Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife, by Gloria Furman
Gloria Furman. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Crossway, 2015: 160 pps. $11.99.
Sometimes a book title says it all. It’s succinct. It’s eye-catching. It calls you to open the pages. Then the hoped-for result happens—it captures your attention and draws you into another world until the final words release their grasp on your devotion to its ideals, leaving behind challenges, encouragements, and longings.
Gloria Furman is that kind of writer. She draws you in by her wisdom, her wit, her window into her life, but mostly by her devotion to the gospel and its application and implications to daily life. The Pastor’s Wife is no different. The theme of her book is love. The setting is her role as a pastor’s wife. The stage is her home and church and community. You would think that the main character would be her husband. After all, he is the pastor. But from the first pages, it is clear that the main character is Christ, and the pastor, his wife, their family and church are all supporting players.
Gloria states her aim up front:
What I aim to do here is to help lift your gaze to see the supernatural nature in what we are doing as we serve alongside our husbands in ministry….Our anchor must be cast on Christ, and our foundation must be his Word, because there’s no way we can love our Chief Shepherd, and the under-shepherd we are married to, and the bride we have been united to (Christ’s people, the church) unless we have first seen how Jesus loves us and gives us everything we need for life and godliness.
The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 is titled “Loving the Chief Shepherd.” In this section she frames the discussion on our identity in Christ and because of that, we are free from pursuing any competing and false identities that we place on ourselves or that are placed upon us. She reminds us that this is the foundation of who we are. We are “redeemed sinners who are loved by a holy God” (25). We are not primarily a woman, a mom, or a pastor’s wife. Gloria observes that “too many conversations regarding ministry wives are centered on who she is and what she ought to do, and we spend so little time talking about who Christ is and what He has done and will do” (20). We are in Christ and our identity in him is secure. Therefore, we are to love him above everything else, and subject all other loves to our first love, the Chief Shepherd.
Part 2 is called “Loving the Under-Shepherd.” In this section, Gloria sets the ministry wife’s focus, not primarily on her husband, but on Christ. She exposes many wives and their hearts’ selfish motivations in helping their husbands. How quickly and often we forget that our help comes from the Lord, and that he enables the help that he calls us to give to our husbands even as he provides the help that we need ourselves. We are not alone. We are not without help just because we are called to be helpers. We are free to serve and help our husbands because we have the help of the Lord to guide, strengthen, and sustain us.
How is it that we help and love our husbands? We pray for the Spirit to use their preaching to boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ. We prepare our hearts to listen to the preached Word so that we are fed and strengthened and built up in the faith for all our service to Christ. We entrust his and our own reputations to the Lord, avoiding the temptation of managing the expectations of others. We share in the joy of hospitality. Gloria writes,
We rejoice that the record of cheerful giving we want to have has already been credited to us by faith; we enjoy the freedom of fellowship with God via the righteousness of Christ. Are you lacking resources or cheerfulness to extend hospitality alongside your husband? Ask God, who freely gives and gives to the praise of his glory. (103)
In the final section, Part 3 “Loving the Bride of Christ,” Gloria beautifully articulates that “the church . . . is an incomprehensible, spiritual-literal reality. It is a prophetic hope that whispers of the end when the dwelling place of God is forever among men” (111). In this section she discusses Christ’s goal of building up and maturing his church, our call to participate in the mission of God to bring many across the earth to worship him as the one true God, and our joyful privilege to worship God as we serve him in our local assemblies.
In the last chapter, Gloria gives extended attention to how the Lord uses us in our weakness. I’m not going to give the whole book away, but this chapter is a must-read! For any ministry wife, or any Christian for that matter, we are so often aware of our weaknesses and see them as hindrances to fruitful ministry and service. She profoundly states, “Weakness isn’t in the way—it is the way.” You need to read the book to see how she unpacks this powerful truth from God’s Word.
HEAVEN AND THE CULMINATION OF OUR HOPES
The only problem I see with this book is that the title is a little misleading. You may be turned away from this book because the title suggests that it is only for ministry wives. I know this is her primary audience, but because it is rich in biblical truth on how we might better love Christ, the men he places in authority over us, and his bride in which we are a part, any Christian would benefit from reading it.
The Pastor’s Wife will capture your attention from its opening pages; it will draw you into another world—the world of heaven where all our hopes culminate. You will be challenged to love Christ above all else, encouraged to rely on the grace and strength that he provides, and you will long to live a life of love in this life as we wait for the return of the King of love.