A review of Partners in the Gospel: 50 Meditations for Pastors’ and Elders’ Wives by Megan Hill
This book arrived on my porch from Amazon in the same package as two giant containers of goldfish crackers that I planned to use to keep my two small children quiet at the end of a long morning of church. This humorous coincidence did not escape my notice. Sunday mornings can be overwhelming for any family with young kids; in my case, the struggle was exacerbated by the fact that we were in a season when my husband, an elder, would frequently get up to make announcements at the end of the service just as the kids were getting ready to stage a coup in our pew. Hence the goldfish.
Why Do We Need This Book?
The previous anecdote is meant to amuse, but it illustrates why I was happy to see this book had been published. Elders’ wives can face some unique challenges in the church, and we need to have a correct biblical mindset lest we succumb to discouragement, burnout, or worse. My husband and I have been going through School of the Shepherds together through Biblical Eldership Resources, and at one point Alex Strauch exhorts the elders, “You cannot do this job of shepherding God’s people without your wife’s cooperation and without your children’s cooperation, because you put your family at risk when you give this time to helping the larger family, the family of God.” Difficulties will come. Megan Hill puts it well in the section of this book entitled “When You Are Home Alone–Again”:
“Elders’ wives have to sacrifice their husbands in dozens of ways. We give up our demands on their time to elders’ meetings, home visits, and sermon or Bible-study preparation--which often come at the end of an already long work day. We give up our demands on their attention to text messages, phone calls, and a long line of people who are waiting for them after church. We give up our demands on their emotional energy to what Paul calls ‘the daily pressure…[of] anxiety for all the churches’ (2 Cor. 11:28). Sometimes it’s enough to make you want to cry.” (100)
So is being an elder’s wife all woe-is-me? Certainly not. In fact, half of the book is devoted to the joys we can experience as elders’ wives (more on that below). However, it can be easy to lose sight of those joys. I have experienced most of the situations listed above in my short time as an elder’s wife, and at times the Lord has used it to refine my character and strengthen my unity with my husband; other times I have reacted in the flesh or experienced periods of discouragement. Clearly, these are not the types of challenges that can be solved by goldfish crackers.
Facing Challenges with Scriptural Encouragement
So if elders’ wives will face challenges, what is the solution? They need to be able to fall back on the truths of God’s Word–and that means knowing what God’s Word says. Megan Hill’s book strives to help in this area through 50 short meditations (2-3 pages each) organized into four topical areas–heart, home, church, and community. Each meditation addresses either a joy or a challenge for elders’ wives in these areas and includes relevant portions of Scripture, some reflection questions, suggested topics for prayer, and application.
Some Scriptural encouragements I gleaned:
- Elders’ wives must see the local church as extremely valuable–so valuable that Christ shed His blood for it (Acts 20:28). Hill concludes, “The truth about the church allowed the Ephesian elders, as it allows us, to willingly spend and be spent for the church” (82).
- Elders’ wives can take comfort that they aren’t the first to experience loneliness for the sake of the gospel. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 of sending Timothy away to minister to the Thessalonians; this loss would have been much felt as it is clear from other Scriptures that Paul had a uniquely close relationship with Timothy. Hill says, “[These experiences of loneliness] are sacrifices you are making for Christ and his kingdom, and they are precious to our Lord” (101).
- Elders’ wives can understand that the ordinary tasks that they perform in support of their husbands can be viewed as a partnership in their husbands’ work. The Philippians helped Paul in his work through prayer and supporting his physical needs, and he viewed them as partners with him in the gospel (Phil. 1:5).
- Elders’ wives can trust God to bring fruit from their labors; He is the one who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). Our churches sometimes become mundane to us, but Hill reminds us that it is “one of the very best places to see the fruit of God’s redeeming work” (113).
Many of the truths reviewed in this book will be familiar to its audience, but there is something particularly encouraging about hearing them applied by someone who has experienced similar trials and temptations. There were many sections that I read with the relieved feeling of I’m not the only one who struggles with this. With 50 meditations, not every topic will be relevant to every reader–but a good way to tackle the book might be to read all of the “Joys” in order to be reminded of things you may have grown dull to, and to pick and choose which “Challenges” feel most relevant (the section titles are descriptive enough to clue you in).
A Hope for More
If there is a criticism I might give of this book, it’s that 2-3 pages aren’t enough to address some of the topics. Some, such as “When You Are Snared in Sin,” are really just too complex for that amount of pages. Other topics struck such a chord that I longed to read more. It is what it is, and I understand that the organization of the book demanded brevity for each topic; my hope is that more will be written (perhaps by Megan Hill!) geared towards the encouragement of elders’ wives. In the meantime, I recommend this excellent book as refreshing, real, and faithful to Scripture.