Dear Dr. B,
This has probably never happened to you before, but I was recently betrayed by someone I thought was a good friend. It’s hard for me to trust people, yet I thought I could trust this person, only to end up being hurt. It feels as if someone died. How do I get past this?
Sincerely, Mourning a Friendship
I wish it wasn’t true but I have been through a similar situation, more than once, and because I know how it feels, my heart goes out to you in your pain.
We’re in good company. The very same thing has happened to some of the Biblical greats. David wrote of it in the Psalms: “Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9). Jeremiah also spoke of such pain. “Beware of your neighbor! Don’t even trust your brother! For brother takes advantage of brother, and friend slanders friend” (Jeremiah 9:4). “Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them, no matter how pleasantly they speak” (Jeremiah 12:6).
You’re right…the loss of a significant friendship in your life feels like a death. What you’re experiencing is a form of grief over the loss of a relationship as you knew it and valued it.
One thing that helps ease the pain when we’ve been hurt, rejected, abandoned, or betrayed by others is to recognize that it wasn’t even them that hurt us. You see, the Bible tells us that “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).
We have an enemy who, according to John 10:10, seeks to steal, kill, and destroy everything from our joy to our self-esteem to our relationships! The enemy whispers thoughts to us and we come into agreement with him, then our behavior reacts in response, all the while we are rarely even conscious of his influence.
Separating the person who has hurt me from the influence of the enemy within them has allowed me to extend so much grace to others. When I’ve been hurt, I can still extend grace because I’m able to realize it wasn’t even the person herself who hurt me, but the enemy operating through her.
I know how badly it hurts to be rejected, abandoned, or betrayed by others. I’ve experienced all of the above. I’ve also learned how much freedom comes when we release any bitterness, resentment, or anger from within us by forgiving another. Holding on to bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness toward another in our own heart just results in our own reduced health and emotional well being.
But relationships and communication never happen in isolation. It always takes two or more people to have either. When a situation goes array, I have to be willing to look at my own role in the circumstance or communication because it can never be entirely one person’s fault.
And if we need further convincing, Jesus cautioned that we should be quick to forgive others because if we aren’t willing to forgive them, then our father in heaven won’t forgive us. “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).
A mark of maturity is when we can not only forgive, but we can take it one step further and ask God to bless the person who has hurt us. “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:28). Our battle is not against the friend, the loved one, the coworker or boss…it’s against the enemy who has attempted to break up relationships since he tried to separate Adam and Eve from God. Nothing frustrates or silences him faster than when we respond with forgiveness and blessings.
Finally, even after you do these things, you may still feel the sting of grief. Depending on how close you were to the friend who betrayed you, you may feel bad about yourself, or deeply saddened. Acknowledge your pain, recognize your feelings and take them to God. He sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter in times of despair.
Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. I have no doubt that he cries when we are hurt too. He loves us and cares about the things that matter to us. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT).
He longs to meet our every need. He desires to be our closest friend. And He promises to work ALL things together for our good. In the pain of betrayal it can be hard to see how any good can come from such a hurtful situation, but I’ve seen it in my own life. It’s a promise (“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” Romans 8:28 NLT), so you can count on it.
God created us for companionship and fellowship, and I believe friendship is one of His greatest gifts to us. Yet God wants us to trust Him and rely on Him above all else. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people” (Psalm 118:8).
I’m so sorry for your pain. I know that nothing I’ve suggested is easy. I can promise, if you’ll take it to God, He will heal the hurt places in your heart.
Because of Him, Hope Prevails!
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