anniversary dinner for the extended family, Margaret invited Beverly and her husband.  The counseling sessions did me good, and I’ll be going back.
I know so little about this subject, but I’m so grateful for family, for friends, and for the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.  After all, He assures me, from the moment of salvation and from then on, “it is well with my soul.”
Publication date: September 23, 2015

As a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, faithful pastor, you know a great many things.  “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14).  “We know love” (3:16). “We know that we are of the truth” (3:19). “We know that He abides in us” (3:24).

But there is so much we do not know. Here is a partial list….

1) You do not know what people in your congregation are going through.

You know some of what several are experiencing. But even with those closest to you, so much of their personal lives is hidden from all but God.

2) You do not know what God is doing in each life.

It’s like the wind which blows, said our Lord to Nicodemus. “It blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes” (John 3:8).

3) You do not know the plans the Lord has for each one.

“What about him?” said Peter to the Lord, pointing to John.  “What is that to you?” said Jesus. “You follow me” (John 21:21-22).

4) You do not know exactly who is sitting in your congregation.

Recently, before I stood to preach, the pastor introduced me to each member of his congregation.  Perhaps there were thirty present.  I said, “When the church grows to 200, I want to see you do that!” He vowed that he would.  But most cannot.

5) You do not know how God has brought them to this moment.

See the above reference to John 3:8 again.

6) You do not know what struggles each is enduring.

Not everyone tells you their problems, and not all wear their pain on public display.

7) You do not know how God is going to use you today.

We must approach every sermon as though this were life and death for some, for it may well be.

8) You do not know which word of yours God will use to prick their hearts, convict them of sin, strengthen their faith, and bring them to Jesus.

9) You do not know how inadequate you are.

And that’s all right. I imagine if we knew we would be so discouraged, we would quit. “Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves, but our adequacy is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).  It’s all about Jesus.

10) You do not know what potential you have.

The One who created you and redeemed you has called you into His service. Now, expect Him to empower you and do wonderful things through you.

11) You do not know which sermons of your (and which visitations, counseling, witnessing, notes of encouragement, or gifts) will bear the most fruit and be most used of the Holy Spirit.

I love this little reminder from Ecclesiastes 11:6. “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”

12) You do not know what God can do with your pitiful sermon.

But it’s fun to find out!

After all….

You walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Unless you are willing to give the Lord your best effort and then leave the results with Him, you will not last in this work.  If you require that the fruit for your labors must always be visible and measurable, one of two things will happen, both of them bad: you will either lose heart and quit or you will become a manipulator of congregations.

You will walk by faith or you will become a statistic (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17).

You will not know until you get to Heaven how God has used you.

You will be rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14).  What we have to ask ourselves is: Can I wait that long?  Can I believe that strong? Can I sing that song?

Say this to yourself repeatedly until its promise becomes part of the very marrow of your bones: “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

Go forward by faith, friend. “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we don’t quit” (Galatians 6:9).

Publication date: September 16, 2015