FIRST-PERSON: A wife's counsel for Pastor Appreciation Month

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- For many ministers, wives and their families, Pastor Appreciation Month is a joyful time each October. Yet for those in churches that have not caught on to this opportunity, it can seem like any other time of year, good or bad.

As I flip through the files in my mind of seasons we've experienced in ministry, I am both humbled and exhilarated. We have certainly tread the paths of the whole gamut -- and I have lived to tell about it.

The pastor's wife sometimes is the forgotten and seemingly unappreciated part of the story. Many of us have lived through these feelings, and some of us are living through them even now.

Although it's nice to be loved and appreciated, we've got to be mindful that our significance comes from the Lord and what He says about us (1 Corinthians 1:31). Hear this from my heart:

-- You are valued.

-- You are needed.

-- You are on mission wherever you are and however that looks.

-- You are important to God's plan.

-- You are full of purpose.

-- You are special.

You will not always hear these things from those you serve and serve alongside. But that doesn't make them any less true.

If you forget these words from God, you will search for them in people who may not be able to give them to you. You will seek affection and even close friendships, but as you long to be watered by small drops or an occasional shower by other people, deep down you will feel dry. Naturally, sometimes we are energized by the sweet people we work with, but God never intended for those people to take His place or to fill us up.

Fellowship isn't a substitute for time with our Father. It's just not possible. He is our source.

There have been times that I have been like one of those dry, almost crunchy petunias at the end of summer, with just a bit of color left. Those may have been seasons when I allowed something or someone else to try to give me the spiritual nourishment I needed. It could have been something that caught my attention, good or bad, and I didn't even realize what was or wasn't happening at the time.

On the other hand, those dry petunia kind of seasons could have been allowed by the Lord to pull me into Him a little closer, and for that I have respect for such times.

Whatever the cause, I'm reminded of God's words in Jeremiah 29:13-14: "'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity....'"

Like Jeremiah, there are times when we've had to minister to people who weren't very good listeners, when it felt like a struggle to lead anything of spiritual value because, frankly, few wanted to follow. If you've been there -- or are there now -- know that "blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him" (Psalm 34:8).

And this: "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10).

That faithful servant and prophet, Jeremiah, painted this beautiful word picture in chapter 17, verses 7-8. I'm praying this for all of us:

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit."

Be encouraged, dear one. God hears. He knows all about it. And He has a purpose for you. Whether you feel you're on a mountaintop or trudging through thorny, thickets below:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Pastor Appreciation Month may find you with abundant happiness or it may find you feeling dry and despondent. Whatever season you're in, keep your eyes on Jesus. Draw water from the only One who can give you what you need to grow strong in Him. The blessings might not be what you think, but they are headed your way.

Wendy Baker, the new secretary at the Horner Homemaking House at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and her husband Jonathan, now a Bible teacher and assistant football coach, are parents to five children. This column first appeared at the seminary's Biblical Woman website, www.biblicalwoman.com.
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