A 40-Day Devotional for Healing from Church Hurt and for Loving Well in Ministry


By Leigh Powers

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Renewed is a devotional providing healing for those in ministry who have been hurt in the church.

Ministry is a privilege, but it can also be a painful experience. Unrealistic expectations, church conflict, forced resignations, and our own struggles with burnout, loneliness, and insecurity can make church feel more like a place of wounding than a place of healing. How can wounded leaders find the courage to reject bitterness and keep loving the church?

Renewed is a forty-day devotional for women in ministry, ministry wives, and lay leaders who have been wounded by their congregations. You are not alone. God sees your pain. He knows your hurts. And he is waiting to bind up your broken heart. This forty-day journey into the healing love of Jesus will help you find the courage to stop hiding and start loving the church again.



I backed my car out of the garage and paused at the edge of the driveway. Left or right? I should turn right and head over to our church. People would be expecting to see me in my usual seat, Bible open, listening attentively as my husband preached. But we'd been going through a season of conflict. Friends had left the church. People had worked to undermine my husband's leadership. He wasn't sure how much longer he'd have a job. I was tired of smiling and acting like everything was fine. I wanted to worship.

I turned left and headed out of town to a church where I could lose myself in the crowd and not have people asking why the pastor's wife was sitting in the pew silently weeping. I prayed as I drove: Lord, this hurts. Why does church have to be so hard? I don't know how much longer I can keep this up.

That Sunday I thought I'd hit bottom. But it was also the beginning of my journey of healing. God renewed my spirit, healed my hurts, and restored my love for the church. It is a privilege to minister to God's people. But it can also be challenging. And if you're involved in ministry as a member of church staff, a part of a ministry family, or serving as a faithful lay leader in the congregation, you've probably experienced the painful and difficult side of ministry. You may bear a few old wounds or still-tender scars. But there is hope. God waits to bind up your broken spirit and restore your hope. You, too, can be renewed.

We'll travel the path of renewal together over the next forty days. The devotions in this book will lead you through the journey of lamenting the pain, letting go of the hurt, looking to Christ for healing, and finding the courage to love the church again. Not all the stories in this book are mine, but they are all true. Over the years I've been blessed to encounter many ministers, ministry wives, and women in ministry who have shared their stories with me. Names and details have been changed, but all are based on the experiences of real men and women who have lived through the heartbreak and joys of ministry—and the healing Christ can bring.

This forty-day journey into the healing love of Jesus will help you find the courage to stop hiding and start loving the church again. So, let's open our arms and grab hold of Christ with everything we've got. As we find our healing in him, we will be renewed.


Sometimes our modern worship songs don't give voice to my emotions. I love singing about God's faithfulness and power. But I also need to give voice to my hurt. Bottling it up and slapping a happy face on top gets me nowhere.

Almost a third of the Psalms are songs of lament. Lament gives voice to our pain; it allows us to grapple with the hard questions and wrestle with our feelings of abandonment, fear, anger, and betrayal. Lament lets us express our spiritual disorientation and the chasm the struggles of life can make us feel exists between us and God. And yet lament leads us to the turn—to God comforting us in the midst of our pain and sorrow, to the revelation that he is present even now. Lament does not indicate a lack of faith; it demonstrates that we take God seriously enough to grapple with the disconnect between what we believe about God and the pain of our experience. Grief and pain are part of ministry. Lament helps us move from sorrow into hope.



God, I don't like you today.

You called us here. We came because you said "go." And we did.

We came here—a thousand miles from family and friends—to serve this little church that said they "want a young pastor so we can reach the community."

Turns out they meant the community that looks like them. People who will work in the nursery, put dollars in the offering plate, and not ask to change a thing.

Good luck with that one.

I see the hope in my husband's eyes slowly dying. It dims a little with every idea shot down, every deacon who puts a finger in his face before he gets up to preach, every Sunday the self-proclaimed owners of the church stand in the back of the sanctuary and stop talking when we come in.

It's your fault, God. You brought us here. What have we done but be faithful?

You promised. You promised. I know you are good. I know you are faithful. I know you love us. But what good is it if you don't come through when we need you?

God, I don't like you right now. But I don't have anywhere else to go but to you. Do you care? Do you see?

God, I love you. But I don't like you today.


By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion… How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?… Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:1, 4, 89, NIV)

Psalm 137 is not on anyone's top-ten list of "Most Frequently Preached Psalms." It's a song of bitterness and regret sung by a people in exile—a people who longed for the same fate to be meted out against their captors that they saw befall their children.

