Pastors’ wives tell of sharing joy in the midst of life’s battles
GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--“I don’t know about you, but when I see a battle out there in front of me going on, it’s hard for me to just stand,” Teresa Brown admitted at the Pastors’ Wives session of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference June 12. Brown said John 14:27 describes the peace God offers even in the midst of a battle.
Brown, whose husband is pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said she once thought God would honor her eagerness to suit up in the armor of God to take on the enemy. Then she discovered the instruction in Ephesians 6:11-14 to simply “be steadfast and stand."
“The Lord says, ‘Stand and let me do the fighting,’” Brown noted. When fighting is abandoned, Christians often do “the next best thing” by worrying, she said. “Worry and peace do not coexist in the same heart. Peace isn’t something you fight for. It’s already appropriate to the child of God.”
Before introducing other speakers, Donna Gaines, a member of the ministry’s board, and the wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, said that in a survey of those present at last year’s session, 53 percent of SBC pastors’ wives claim to have suffered from depression since entering the ministry.
While more than 94 percent believe there is extra pressure in being married to a minister, two-thirds said they felt ill-equipped for ministry and three-fourths have seriously considered leaving the ministry at some time.
Susie Hawkins of Dallas, another member of the ministry’s board, led a panel discussing “hot topics in the ministry,” which addressed particular challenges women face -- including frequent moves, developing relationships, enduring criticism and changes in physical and mental health. Hawkins is wife of O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources.
Liz Traylor encouraged women to get help from a trusted doctor in order to recognize indicators of depression and discover treatment options. Traylor is the wife of Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
“Depression is not a weakness. It’s not a lack of faith,” Traylor said. “Don’t be ashamed to get help. There are very specific symptoms if you have them over time.”
Jeana Floyd told of the decision she and her husband made to share her diagnosis of breast cancer with their church family. Floyd, another member of the ministry’s board, is the wife of Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark.
“The church walked through the journey with us every step of the way,” Floyd said of her experience 16 years ago. “When you become transparent and authentic with them, it gives freedom for them to minister back to you.”
Addressing the pressure to meet expectations of church members, Carol Ann Draper, wife of James T. Draper Jr., retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said she recalls something her mother told her a long while ago.
“My one talent is that I was a twirler in the band, but no church has ever asked me to do that,” Draper laughed. “My mother said, ‘You use it or lose it,’ so I lost it.”
From playing the piano to singing solos to teaching Sunday School, Draper said, she looked for positive ways to serve.
“I found that the shoes that need to be filled are God-sized and not my size,” Draper added, encouraging women to be themselves as they express a willingness for God to use them in service.
Ginger Spradlin offered encouragement to women whose husbands serve in areas where Baptist work is sparse. Spradlin is the wife of Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.
“Resist the temptation to compare our own ministries and our churches,” Spradlin said. Instead, she advised them to ask, “Am I giving my God every single part of me?”
Elizabeth Luter of New Orleans described how she had come to know God as her refuge and strength in the aftermath of damage to Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, where her husband is pastor.
Often asked to assess how she is doing or tell what she lost, Luter said, “No one’s asked me what was found. He has truly given me the grace to surrender all of those tangible things I thought I needed,” while providing His love through Scripture and help from volunteering saints.
“God never takes the tangibles of a saint of God without giving a spiritual replacement,” Luter said, adding that strength is offered to the weary, according to Isaiah 40:29.
Humorist Anita Renfroe of Acworth, Ga., returned for the second year to entertain and inspire the audience.
“You can choose every day whether you’re going to pick hilarity or insanity at every opportunity as the Lord gives you joy and perspective to laugh in your life,” Renfroe counseled.
Janet Wicker recognized veteran pastors’ wives for their lifelong ministry. Wicker is the wife of Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., and president of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
Of another Florida pastor’s wife, Wicker said Jeanette Henry, whose husband, Jim, retired earlier this year as pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, is an example of a woman who has found great joy despite life’s circumstances.
“She found joy in the journey and has not wavered in her faith and confidence in God,” Wicker said of Henry.
Wicker also recognized Draper and Joyce Rogers, wife of Adrian Rogers, the longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Tennessee who died last November.
In addition to Gaines, Hawkins, Floyd, Draper and Wicker, other women serving on the ministry’s board include Diane Nix of Tulsa, Okla., and Barbara O’Chester of Austin, Texas.