Amy was a widow–the consequence of a motorcycle accident. Her husband was killed instantly. It happened two years earlier, and she continued to grieve over the loss of her husband. He was fun-loving and outgoing. She missed his friendly, cheerful presence. She always looked forward to his coming home. They were best friends. There were no children. She now lives alone in the house they were buying. She works in the church office and loves her job. When the church doors are open, she is always there. But going home is hard and lonely. Some friends have suggested that she move out of the house and live somewhere else. Her house holds too many memories.
That statement caught my attention. What kind of memories? Isn’t it good to have happy memories? Is it possible that there are unhappy memories that crowd out the happy ones? I encouraged her to recall some unhappy memories toward the people who caused the accident that killed her husband.
She took me by surprise. Yes, there were unhappy memories. They centered around that motorcycle. She did not want him to buy it. In the first place, it was a strain on the budget. They could not afford a powerful motorcycle and a decent car–so they drove a ten-year-old car. They would go for long motorcycle rides in the evenings. He was a bit reckless, cutting in and out, going too fast. She hated those rides. He loved them. He insisted on riding the motorcycle to church. She despised showing up at church with her helmet and messed-up hair.
One night he proposed that they go for a ride. It was an ideal evening. She did not want to go. The discussion became heated, but she stood her ground. He went for a ride alone. A car went through a stop sign and hit him broadside. He died on the pavement.
How does she feel when she talks about this? It makes her mad. He left her with an old car, house payments, and even motorcycle payments. He was underinsured, which left her to pay off some debts. She hates writing those checks. If only he had listened to her, it would not have happened. Her thoughts are usually disapproval of his choices. She resents the position he left her in. Over and over, she reviews her grudge against him.
I could see another problem. But when to speak and when to wait is often difficult to discern. The Bible says, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
My heart went out to her. Was she ready for my opinion? What does she think I will say? She thinks I will tell her to quit resenting her husband. But she tells herself that she is entitled to resent him. I agree. Her husband left her in a mess. She can nurse her grudge against her husband as long as she wishes. But she must realize that she is punishing herself. As long as she holds her grudge, her life is anchored in the past. Over and over again she relives the agony of that day and nurses her resentment. She can be released from this bondage only if she is ready to let it go.
Jesus instructs us to forgive men their trespasses (Matthew 6:14) and to love one another (John 13:34), so I finally said, “One option you have is to forgive your husband, repent of your resentment, let the Lord forgive you, and then ask him to fill your heart with love.”
She was ready for that opportunity. I observed a miracle as she released her grudge, asked for forgiveness, and received the love of God in her heart. Immediately she was released from her burden, and now she is free.
Amy’s experience illustrates what happens when two problems coexist. One can overshadow the other. It seems reasonable that the tragic death of her husband would explain her misery. In this case however, it was the resentment that held the sting.
[This story is taken from Dr. Brandt’s book, The Word for the Wise. The names and certain details in this true case history have been changed to protect each person’s identity and privacy.]