Over the years, I’ve learned that I’m not alone.
My friend Sandy walks on eggshells in an attempt to keep her husband’s anger at bay. As her involvement in ministry has grown, so have her husband’s violent, verbal outbursts. Another friend, Christina, has a husband who is addicted to pornography. He blames her for “not being sexy” anymore. She struggles with self-esteem issues.
Through listening to stories like these and reflecting on my own experience, I’ve learned that while some leaders offer practical support, helping married, spiritually single women thrive amid challenging circumstances, others fall short, crushing the souls of the very women they are called to lead with careless words or actions.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Scripture admonishes, “Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds” (Proverbs 27:23) .God calls church leaders to care for those he has placed under their care. But it can be hard if you don’t know how.
Here are a few practical ways church leaders can support married women who are alone in their faith.
Pastors, you’re often the first place women go when they are facing challenges in their marriages. In my experience, pastors often assume that spouses support each other. But for the married, spiritually single woman, the opposite is sometimes true. Because her husband can feel threatened by her “new love,” he may oppose her, whether consciously or unconsciously, even exhibiting passive-aggressive or violent behavior.
The spiritually single woman probably also lives with rejection and contempt, which, over time, can erode her confidence and sense of identity. Patterns of unhealthy communication in her marriage can undermine her mental and emotional health. It’s important for you to tell her that she is not called to submit to patterns of destructive words or behavior that undermine her physical or emotional health or the health of her children. Submitting to abuse—whether physical, verbal, emotional, or financial—is never God’s will. Love draws a line of respect.
Ministry leaders, you are also on the front lines of defense. While most women married to unbelievers are eager to use their gifts and serve in the local church, be willing to alter your expectations. If a woman spends too much time serving, it could antagonize her husband and lead to added conflict in the home. Watch for signs of isolation or depression.