The Minister’s Wife—Threat or Complement?

Throughout our time in ministry, we have had the privilege to meet pastoral couples, missionaries, and servants of God in all four corners of the world.

One obvious difference between American and French couples is that often, the french wives serving alongside their husbands are embarrassed when someone asks them about their ministry, the gifts that God has given them. They explain, “I know that I should be happy doing the cleaning and taking care of the children at church, but I have a lot of other desires hidden deep within my heart…”

Of course, it’s true that watching the little ones and doing the cleaning to keep the house of God neat and welcoming is very important. I myself have done this work starting when I was a child and continued  for many years.

But why to they feel ashamed if God has equipped them for another, more visible ministry?

If you kept up with the news in France, as I do, you would know that there is a debate surrounding our national identity. I was listening to an animated radio program with defendants, on all fronts, fervently defending their positions. Living in another country as a “foreigner” for over 10 years, I perfectly understand the necessity to conform to the laws of the land that welcomes us, out of respect for that country and its people.

But, when the conversation is turned toward women and how some try to use religious arguments to force them to hide their faces when they appear in public, my heart breaks. Do I dare make such a parallel, this is what can happen to the wives of some men of God—they have to hide to live out their calling, perhaps because of the risk that their abilities will overshadow those of their husbands. Religiosity is an instrument used against women! 

I recently read that certain pastors have faced difficulties in their ministry because of “painful marital situations,” and that their wives needed to be “helpmates” for them in the ministry.

Could these painful marital situations be due to the fact that the ministry has taken the first place in these pastors’ hearts, before their wives and their families?

Could the wife’s calling be a “shared” ministry as she stands beside her husband, rather than a threat to him?

The classical English translations of Genesis 5:20 use the word “help-meet” when defining the woman’s role at her husband’s side from the Hebrew word “ezer kenegdo.”

Ezer is a strong word used 22 times in the Old Testament to refer to the power of God manifested in desperate situations:

Deuteronomy 33:26 – “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds.”

Psalm 121:1-2 – “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

This definition is very different from the weak and secondary connotation of the woman’s role that our translations of Genesis 5:20 seem to propagate.

Kenegdo means “to be facing, complementary to.” There again, we find no notion of Eve serving in the “background” alongside Adam.

God, thus, acted in His grace by giving Adam a spouse like him, his complement, someone who corresponds to him, with an idea of mutual protection.

Woman of God, what is your calling as you stand by your husband?

Both of you, take the time to seek God’s face and ask Him to reveal to you what He has commanded you concerning your individual ministries, as well as your joint ministry, because together, you are stronger.

Of course, the the husband’s and wife’s ministries may be similar or very different, but the heart of it will always be complementary to the ministry of their spouse.

I remember one missionary wife who had spent several decades always trying to do more, thinking she was serving God as He expected her to, without ever feeling truly satisfied. When she took the time to focus on her and her husband’s common call, God revealed to her that He actually wanted her to engage in warfare intercession, in the secret place of her room! What a revelation, and what a relief—she could finally enter into her ministry!

In this article, I am absolutely not advocating feminism. My goal is to exhort you, ladies, to seek what God has commanded you regarding your own calling, at your husband’s side—and you, men, to encourage your wife to take her God ordained place at your side so that you may both be strong and protected in His service.

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