Friendship dynamics can be challenging, but they’re also opportunities for growth and transformation. Jessica Van Roekel and I share how to navigate the twists and turns of shattered friendships with grace and resilience.

Jessica and I have just completed a 3 part series on broken friendships. On the podcast, we talked about the lessons we can learn from broken friendships. Relationship conflict can tough but we can emerge from a painful breakup stronger and with more compassion through the healing power of forgiveness. If you missed the episode, listen here: Lessons You Can Learn from Broken Friendships – Episode 256.

Finding Grace Amidst the Pain: Lessons from Shattered Friendships
By Dr. Michelle Bengtson and Rev. Jessica Van Roekel

When our hearts break because of a shattered friendship, we often experience a wide range of emotions. If we were surprised by the fracture, shock ensues. We wonder: “Where did this come from? How did this happen? Could this be true? Am I dreaming?” We examine our past interactions searching for clues to answer these questions. Other times, we noticed little red flags, but chalked it up to stress or busy lives. Instead, they foretold a widening fissure in the relationship, which led to this friendship breakup.

Hindsight is only helpful to offer us perspective, but not helpful in the moment–it often just leads to beating ourselves up. We wonder, “Why didn’t I see this coming? I’m such an idiot” or “What’s wrong with me? This isn’t the first time this has happened to me.” And when we care deeply for our friend, yet she offers no explanation for the breakup, what do we do with the loose ends? We have no path to guide us to ensure we don’t “make the same mistakes again.”

God loves both parties in broken friendships

In the moment, all we can see is our pain, our heartbreak, and our need to be told we’re worthy of love. One of the hardest things about a shattered friendship is recognizing and accepting that God looks on our former friend with as much love and tenderness as He does us. Our pain whispers to us that this feels unjust. Our wound screams at us to find retribution if we were treated unfairly. In reality, we are called to leave vengeance and vindication in God’s hands, even when we want to lash out and want everyone to know the truth (or at least our perception of the truth) behind what happened.

In a way, through our need to know we are in the right, we subconsciously demand our friends, family, and, even, God to choose between her or us. We want to draw a line in the sand and garner support for our side, but one of the mysteries of Christ is knowing grace is given, not because of our goodness, but because of his.

If humankind determined who was worthy of God’s love, it would be equivalent to a dystopian world based on the fickleness and superiority of humanity toward each other. Praise God we are not the ones who determine other people’s worth and value. But this is exactly what we do when we have been wounded by a friend’s decision to end our friendship. We want to force God to choose between us. God’s love is so comprehensive, however, that he looks with love and kindness and gentleness at us and says, “I choose you both.”

God desires reconciliation

Two people can both profess to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord yet have a shattered friendship. Is this what God wants? No. He desires reconciliation, but we are sinners saved by grace and there are times when our old self and flesh-based desires drive our decisions rather than letting our new self in Christ make choices on our response. These decisions can lead to heartache or healing, separation or reconciliation. But what it cannot do is force God to choose between us.

Jesus didn’t love one thief on the cross more than the other; the difference was that one repented and expressed his desire to be with him forever while the other did not. Even though the other thief rejected him, Jesus loved him the same. God chooses our friend just as much as he chooses us. He says: both of you are my precious daughters. Come to me and receive grace for your needs and let me love you both. You’re both my favorite. You are not my favored daughter, and she is not my enemy. Neither is she yours. I favor you both.

God’s love causes his justice to align with His character and attributes, and the beautiful things He says about us also apply to our former friend. We don’t hold the market on being His most beloved child. God loves her as much as he loves us. When we demand God choose between the two of us, through our words, through our attitudes, through our selfish prayers, or through our unwillingness to see his perspective, we lose sight of the overwhelming gift of reconciliation Jesus purchased for us on the cross. He died, then rose three days later, conquering death and throwing open the doors to relationship with God the Father. Jesus’ death leveled the playing ground and made us equal in His sight.

We don’t prance through life with a singular friendship. Our lives intertwine with men and women in different social circles including volunteer opportunities, community and church activities, social gatherings, vocational interests, and Bible study groups. Our relationships intersect with others; and frequently women become friends because our children form friendships, or vice versa.

Navigating Mutual Friends and Social Circles

Men and women typically handle the breakup of a friendship differently. Most men compartmentalize and appear to move on with ease, even reengaging as if nothing happened. Women appear to struggle with deep hurt. In a shattered friendship, mutual friends become chess pieces who get moved around based on whose part of the story they listen to and believe. We struggle with how much to share with our mutual friends and wonder which one of these friendships will be a casualty of the original broken friendship.

