What to do when your wife is burned out: Understanding the situation

By Laura Christopherson

As a church-planting family, you’re on the adventure of a lifetime: moving to a new city, assembling a team, recruiting a support system, gathering a core of anyone — Christ-followers and pre-believers — who will give this new church a try. That’s even before your first Sunday morning gathering!

You know this church-planting life isn’t for the couch potato. You’re running full steam ahead and there she is right beside you, your sweetheart, running her heart out. She understands that God has called both of you. And she’s all in!

But one day, on your way to a meeting together, right there in the car, she may come apart at the seams. “I’m so tired! I’m spent!” What? Where did this come from? She’s been a champ, a warrior woman. How can this be?

If you’re smart, you’ll turn the car around and start speaking her love language ASAP. Don’t worry, she’s not becoming Wife-zilla. She’s married to a church planter and has hit the wall.

You’re tired too. I get it. But consider that while you maintain some control over your schedule, most of her life is running in reaction to everyone around her: you (the type-A planter), the kids, the church plant, and the list continues to expand. Consider every sacrifice you make of your time, your energy and yourself is also a sacrifice she must make too.

The scenes are typical. She’s at home with the kids, preparing for the meeting that must be held at the house tonight. Tidy up (perhaps hide the dirty dishes in the oven), put the kitchen somewhat into order, make coffee and find a bag of cookies in the back of the pantry. Oh yeah, what to do with the kids during the meeting? Will she be the babysitter? Again?

Or she’s just home again with the children, battling homework and cooking dinner before running to this game and that practice — while you are ministering.

Then she’s pitching in wherever she’s needed: nursery duty, leading a Bible study, meeting with everyone who needs a listening ear.

You get the picture: She’s on the go. She is behind the scenes but sees God working, and she’s thrilled to be part of this team — your team — right alongside you. She’s thankful for her front-row seat to this God-story. She’s not looking for glory or attention, but she’s wrung out.

She also knows you’re doing your dead-level best, that you’re carrying a heavy load. She doesn’t want to add to that burden. And she definitely doesn’t want to sound like she’s whining, especially during those gut-wrenching seasons that do occur in church planting. She hurts alongside you, trying to encourage and love you well.

But here’s the deal, in this church planting partnership, she pours into everyone around her and steps up as needed, with very few who pour back into her. Few understand her role. And those who do (other church planting spouses) are running as hard as she is.

So, yes, you need to turn that car around, take her home and start pouring into her. Listen. Don’t try to fix or explain your “side of the story.” There is no “side.” She’s not attacking you; just let her share honestly and vulnerably. And once she finishes, ask what she needs from you. It may be as simple as a date, regular coffee time, family game night, or your presence physically and emotionally. Truly listen and invest in your most loyal volunteer (speaking beyond hours she puts into Sunday School) as she stands beside you in this church planting adventure.

Come with her to your Heavenly Father to find rest and healing together. Remember that when you are on the front lines, combatting the dominion of darkness, darkness fights back. Suit up your marriage with God’s holy armor. This isn’t a cliché, but a battle of eternal consequences.

Let’s not simply look at this through rose-colored glasses. There may be seasons beyond “hitting the wall,” and her struggles are more serious. Whenever either of you senses deeper concern about your situation, don’t hesitate to seek outside, trustworthy, even professional counsel for yourselves, individually or as a couple. The investment in your soulmate is not one to risk with some lackadaisical patch.

Love your wife well. Walk with her in God’s holy presence. She’ll remain full and able to continue pouring herself into God’s call on your lives. And you’ll enjoy this God-adventure together.

Published July 17, 2018

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Laura Christopherson

Laura Christopherson has served God mostly in the church planting world alongside her husband, Jeff, for more than 30 years. Most of their ministry was in Canada before moving to Atlanta three years ago. She loves ministering to children, having coffee with friends, playing games, and spending time with her family.