The rawness of their anguish is hard to read, but it's in the Bible for a reason. Psalm 137 and the other lament psalms teach us that we can be honest before God. God is neither surprised nor threatened by our anger. When we find ourselves consumed by an anguished and angry soul, the best thing we can do is pour out our anger in raw honesty before God.

We live in a messy, sin-stained world. Those who are meant to be God's people don't always live like it. As ministers and church leaders, being on the front lines of the battle means we get hit by the shrapnel. It hurts, and sometimes anger is our gut-level response to the pain. Anger at ourselves. Anger at our churches. Anger at God, because it's his fault we're here in the first place.

When you are angry at God, the worst thing you can do is hide it. Like water on rock, anger has a way of wearing us down and seeping through the weak places. The solution is not to hide our anger but to let it be healed in him. We can't adequately cope with our anger unless we admit the anger is there. Pour it out in your journal. Lie on the floor and shake your fist at God. Lay it bare before him—all the anger, all the blame, all the hurt you've choked down and left unspoken. It's not a sign of unfaithfulness; it proves you care enough about your relationship with God to engage in the struggle.

Then be silent and wait. The God who refuses to abandon us in the storm whispers peace to us in the silence. For every Psalm 137 there is a Psalm 138: "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me" (Psalm 138:7). Our God will accomplish his purposes for you. His love is everlasting, and he does not forsake the works of his hands.

Wait on the Lord. God's grace turns anger into praise.


Lord, I am exhausted by the effort of keeping my anger pressed down. I'm angry at our church, at my family, at our circumstances. But mostly I'm angry at you. We claimed your promises, and it feels like you've let us down. We believed and have been disappointed, and I am furious with you. God, meet me here in this moment. Let's do business together. I'm clinging to you. I won't let go until you bless me.


Are you struggling with anger at God? What lies at the root of your anger? Do you fear being honest with God about your anger? If so, why? Write out a letter to God explaining your feelings. Don't hold back. Pour it out. When you run out of words, wait in the silence. God will meet you there.



The phone sits silent on my counter. Will it buzz if I stare at it long enough? Maybe a playdate for the kids. Or an invitation to lunch.

I'd welcome a sales call at this point.

I've tried, Lord. I've invited moms and kids over to play. Called them to meet me at the park. Invited families over for supper. People respond and it goes well, but no one ever reciprocates.

How long do I keep making the first move, Lord?

It's not as though people are unfriendly. They greet us on Sundays and hug my neck. We chat in the foyer. Shake hands during the greeting time. But people are busy. They've got their network of friends established already, and fitting me in is like adding a new bead to a necklace that's already strung. They're friendly on Sunday, but the rest of the week it's out of sight, out of mind.

Sundays aren't enough for me anymore.

God, I want friends. I want someone to laugh and be silly with over the phone. Someone to call on those "I need chocolate or I'm going to kill the kids" days. Someone to see a chick flick with and laugh with over the absurdity of it all. I want more than Bible study friendships—I want someone to be real with, someone who knows the hard things I keep hidden and loves me anyway. Someone who cares about my soul. Someone who is willing to risk being real with me, too.

I've got my husband. I've got my kids. I've got you. I've got people and projects to fill my days.

But, God, I'm so lonely.

Just this once, could you make the phone ring?


God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. (Psalm 68:6)

When we moved to our first pastorate, I had a picture of the ideal friend in my mind. A young mother, like me. Someone in the church or an area pastor's wife who was ministry-minded. Good talker, avid reader, solid prayer warrior.

I never found that person, but God still provided friendship for me: a single schoolteacher, a live-wire retiree, and a grandmother who was both mentor and friend. God knew my needs for friendship, and he met them abundantly.

Psalm 68:6 says God "sets the lonely in families." Our God sent Jonathan to David, Barnabas to Saul, Ruth to Naomi, and Elizabeth to Mary.

Feeling isolated, alone, like no one understands? God knows your need for intimacy and connection, and he is both willing and able to see it fulfilled.

Admittedly, friendship can be complex when you're in ministry or ministry leadership. There are those in our congregations who place us on pedestals and then punish us when they discover the cracks in our feet of clay. Some seek us out because of their own needs. Others sidle up close and win our confidence, only to turn against us at the slightest provocation. Even with those we can trust, there still remains a barrier of things we can't speak about because of privacy or confidentiality concerns. Even your closest friends in the church don't need to know about your burden for the deacon whose marriage is struggling or the anonymous letters that show up in your inbox every Monday morning.

And yet I believe friendship is possible, even in ministry. God desires community for his people, and he works to bring it to pass.

How are we to find those safe places of friendship?

Finding friendship begins with prayer. Jesus meant it when he said, "Ask and it will be given to you" (Matthew 7:7). That promise extends to our need for friendship. Ask God to meet your needs for friendship and to show you the potential friends he has already placed in your life.

