It was a beautiful, warm summer day and I had just returned home from getting my hair cut. I heard the phone ring as I stepped in the door and raced upstairs to see who it was.
Strangely, I found my husband with his face buried in his hands, clutching the phone. I cheerfully asked who it was. With a despairing look I will never forget, my husband's eyes met mine as he choked out the shocking news: his parents had been killed in a car accident on their way to art out-of-state class reunion.
I couldn't believe it. How could this be happening now? To us? I was a baby pastor's wife. We had only been at our new church two short weeks, and I didn't know anyone. We were so looking forward to being near both of our parents and our new daughter's grandparents. This isn't how it's suppose to be. It's so brutally unfair. "Lord, what kind of welcome to ministry is this," I cried.
In a state of shock and despair, we somehow made it through the funeral and unbearably long days ahead. But I was shattered. Tragedy had destroyed the neatly arranged pattern of my new ministry life. I felt lost, alone, powerless and abandoned. And my faith was being stretched to the breaking point.
Slowly, life began to regain some normalcy until my grandfather died two months later. My already broken heart swelled even more as healing wounds were reopened. I questioned God's timing in all of this.
How could we possibly begin to minister to our new congregation when our own spirits were so wounded? I had nothing left to give; all of my strength was taxed to the limit. It was all I could do to just take care of my daughter and hurting husband.
That's when the Lord lovingly whispered to me that it was okay to step back and take the necessary time to grieve and heal. For a season that was to be my only ministry.
Up until this past summer and fall, I was a stranger to suffering. I had experienced just about every other aspect of ministry life except suffering. As I slowly became acquainted with our new congregation, I soon discovered it was a suffering congregation. Like me, there were people who sat in the pews week after week who were broken and hurting.
In some mysterious way, God was using my own personal tragedy to prepare me for this new ministry place. Without the dark stain of suffering that had touched my life, I could not begin to understand these wounded people.
A few months after my in-laws died, a woman in our church lost her husband of 50-plus years. For the first time in my life, I knew what to say to someone in her situation because I had been there. I knew how she felt and how to best comfort her. More importantly, I knew how to pray for her grieving heart.
It was at that rnoment I realized God was doing something in me that could not have been possible without suffering. I saw that as I began to release the spiritual things He had done for me during those difficult days, He was beginning to make it a blessing to others. He was beginning to use me in the midst of my brokenness and through it He was bringing healing to my own life.
I have learned as a baby pastor's wife that life in ministry is going to be full of ups and downs. There are going to be those moments—even seasons—of heartbreak, sorrow, exhaustion, disappointments, and even dryness. The tendency is always going to be there during those times to say "No, I can't do it. I can't give my life away for others. I can't meet that need."
Yet Jesus says we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength. Through His unlimited power, we can begin to minister effectively to others and be used by Him in the midst of whatever circumstances or place He has put us, even out of the depths of our brokenness.
As we learn to lay our weak hands in His strong ones, He gives us the necessary resources to do what He asks of us, no matter how difficult.