My congregation, Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, had a split ten years ago. It was a sad and ugly affair that hurt deeply and estranged friends from one another. Suspicion, doubt, and anger, permeated our days while sleep evaded our nights. Food had little taste and music did little to comfort. As the Psalmist well said, “weeping endured the night.”
We were in a season of great distress and sadness and even when I, as an individual, might succeed in “encouraging yourself in the Lord” I still suffered for others who struggled on wondering just what had happened.
Not only did we experience an internal explosion but our misery was compounded by outside forces at work who fed the fires of discontent, determined to see us burn to the ground and then stomp on the ashes. Yeah, it was intense.
By God’s grace, this dark chapter of our church’s history ended in a party. Within a couple of years most of the families who had left, returned. We met each other with the intention to apologize and seek forgiveness and a wonderful reconciliation ensued. Others, who did not rejoin, also pursed peace and restoration. The night ended and joy came flooding in the morning after.
From my personal experience, I’d like to share a few things learned.
- Your greatest battle will be with bitterness. Bitterness is anger and frustration turning sour. It is personal offense gone rotten. This is the result of believing that somehow you don’t deserve anything less than a comfortable and peaceful life. You didn’t sign up with Jesus to feel pain. If you were a football player you would expect to run the ball back every time without opposition; the opposing team would just stand there and let you flit by while the crowd cheered.
- When things go wrong, it is probably your fault.
- People will sin against you. They sinned against Jesus. Jesus died for sinners. Go and do thou likewise.
- The pot is always at a low boil.
- Love is powerful. Love is not based on feelings. Feeling will make you curse and say other things that you will regret. Love is purpose driven. Feelings are no match for love.
- What you think other people are thinking is a waste of time, even if you are right.
- The most important time to love your neighbor is when you don’t.
- Talk everything through with your family. Share with them the Psalms. Admit that you are part of the problem. You will be amazed how good that is now and will be later on.
- Do not avoid people that you are estranged from. If you happen to see them somewhere, in a public or private venue, walk toward them. Speak civilly. Afterwards, you will be glad that you did. It was hard but it was right. These are the first steps to your heart changing.
- Sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, or at least listen to them often.
- Turn the anger and pain of your fellow sufferers towards the face of God. Talk about Stephen the martyr’s prayer and Jesus’ prayer on the Cross. Consider also that the “others” might be doing the same.
- Do not let this situation define you. Trials are sent by God to mature you. Are you acting mature?
- Never underestimate Grace. God works in mysterious ways. You may find yourself sitting at a dinner party smiling and laughing with people that you never wanted to see again.
- The Story is never over.
- Your greatest battle will be with bitterness. Bitterness is anger and frustration turning sour. It is personal offense gone rotten. This is the result of believing that somehow you don’t deserve anything less than a comfortable and peaceful life. You didn’t sign up with Jesus to feel pain. If you were a football player you would expect to run the ball back every time without opposition…the opposing team would just stand there and let you flit by while the crowd cheered.(I know I said this earlier, I just didn’t want you to forget this one.)