When Pastors and Wives Grieve
by Blair Cushman

April 14, 2022

Pastoral Ministry

When Pastors and Wives Grieve

By Blair Cushman

April 14, 2022

“Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We love these verses and quote them often. They guide our uncommon community and influence our relationships (At least they should). Yet, the context in which they are written is not small groups specifically. They are exhortations following specific theological teaching.

Both of these verses in 1 Thessalonians come immediately after sections of Scripture where Paul, the author, is giving us a glimpse into things that will happen in the end times. After cracking the window into the future for us, Paul concludes with “go encourage one another. Go build each other up.”

I fear that the norm is actually the opposite when we think of the events—both marvelous and terrifying—that must take place when the world as we know it comes to an end. We get discouraged. We become afraid. We hurt. Without digressing into all the reasons for this, we have to embrace the fact that God has given us this glimpse to encourage us. 

Death makes us want to peer into that cracked window more closely. In desperation we look and wonder into what is on the other side. The more intently we look, the more encouraged we become. The more deeply we gaze, the more we are built up. 

My Story

We were expecting our first born child in October 2010. What we could never have expected was that our precious daughter, Gwendolyn, would go home to the Lord only 36 hours after a traumatic birth, passing away from complications that occurred during labor. As we stared death in the face, we battled discouragement and despair. We were laid low. There are many things my wife Erin did to put courage in me in specific moments in the days and weeks and months after Gwendolyn went home. My note-drawer is overflowing with tender notes she wrote to calm stormy days. Etched in my memory are her doe-eyed stares, where no words crossed our lips, that were able to transfer strength and courage when mine was wavering. On nights when my violent sobs shook the whole bed, her steady hand and quiet prayers stilled my hurting heart. 

Here are two broader ways in which Erin encouraged me and built me up as a man, husband, and pastor.

Hunger for Heaven

Since October 20, 2010 Erin has had a tenacious hunger to know more of God’s Word. Like a good mom, Erin wanted to know all about heaven. After all, her daughter was there and who lets their kid go somewhere without doing some research on the place and trusting the one chaperoning the trip? Erin scoured the scriptures and consumed biblical literature.

Her pursuit fueled my pursuit which further fueled her pursuit which fueled my pursuit and so the cycle continues to this day. I am motivated to lead and learn as she does. Our spiritual growth feeds off one another’s and we are mutually encouraged (Romans 1:12).

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Go to Work

Idleness is our worst enemy during sorrow. There are times to be still, no doubt, but if we remain idle, we fall prey to self-pity, depression, and withdrawal from life and responsibility. I was given great freedom to have time off work and ministry in those days to care for Erin and have my own space to grieve. I know this is not the case for every man. But after a few weeks it came time for me to get back to work, not entirely for my employer’s sake, but for my own health as well. Erin knew this and encouraged me to go, even when she wanted me at her side.

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And because she encouraged me, work did not become an escape to run from the pain or withdraw from my family. It did the opposite. I was able to go be productive and work as God designed me to and return home to love and lead my wife. She encouraged me to be a man and by releasing me to do so, I was a better husband and leader. I would like to think that she would have rather had me home with her all day but it was right for me to work.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5).

How has your spouse put courage in you? Treasure the ways and store them in your memory bank. Thank God for them and how your spouse loves and encourages you even in her brokenness. How are you encouraging one another? Are you looking for specific ways to build one another up as you grieve? Put aside the notion that you have to be strong for the other person. God is your strength and portion (Psalm 73:26) so let Him be theirs also. Admit you are broken over this, don’t have the answers, and point each other to the One who does. That will encourage one another more than anything else.

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2).

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