Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

Thanksgiving and Christmas are tough times for me. I really don’t want to spend any time with my family. It’s like when we get together the pain and hurts all come back. I can bury the pain and rejection for most of the year but family get-togethers brings it all back.

I guess that the hardest part is that I get more hurt every time we get together. Mom yells; dad says for the hundredth time how I’ll never amount to anything, and my brother and sister still gang up on me and criticize me and make fun of me. My husband asked me when was the last time that I left my family and felt better than when I came. I can’t remember one time. I always leave with more hurt than when I came.

The truth is that I have “amounted” to something. I have a great job and a wonderful husband. I love his in-laws and they love and support me. When it is time to leave I always feel better than when I came.

I am looking for suggestions. I am tired of being “beat up” every time we get together with my family.

Sincerely, Pamela

Dear Pamela,

I see three options. First, think of some positive ways to make it better. Second, don’t go; and third, “grin and bear it.”

David Ferguson of Intimate Life Ministries tells of an experience he had that you might find encouraging:

A pastor and his wife were having marriage difficulties. The church was fine, family OK, but their relationship was struggling. David had them fill out a questionnaire before the sessions began. One of the questions was, “How did your father praise you?” The wife left it blank. Dave reflected: “It looks like you may have missed praise and appreciation from dad. Is that right?”

She said, “Yeah, that’s right, and it hurts a lot-because he’s the most important man in my life.”

At that point, how do you think the husband was feeling? They’d been married 20 years! We are talking hurt, pain, and rejection here!

Note the dysfunctions playing out in this family. My experience is that if your family was and/or is painful and hurtful that you certainly won’t want to spend the holidays with them.

David continues story:

Christmas time was near and the pastor and his wife were about to make a trip from Texas to Michigan to be with her mom and dad for the holidays. At the conclusion of the session Dave asked the husband to stay behind for a moment and after his wife left. Dave gave that husband a homework assignment.

They spent three or four days with her mother and father. Dad was no more affirming, affectionate, or approving than he ever had been. He was distant, withdrawn, critical and negative.

The pastor and his wife were about to get in the car and head home. They were standing in the kitchen, husband, wife, and her mother and father. It was time for this husband to do his homework. He looked at his mother and father-in-law and said, “I don’t know if I ever told you this or not, but you have a very special daughter. I am proud that she is my wife. She is great with the children, loves and prays for the church family, and supports me in everything that I do.”