Our search for friendship may also mean we need to let go of expectations. In our first pastorate, I had to let go of my ideal-friend picture and open my eyes to the possibilities for friendship God had already given me. Our new friends may not look like our old friends—or even that much like us. One of the beautiful things about the body of Christ is how God brings unity in diversity. What if God wants that beauty in diversity to shine through your own friendships?

But we can't just wait for new friends to find us. Developing new friendships often requires us to take initiative. Ask your coworker to lunch or invite a neighbor to join you on your walk. Set up playdates and coffee dates, write a thank-you note, and pick up the phone. Consider which relationships you would like to deepen, and prayerfully take initiative in pursuing those friendships.

Your best potential for friendship may not be at your church. And that's okay. When church is also your job—or your husband's—sometimes you need the release of friendships that help you get away from it all. Learn to knit, join a book club, try out a spin class, or check out a midweek Bible study at another church. New contexts and experiences can lower barriers and help you cross the threshold of friendship.

As you prayerfully seek to deepen relationships, remember that friendship is a gift. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). Every good and perfect gift comes from God—including the gift of friendship. Kindred spirits show up in unexpected places. Wherever we find them, they are gifts to be treasured.


God, sometimes I ache with loneliness so deeply it takes my breath away. Father God, you know my needs for friendship and connection. I'm trusting you to meet them. Show me who you've placed in my life who might become a trusted friend. Help me take steps to nurture those relationships. You set the lonely in families. Please create a heart-family for me.


Has God already put someone in your life who could be a friend? Prayerfully consider your circle of acquaintances. Is there a relationship you would like to deepen? If so, take one action step this week to further that potential friendship. If not, actively look for opportunities to develop new friendships and pick one new experience to try.



I blew it today, God.

It's been a long time coming, but today the pressure cooker finally exploded. I sat there and fumed through all the back-and- forths and worries about the budget and how we've-never-done- it-that-way-before, and I finally lost it. Lost my temper, let what I was thinking spew out of my mouth. It wasn't pretty. I apologized, they accepted, and we moved on. But what's done can't be undone, and I'm wondering how I can dare attempt to lead this group of people again.

Lord, I feel like I've failed you. It's not only this moment today—though it was spectacularly horrible. But what have I accomplished since I've been here? Nothing changes. Same church, same faces in the pews. I can think of a few marriages that have fallen apart on my watch—none that have been saved. Kids drift away from us their senior year and never come back to the shore of faith. There have been a lot of funerals, but not so many baptisms or births. The church is slowly dying, and it feels like it's my fault. If only I had been braver, bolder, smarter, stronger—something more than I am. Maybe then I could have turned the tide. But it's just me. Am I doing what you brought me here to do?

If I could turn back time, I'd do things differently. I'd change the outcome of some conversations. Ask more questions. Embrace confrontation instead of running from it. Deal with emotions instead of bottling them up until they explode. But all I can do is go forward from here. Something has to change, Lord. Start with me.


Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:72)

One of the major themes in the book of Mark is the disciples' failure. Mark records how the disciples consistently failed to grasp Jesus' mission. When Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, the disciples responded by squabbling over who was the greatest. They failed to perform miracles; they slept when they should have prayed. And in his denial of Christ, Peter had the greatest failure of all. But failure was not the end of Peter's story.

Jesus had told Peter this moment was coming. As Jesus and his disciples left the upper room and went out to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples they would all fall away and be scattered. Peter refused to believe it. He vowed that while the other disciples might fail, he surely would not. Peter promised to die with Jesus. But then he folded under pressure. In the end, all it took was a servant girl's question for Peter to deny having been with Jesus or even knowing his name (Mark 14:6671).

Peter's mistake was in relying on his own strength rather than on the Spirit's power. We should not mistake emotional zeal for spiritual strength. Peter was zealous, but he lacked the strength that comes from the Spirit's transformation. Peter believed he could save Jesus, but he needed Jesus to save him.

Peter denied Jesus, but Jesus did not deny him. After the resurrection, Jesus sent Mary Magdalene to tell Peter and the other disciples that he was risen, and on the day of Pentecost it was Peter who boldly proclaimed the gospel to the gathered crowd. The one who had once denied Jesus could no longer be silenced by prison, punishment, or intimidation. Peter had vowed he would die for Jesus, and he eventually got his chance. Tradition tells us Peter was crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

Have you blown it? Trusted in your own emotional fervor rather than in true Spirit-filled strength? Peter's story reminds us that our failures do not overwhelm the gospel's power. Failure is not the end of our stories. Coming to the end of our own strength is a good beginning because it reminds us of our need for a Savior. The kingdom of God rests on Christ's shoulders, not our own. He doesn't expect us to be perfect—he expects us to be his. Failure is not the end; it is the opportunity for a new beginning.


