Gisela Yohannan is a woman whom I have never met, but whom I admire. I would like to meet her some day. I've always wanted to pick the brain of the wife of a minister who has been successful both in ministry, in raising Godly children, and in maintaining a life unstained by moral failures. In Letters to my Sisters, she addresses other women whose husbands are in ministry with timeless, Biblical encouragement. This portion of a letter she wrote especially encouraged me as I continue in the role of helpmate to my husband as he follows the Pastoral calling on his life. I pray it encourages you too. You can access this and other books written by both the Yohannas at Gospel for Asia by clicking on the button on this blog.
"When I look at them now, I am often reminded of what I wrote by faith so many years ago in my book Mate and Helpmate:
I am sure as Daniel and Sarah grow up I will miss them not being small any more. But there is a day coming in their lives I am looking forward to—by faith. Before our children were born, we dedicated both of them to the Lord and we asked Him to save them and to call them for mission work. It will truly be the most wonderful day of my life when the Lord will answer this prayer. . . . I believe I will not fear to lose them as they become adults, but my joy will be even greater, knowing the Lord will call them and use their lives to bring glory to His name.
Because of the very nature of my husband’s calling, our family is quite visible, both to God’s people and to those who oppose Christianity as well. I know the same is true for you in the place where the Lord has asked you to serve Him. That’s why I want to share a few thoughts with you on the importance of your testimony.
Our lives are made visible to others by God’s choice. If you are like me, you prefer to be more private and selective of what others should know about you and your family life.
But God has other ideas. He is trying to save a world that does not know Him or His Word. That’s why He chose to provide them with a living example of His grace—you. His intention is this: As they observe you, they can clearly see how God could transform their lives if they trusted Him. In addition, God is building a church with people who often come straight from heathen backgrounds. These new believers need to have the opportunity to watch and learn from someone living the Christian life before their eyes.
Paul is writing about all this in 2 Corinthians 3:2–3: “You are our letter . . . known and read by all men. . . . You are a letter of Christ. . . .” It’s not easy to be observed 24 hours a day. It puts enormous responsibility on us to live worthy of our calling and to be that example for others to follow. As adults, we find it difficult to be watched so closely, but our children feel the pressure even more. Church members usually have much higher expectations of the pastor’s children than they have of their own. Consequently, the pastor’s children often receive more criticism from people, a longer list of do’s and don’ts from their parents and more punishment for their shortcomings.
All this can easily result in discouragement, resentment toward God and the wish to have nothing to do with ministry. But by far the greatest danger is for your child to become a hypocrite, which can easily occur if he is constantly told to behave in a certain way, “otherwise, what might people think?” This teaches him to act out a spirituality before people that he does not have. Eventually, he will be more concerned about pleasing people than pleasing God. God never intended our testimony to be an extra strain. It should be the natural outcome of our normal, everyday walk with Him. He never meant for us to give an extra performance before the world! All He wanted was to let them see how Jesus lives through us.
If there is no difference between how I act at home or in church or how I talk to my husband and children in private or public, my testimony will have great power. In addition, my children will seeGod doesn’t expect perfect performance. He looks for faithfulness and sincerity in the testimony we have for Him before the world. When He decided to display our life to those around us, He knew well how weak and fragile we are. How is it, then, that He still wants others to watch our lives?
God wants to demonstrate how His grace and power are sufficient in our weakness. He also wants for the world to see how true Christians humble themselves, confess their sins, love one another, ask for forgiveness, love their enemies, persevere under trials, exercise faith, trust the Lord in difficult circumstances and are faithful until death. The devil will do all he can to destroy your testimony. Don’t be fooled even for a minute to think the devil has no interest in you because you are “just” the pastor’s wife or an ordinary member of your Gospel team. You are a target for the enemy, because whatever you do will deeply affect the credibility of your husband’s ministry or the effectiveness of your Gospel team. In fact, the more your life and ministry are visible, the greater interest the devil has in causing you or another member of your family to stumble, at the same time discrediting the name of the Lord and discouraging other believers.
Temptations, false accusations, sickness, discouragement, the lure of materialism, opportunities to compromise the truth, lies, the cares of this world, disappointment, misunderstandings between you and your husband or co-workers—these are just a few of the things the devil will use to trip you up. God is well able to keep us. Knowing about the devil’s intentions should not fill us with fear, but instead keep us on the alert.
“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4) is God’s promise to us. To give the devil no opportunity to destroy your testimony, do these things:
• Walk in humility before God, knowing that you need His grace every moment of your life.
• Flee temptation and anything that could cause you to compromise.
• Never allow sin, bitterness and resentment to put down roots in your heart.
• Forgive others.
• Pray daily for yourself, your husband, your children and your co-workers, that you will all stay faithful to Jesus.
Your Sister, Gisela