"Barbara, don't you believe the power of God can save your marriage?" asked my pastor as he looked straight into my eyes. I was in the midst of a divorce and broken.
"Yes, I do," I mumbled. "But it has taken me over three years and much prayer to remove my children from an abusive home and decide to raise them alone. In fact, it is the hardest decision I have ever made."
"Barbara," my pastor replied, "the problem is you are bitter, resentful and hostile."
I was dumbfounded. I grasped the chair to keep from falling over. After what seemed an eternity of silence, I raised my head. "Pastor, you are right. I am bitter, resentful and hostile, but I am firmly convinced that my God is big enough to handle these emotions. My feelings do not frighten him." I rose from my chair and bolted out the door.
The following Sunday the morning sermon was titled "God Hates Divorce." The content seemed too familiar and I realized I was listening to the private details of my life being broadcast from the pulpit. I had literally become a sermon illustration! I slid down into the pew. I wanted to disappear. The next Sunday the sermon was titled "What Happens When We Harden Our Hearts." Again, I heard the details of my life being scattered throughout the sanctuary. When I rose to leave, one of the deacons walked up to me and asked if the pastor was talking about me. I nodded and quickly scurried out of the church.
That evening my children and I ate dinner in silence until my daughter, Serena, blurted out, "How could Pastor be so mean to us?" My other two children echoed her question. I was thinking the same thing, but I wasn't sure my children needed to know that. I didn't want to plant the seeds of my bitterness in their hearts. "Lord, some wisdom, please," I pleaded. "Speak the truth in love," was what I heard. "Serena, I really don't know why Pastor did what he did. It's hurt my feelings, too. And yes, I'm also angry. But I know that if we hold a grudge, bitterness is going to take root in our hearts and rob us of knowing Jesus in a much deeper way." Those were words we all needed to hear.1