Can ministry be destructive to the marriage relationship?
This is a tough subject and one that is not discussed enough in the Christian community. We all are called to serve and make disciples. We serve the poor and needy. We serve other Christians. We serve our families. We serve at our churches. We are called to share the Gospel. We serve, we serve, we serve… The fact is- ministry is often overwhelming.
The needs are without limit. And ministry without boundaries can be very destructive to marriages. We are instructed that the Lord must come first in our lives. We are to have nothing else in front of God. Where does that put your spouse? If serving the Lord is 24/7, when can you possibly have time for your spouse?
I think there are a couple of misconceptions here. Yes, personally- you must put God first. This is putting Him first in your life as your Lord and Savior. This is your personal relationship with Jesus. Your spouse should not come between you and your time to worship, your quiet time, and your prayer time. Ministry, on the other hand is different. In this case, I believe, your spouse comes first. Too often we see the marriage relationship suffer in the name of ministry service. Men and women both will neglect their partner in pursuit of ministry, believing that they are doing the right thing by putting God first. They generally have good intentions. They love the Lord and want to serve Him always. Again 24/7. But remember- ministry needs are never ending. If you always put ministry first, you will never have quality time for your spouse.
Your spouse will be left with only your leftovers.
The time between ministry work when you are exhausted and worn out. Just the scraps of your life. And they do not deserve it. And it’s not what I believe that the Lord wants for our marriages. Ministry can also be deceptive. We can consider many things “ministry” and the Lord’s work.
Also, when we are serving others, there is always an element of pride and power in providing for others. Having all the answers. Coming in and saving the day. The truth is- we will not be able to separate ourselves from this reality this side of heaven. We must guard against this always. When we are doing God’s work, we can remove all sensible reasoning:
“Honey, I will be home late again, I have counseling tonight till 9 pm.”
“You will have to make dinner for yourself, Sherry is struggling again and I need to visit with her.”
“I’m leaving Friday for another mission’s conference and I will be gone all week.”
“I need to visit my Mom again this weekend. Her hip is bothering her.”
If you find yourself giving your spouse only your leftovers due to your ministry efforts, then its time for some changes. Spend some time to reorient yourself and rearrange your schedule. The truth is that your ministry may be ruling your life. Don’t use the Lord as an excuse to neglect your spouse. Ministry has a way of clouding our vision. Examine yourself objectively. Am I giving my marriage and my spouse the time that they need and deserve? Maybe its time to serve your spouse? I bet they need you. And they deserve much more than your leftovers!