I sat there motionless with my head buried in my hands. My body was numb. My mind was in a stupor. No -tears remained to be shed. No wail was left to escape my lips. Only silence prevailed. Despair began to take hold. I had almost lost contact with reality. That which I had feared f6r years had finally occurred. She had told me that she did not love me. She wanted a divorce.
Deep down I had known for a long time that she did not care for me. After all, it had been fifteen years since I had heard those three precious words. Even in the early years of our marriage she had spoken them sparingly. I kept praying that in time she would learn to love me.
We had grown, as she often put it, “poles apart.” Communication had become almost non-existent. As our children matured and left home she moved into a separate bedroom. We became strangers imprisoned in the same house.
When we married I wanted a helper suitable for the work of gospel preaching to which I had already committed my life. This is what I had sought. I really believed at that time I had found such a mate.
Above all material things, I wanted a good home. One where love would permeate every thought, every utterance every deed. I longed for a relationship where the word oi God would be read, reverenced and obeyed. I am persuaded that I tried to make such a home.
Now I knew, even as I had known for some time, that this was actually the primary problem in our marriage. She did not believe what I believed and preached. She did not see wrong in many things that I was convinced were wrong. She did not want for our family what I wanted.
There were early signs that she was not fully supportive of my work. As time went on this became more apparent. She would often complain to others about the poor plight of the preacher’s family. The lack of money and material security caused her great anxiety. She resented “living in a fish bowl.”
She let it be known that she was not happy as a preacher’s wife. For years she tried to dissuade me from full-time preaching. She finally took no interest in my work and gave me no encouragement. I went everywhere alone.
As our children approached their teens she became ambitious for them to be popular. She encouraged them to go, do, and dress as their peers. This created considerable conflict between us. In time they began to defy my authority. My voice became as “a clanging cymbal” to their ears.
When their public behavior became more questionable, some brethren, including elders, began to criticize me and find fault with my preaching. Although I continued to speak out against those things practiced by my family even more frequently and with greater emphasis, some were unsympathetic to my dilemma. To my knowledge, no one appealed to them with tears “to walk worthily of their calling.”
As our children gradually turned away from the Lord to the world and/or liberalism, she followed. She copied their dress, speech and actions. Her attendance for Bible study and worship soon became irregular. Before long she began to visit liberal churches. She later placed her membership with the most liberal group in town.
All along I plead with tears for her to be a dutiful loving wife, a worthy mother, and above all a faithful servant of God. All such pleadings were spurned with scorn. She stubbornly persisted on her destructive course.
Divorce! How could it be? For nearly thirty years I had preached against it. I had warned our girls that marriage was for life, that divorce should not be considered as a viable alternative. And now the vows of their parents were about to be broken.
“What an embarrassment this will be to my family,” I mused. I then thought, “What a disgrace to the cause of Christ to which I have devoted most of my life.” I considered how many looked up to me as an example, and now some of the weaker ones might be caused to stumble. I even imagined the secret glee of those with whom I had crossed swords in the past.
I felt like a miserable failure. “I have failed as a husband, as a father, and as a gospel preacher,” I whimpered. “Please Lord,” I cried, “don’t let me fail as a servant of thine!”
There had been times when I had almost given up. On numerous occasions I had stood in the pulpit when I actually wanted to run. Preaching, so long my joy, my life, my everything, had become almost an unbearable burden. I often wondered, “What right do I have trying to tell people how to live when I can’t even lead my own family in the right way?”
As you may suppose, I experienced severe depression. I became withdrawn, cried often and for no apparent reason. I could not concentrate. I kept all of my hurt bottled up inside. At times it seemed that I would explode from within. Even suicide appeared as an appealing escape.
As I later learned, many brethren saw what was happening but were afraid to interfere. Oh, how I now wish that they had! I was so ashamed that I would not confide in anyone. Perhaps it was partly my vain pride. “After all, this just could not happen to a preacher of my reputation,” I rationalized.
I picked up my Bible and opened it to the book of Job. I read the entire story without stopping. In that hour I felt myself sitting on the very same ash heap with him. I asked, as oft before, “Why?” Like Job, prior to his latter experience, I found no answer.
I read some of David’s psalms and meditated upon his troubles and faithfulness. I then recalled how Paul spoke of many afflictions as “light” and “for the moment.” When I considered the sufferings of my blessed Savior I became ashamed and begged forgiveness.
I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. I prayed as I had never prayed before. As the morning light began to flicker across my desk I continued to implore our merciful Father for strength that my faith not fail, that I might be able to keep on preaching his word.
It was then that I pledged, that with the help of God, I would not give up. I determined to continue the good fight. I would now be free to preach Christ with less restraint than before. I would probably have to move to another area, but I was willing to do that.
I picked up the telephone and called a long time preacher friend. He was away from home. He never returned my call. I contacted others who expressed their condolence and wished me well. It was obvious that they did not want to get involved.
I contacted churches who were looking for a preacher, some where I had preached in the past. They felt that with my present situation it was not best for me to preach there. Others never did reply.
Again I began to have doubts. “Why are brethren, who have for years accepted my preaching gladly, now treating me as if I was tainted?” I asked. I was still the same man as before. I believed the same gospel, loved the Lord even more and agonized for lost souls. I just couldn’t understand it.
A few caring saints came to my aid. They showed their love by their deeds. Some stuck their necks out for me. One preacher, a dear friend from my youth, recommended me to a small congregation in a region with few Christians. I readily accepted their invitation to preach there. I did not foresee any problems in raising support. I called upon churches where I had preached locally and in meetings. To my dismay some turned me down because of my martial condition. Yet others quickly responded with promise of sufficient wages. One congregation and an individual even contacted me asking to be allowed to have a part in my work. All of this lifted my spirits.
Things are not altogether good for me now, but they are certainly not as bad as they have been. Believers with whom I am associated love me and appreciate me for my works sake. I am busy preaching on the radio, from the pulpit, in meetings and teaching classes. I write a weekly newspaper article. I am so thankful that I can be busy in the Master’s vineyard.
As a result of my heart-rending experience I am perhaps better able to succor my fellows in the time of their need. I feel that I am now more longsuffering with the infirmities of others. In the past some would say, “You don’t know how it is. ” Now they listen more freely to what I say. Some have told me that my faith and steadfastness have been a source of strength to them. For this I am grateful.
I would that the redeemed everywhere would be less critical and more compassionate. That they would truly love one another, show it, and say it. That all will turn to, not away from, those who struggle under a heavy load. That they will reach down to lift them up.
I also desire that preachers, elders, teachers, etc. be recognized as being susceptible to the same problems as others. They need encouragement, sympathy, love, and forgiveness just like all other saints. There should be no double standard.
In far too many places, good men and women, potential teachers and capable workers, are being driven away from the church by self righteous, unmerciful, unforgiving brethren. What a tragedy as both will be lost eternally. “Beloved, let us love one another.”
It is with great difficulty that I have written this assigned article. If someone finds in it strength to keep on under trying circumstances, then this revealing of my hidden sorrow will be worthwhile. Brethren, pray for me, though you may not know me, that “I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. “
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 23-24
January 5, 1984