My heart goes out to pastors’ wives’ as I hear their stories of heartache. Their husband maybe going through a difficult time in the church. He maybe wrestling with a conflict with an elder or layman. Maybe a person is critical of his preaching or he isn’t visiting enough shut-ins. One story I heard is a couple of women were upset that the sink was rusting in the childrens’ Sunday School room only to find out, after the pastor inspected it, that it was dry rust colored paint. Or, the pastor is spending too much time on his sermons and not enough time visiting people. The service is too long, too short, not enough prayer time, too much prayer time. The worship songs are slow, fast, loud, soft or not musical enough. These are just some of the minor complaints and conflicts. These complaints are the tip of the iceberg.
Lets go a little deeper. Your pastor/husband is dealing with the heavy issues of a elder that has an addiction. Or, a child in the congregation is being molested by their father. A wife is being verbally or physically abused. An angry layman is barging into his office demanding he apologize to his friend only to find out that when he (the pastor) does apologize, the friend said... “you didn’t do anything wrong.” An elder is upset that you yelled at the ref at his son’s basketball game. Pastor’s have a difficult job... a difficult calling. Which means, the pastor’s wife is the “silent casualty.” She hears and sees all this stuff going on and needs to remain quiet, supportive and love the people that make their husband’s job so difficult.
Let’s go a little deeper. Your pastor/husband is fired. The elders share with the congregation that we are letting the pastor go not for moral or fiduciary reasons but irreconcilable differences. What does that mean? Doesn’t it mean that in a body of Christ we should be able to reconcile our differences? The PW (pastor’s wife) has lost her church body, friends, and in my case, family members and is left to silently walk away from all that she loves and enjoys. And not to mention the poor pastor’s kids that are displaced and hurt. Both the wife and the children are silent casualties. When the average man loses his job in the secular work force the wife and children are affected financially but the wife and kids normally don’t lose their community. When a pastor is fired the whole family loses their community and, in my case, we also lost our extended family.
Over ten years later, after my husband’s firing, some of the major players are coming to apologize to my husband regarding his firing. My husband graciously meets with them and listens. He forgives. He actually already has forgiven them but it is good for them to apologize so that they are freed from their actions. But the wife and the kids... they are the silent casualties that need to forgive but without any discussion or conversation on how the elder, family member, or friend hurt them personally.
What do you or I do with this? How do we work through being a “silent casualty?” I know that biblically I am to forgive those men/women who have hurt my husband, my kids and me. It is a mandate from scripture. Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.” But I do think it is helpful for those people who have hurt the pastor to also come to the wife and the children to apologize. Our youth pastor wrote a beautiful letter of apology to my husband and then, apologized to our son on how his actions have hurt him too.
I know that it takes a lot of going to the Lord in the pain and loss and spending time with him to help you/me process the grief. In Psalm 73:28 the author writes,
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the sovereign LORD my refuge.
I will tell of all your deeds.
My heart breaks for the PW’s whose husband’s have been fired, cast aside or asked to resign. I hear the stories all the time of those heartaches. I understand how the PW and their family is the “silent casualty.” Stay near to God and make the sovereign LORD your refuge.