You love Jesus. You are called. You went into ministry with the right motives: to serve Christ and others. Yet some days feel like a grind. Even ministry can be “toilsome labor under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). Ministry has peaks and valleys.
Every pastor I know understands the toll church leadership takes on the home. It’s hard not to bring the ministry home at the end of the day. If I’m not careful, I begin to treat my spouse like one more visit, one more meeting, or one more phone call. When I get to that point, my marriage suffers and gets stuck in the grind. I don’t want that.
When your marriage gets stuck in the grind you begin to blame your spouse, question your compatibility, close your heart, isolate from others, doubt your future, and explore other options. Is there a way to protect your marriage from the daily grind of ministry? More than that, is there a way to enjoy marriage with your spouse even when ministry is stressful? I believe the answer is “Yes.”
To enjoy life and marriage in the midst of ministry, controversial issues, church conflict, hard work, long hours, and a tight budget, we need to focus on three simple words: honor, enjoy, and prioritize.
First, when you’re stuck in the grind, you need to make a special effort to regard your spouse and your marriage as highly valuable. Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” At first glance we tend to focus on the “marriage bed kept pure” section of Scripture. But in doing so, we overlook the clear teaching that each of us must lift high the institution of marriage.
Every day Amy and I strive to paint a beautiful picture of marriage to our kids, family, and friends. Through our social media outlets we raise the flag of marriage and encourage people to invest in their marriages. We do not run each other down, make fun of each other, or criticize each other to family and friends. We believe that marriage should be safe and that its merits should be shouted from the rooftops.
Part of honoring marriage is honoring each other. Amy is personally autographed by God. I want to show her each and every day that I recognize and honor the value that He’s built into her. The message communicated by some marriage ministries seems to be, “God gave you your spouse to beat you down and suck the life out of you so you can be more like Jesus.” Is this really the picture of marriage we want to paint?
Honor decides. It makes a decision to esteem the other person as valuable. God did not ordain marriage to be a miserable weight that you wear your entire adult life as a way of bringing you closer to Him. A fun, loving marriage starts when you raise the value of marriage and your spouse.
Second, in the midst of the grind of ministry you must enjoy life together. Ecclesiastes 9:7–9 says to “go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”
You and I have a responsibility in the daily grind. Dare I say part of your purpose in life is to play and have fun? Yes! You are called to enjoy life! This is a message we lost years ago.
When you’re stuck in the grind, be intentional about enjoying life. Live it to the full! Pursue it! Decide to not waste it! Look for precious moments in sharing a meal, laughing, and being joyful. Life is difficult, yes, but you can choose to find those moments and to enjoy one another even in the midst of hardship. You can’t escape the grind, but you don’t have to turn your spouse into the grinder!
God did not give me my spouse as part of the grind. Amy and I are going through the grind together. You do not have to choose between life and your spouse. You can enjoy life with your spouse in the midst of the grind.
Third, in the midst of the grind you must prioritize your marriage in the church and home. Amy and I are prone to overwork and to center our home around the kids, but we fight against these temptations every day. We know it’s not good for us or for the kids. Parents of generations past used to remind their children regularly, “The world does not revolve around you.”
My daughter, Corynn, knows that she is my princess. She also knows that Amy Cunningham is the queen of our home. No one speaks when the queen is talking. No one runs ahead of the queen. When the queen picks a restaurant or activity, no amount of whining from the kids deters me. Our course is set.
My wife likes being the queen. The kids and I like her in the role of queen. But she rarely takes advantage of her esteemed position because she knows that would destroy the lesson we’re trying to teach Corynn and our son, Carson. I regularly remind our kids, “I’m not perfect, but I am trying my hardest to show you both how a queen should be treated.”
Our children have a front-row seat to our marriage. Two great gifts we can give our children are a mom and a dad who enjoy life together and the hope of a great marriage of their own. Prioritizing marriage in the home paints a beautiful picture of marriage. This can be done by either a married parent or a single parent. When parents misunderstand the parent-child bond, their marriage and children suffer. So give your children the gift of a great marriage.
A fun, loving marriage may not be as hard as you think. I believe the decision to enjoy life together flows from the same place where you made the decision to get married and stay together. It comes from the same place where you decide that your children are valuable. Your character makes the decision to enjoy life together.
Focus on the Family is committed to helping your marriage thrive in the midst of ministry. We have a confidential pastoral care line that is available for you. Please, don’t hesitate to call. We are here for you. The number is (844) 4PASTOR.