Getting Out of the Gunnysack

On March 22, 2006, Mary shot and killed her husband Matt. Everyone saw them as a normal and happy couple; everyone was totally shocked by the murder. Why did Mary kill her husband? She alleged that he was physically, sexually and emotionally abusive. They also struggled with constant financial difficulty. Ultimately only Mary knows why she killed her husband... and Matt is not around to tell his side of things.

How many other “perfect couples” are there like Matt and Mary? Families can look normal and happy on the surface but constantly struggle with bitterness and bickering behind closed doors. Statistics are pretty plain—if you are ever murdered, it will most likely be by someone that you love. Notice just a few statistics that I ran across on domestic violence—

  • 33% of women have been abused; 30% know someone who has.
  • 324,000 of women a year are abused while pregnant.
  • Leading cause of death among pregnant women is homicide.
  • 30-50% of all murdered women are killed by husband or ex.
  • Domestic violence is a leading cause of ER visits in women.
  • 50% of those who abuse a spouse also abuse their children.
  • 4-10 million children will witness domestic violence this year.
We never know what people struggle with behind closed doors. You may be thinking, “But that is just people out there in the general culture and doesn’t apply to people who go to church.” Matthew Winkler was a Church of Christ preacher; his preacher-wife Mary was convicted of killing him. And no one knew that the couple had any problems. Psychologists sometimes use the term “gunnysacking” to describe the tendency we have of keeping our problems hidden from the in a metaphorical burlap bag that itself becomes an increasing burden to bear. Not only are there the problems with which we struggle, there is also burden of the need we feel to keep the problem hidden.

In our reading from Matthew 6, Jesus says, "Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them" (Matt 6:1). Saturday's reading covered two of those acts of righteousness (prayer and giving) and today's reading covers fasting. These "acts of righteousness" were ways that the hypocrites fooled people into believing that they were more spiritual than they really were. Hey, it's easier to pretend to be religious than it is to really do business with God.

It is also easier to fake people into thinking you have a great marriage and stable family than it is to have one. The problem is that the gunnysack we tie our troubles into always comes unraveled and those problems spill out and poison us further.

It's better to admit you are struggling than to pretend like your not. It is better to get help and find ways to heal than to pretend that you don't need to heal. It;s hard to admit that we need help, but we'll never get it until we do. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Pet 5:6-7)