We wonder if there are guidelines regarding shattered friendships and if there are rules of engagement. Many people reach for the excuse that they need to do what feels right for them rather than seeking biblical guidance with friendship difficulties. A troublesome pattern to justify an unexpected, shattered friendship is to spiritualize it by saying, “God told me to end the friendship,” rather than seeking understanding and reconciliation. Furthermore, “You do you” is a secular concept that has invaded the church and fights against God’s upside-down kingdom principle of unity.

We focus on our pain. But our friend experienced pain as well. Our intertwined lives with church, ministry, mutual friends and family make the separation even more painful. When we’re hurt, we want others to hurt for us and with us, to come to our defense, or to take up an offense. Hurting people hurt people and we must take care to feel our hurt, but not splash it around on other people. Yet, the questions of how much to tell, and who leaves and who stays, pounds in our heart until we do something with the pain.

The two of us (Jessica and Michelle) have been writing accountability partners for years. During our weekly writing sessions, we’ve not only kept each other accountable for getting words on a page, bouncing ideas off each other, and encouraging each other toward writing deadlines, but we also share the mountaintops and valley lows of real life with each other, and commit to pray the other through the journey. Recently, when one of us went through a shattered friendship, it caused the questioning of other friendships too including whether our writing times were positive, effective or productive. The one who had this shattered heart from a shattered friendship wanted to give the other a free pass to “get out of jail” per se—to offer a way out of our writing times rather than experiencing greater pain if this friendship shattered.

Even though there was no indication that our times together were anything less than encouraging and productive, but having gone through a shattered friendship, with fresh emotional fallout, caused one of us to avoid rejection from the other. As we chatted, we realized the work of the enemy and how the pain of insecurity colors our perception and our behavior.

There is an internal storm that happens when a woman loses a friend, and then must navigate current and future friendships through the lens of unresolved shattered friendships. Insecurity can drive us to make our other friends choose or to call us to question the security of other relationships. It can even drive us to behave in a way that hurts other relationships before we give them a chance to hurt us. After a friendship breakup, we can wonder if any friendships are safe. Out of our pain, we’re tempted to close our hearts to new friendships with other women and to our friendship with God. But living with a closed heart to others leads us to feeling isolated and unworthy of a relationship.

Finding Comfort and Restoration in Christ

This void yawns across our heart, which is a void only Jesus can fill. When we come to Him in our pain, and listen for His voice, we receive His comfort. Jesus, too, experienced rejection and abandonment from some of his closest friends and yet generously offered forgiveness. Peter experienced reconciliation and restoration after denying Christ. Judas did not give Jesus a chance to offer the same gift. Judas’s guilt over a friendship betrayal separated him permanently from Jesus.

Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, who doesn’t abandon us or reject us, and is the perfect example of what an open-hearted friend looks like. He modeled a God-honoring way of living by putting others first and turning the other cheek. Jesus knew Judas would betray him despite seeing his miracles and hearing his teachings. Jesus didn’t withhold friendship because of the betrayal. Conversely, Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times, but Jesus continued to love and offered forgiveness, which Peter received.

The greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 22:37-39.

It feels impossible to love others when your heart has a jagged wound from a shattered friendship, and you’ve been left feeling abandoned, vulnerable, and unlovable. But genuine love is not based on a feeling. It is a choice. God chose to love us when we were wretched and far from Him. He is our example of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. We’ve been given a safe place to express our feelings and mourn our losses with God who heals the brokenhearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit. He is our strength to forgive and love, and He enables us to trust Him as we move forward in community with others.

Seeking Healing and Moving Forward in Community

Healing comes when we leave our pain at the foot of the cross, symbolically dropping it into the shadow of the place where Jesus took our heartache on himself. By processing our distress and grievances at the throne of grace, where God’s presence abounds to cover our lack or loss, we learn how to love one another despite the heart wounds which came at the hands of a friend. By taking personal responsibility for holy living, such as cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, the division between two friends doesn’t have to divide communities or prevent future friendships.

Because of the grace and mercy of God, we can find healing from a shattered friendship and learn, firsthand, the power of grace and mercy of God. His love is big enough to wrap both our hurting hearts in his hands and bring us to a place of healing with him, even if we are separated by choice or life stages from our friend.

What lessons have you learned from a shattered friendship?

 

 

About Jessica Van Roekel

Jessica Van Roekel, authorJessica Van Roekel is a worship leader, speaker, and writer who believes that through Jesus, personal histories don’t need to define the present or determine the future. She inspires, encourages, and equips others to look at life through the lenses of hope, trust, and God’s transforming grace. Jessica lives in rural Iowa surrounded by wide open spaces which remind her of God’s expansive love. She loves fun earrings, good coffee, and connecting with others.

 

Connect with Jessica: Website / Instagram / Facebook / Reframing Rejection Book

 

 

 

Friendship dynamics can be challenging, but they're also opportunities for growth and transformation. Jessica Van Roekel and I share how to navigate the twists and turns of shattered friendships with grace and resilience.

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