Lord, thank you that failure doesn't have to be the end of my story. Forgive me for relying on my strength instead of yours, for expecting to have all the answers when you are the answer. Help me to use this failure as a new beginning. Thank you for not giving up on me.


How do you respond to failure? With anger, grief, or guilt? Do you blame yourself or blame others? How do you think God views your failure? List out how your failures could be an opportunity for a new beginning.



  • "I absolutely love this book. Leigh is honest, candid, raw, and open. I don't know a pastor's wife anywhere who hasn't been where she's been. I also don't know many who are bold enough to express their thoughts and feelings the way Leigh has expressed them. I love most that when Leigh struggled with her faith, she chose to press in to God rather than run away. As a pastor's wife who's had to learn to love the church over the long haul, I am grateful for this book!"—Leighann McCoy, pastor's wife and author of Spiritual Warfare for Women, A Woman's Guide to Hearing God's Voice, and Taking Responsibility for the Choices We Make
  • "Being a pastor's wife has simultaneously been one of my greatest joys and my greatest struggles. When I've experienced hurts and heartaches, I haven't known what to do beyond turning to the Lord. That's why I'm grateful for Leigh Powers. In RENEWED, she offers us a knowing heart and a guiding hand as we seek the Lord's healing, something we all will need at some point in ministry."—Christine Hoover, author of The Church Planting Wife and Messy Beautiful Friendship
  • "As a pastor's wife, daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter, I related to every single word in Leigh's book. Someone in my family has experienced just about every worst-case scenario imaginable in ministry. But one of the most beautiful parts of being part of a family with well over 100 years of ministry experience is hearing the stories of restoration, of redemption, of reconciliation. Leigh's stories coupled with biblical truth offer all of us in ministry a tool for moving through the hard seasons and celebrating the hope we have in Christ. This book belongs on the bedside table of every pastor's wife."—Teri Lynne Underwood, writer, speaker, and author of Praying for Girls: Asking God for the Things They Need Most
  • "Being in ministry can be a joy, but it can also bring about pain and loneliness. Leigh Powers, a pastor's wife, shares from her heart with honesty and transparency about the struggles of being on a church staff. I found myself saying, 'Yes, I've felt and thought those exact things.' But Leigh doesn't just share about the struggles; she shares how to walk through those difficult times by being honest with God and allowing Him to heal the hurts that are inevitable in ministry. This is a must-have book for not only those in full-time ministry, but for every Christian."—Crickett Keeth, Director of Women's Ministry at First Evangelical Church, author of The Gift of Rest, and co-author of Sumatra with the Seven Churches
  • "RENEWED is written from the heart with transparent, authentic emotion as Leigh Powers shares her wounds from the fierce battles of ministry through the instrument of prayer taken straight from her prayer journal. But then -- and this is what I love -- Leigh takes her story and reflects God's light on the hurt through His Word. She shares wisdom and insight into how the relevant scripture impacts and transforms the difficult place into a watershed of God's grace. Each of the 40 devotions end in a prayer and an opportunity for the reader to contemplate her own life, her own wounds and lay them honestly at the feet of Jesus where He can take their despair, infuse it with His hope, and bring healing to His faithful servant. Have you been wounded by the church, especially due to ministry? RENEWED will take you straight to the throne of grace where your painful places can be soothed and healed by the Father's love."—Nan Jones, pastor's wife of 31 years, speaker, and author of The Perils of a Pastor's Wife
  • "Leigh Power's RENEWED gripped me from the start and held me through forth days of help and healing. It is honest and refreshing."—Bob Hostetler, author of Life Stinks... And Then You Die
  • "Practical, honest, down-to-earth, and inspirational. Those are the words I'd use to describe Leigh Powers' book, RENEWED. I only wish it had been available when I was starting out two decades ago as a ministry leader and pastor's wife! I highly recommend it as an encouraging and much-needed resource."—Dena Dyer, speaker, coach, and author/co-author of ten books including Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples

On Sale
Nov 28, 2017
Page Count
192 pages

Leigh Powers

About the Author

Leigh Powers has been in full-time ministry for the past fifteen years, and is a pastor’s wife and devoted Bible student. Leigh’s works have been published in MomSense, Just Between Us, Seek, Penned From the Heart, and at (in) She has written over 100 Bible study lessons for publishers such as BaptistWay Press, Smyth & Helwys, and Union Gospel Press. She earned her MDiv at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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