Have you ever been betrayed by someone close to you? If not, wait for it. If you live long enough, one day you will feel the sharp and surprising pain of betrayal like a sucker punch to the gut that takes your breath away for not just a moment, but for a very long time, leaving you gasping and sputtering for air. The rug gets pulled out from under your blessed life and you are left reeling as the status quo irreparably shatters into myriad shards of memory.
Of course, the betrayer does not feel like they betrayed you, justifying their behavior with carefully crafted half-truths and excuses readily supplied to them by the Enemy. Denying their responsibility for your wound, they go on with their life, blissfully unaware of and unconcerned about the atomic aftermath of their actions for you. The truth between their reality and yours is often somewhere in the middle, beyond either of your line of sight.
You are left stunned, confused, and alone, the severity of the wound exponentially intensified because it is unexpected, delivered by someone you cared deeply about and who said they cared about you. Shocked and raw from the betrayal, you are at risk for the twin chronic infections of bitterness and resentment. You need immediate and long-term treatment to avoid permanent damage.
More than once I have been betrayed by someone I loved. Shocked, I felt the excruciating, life-sucking pain of betrayal pierce my heart and permeate the marrow of my soul. Over the years I have learned that time and the hand of God will cauterize and heal those broken places in my heart, but that I alone am responsible for deciding whether to nurture or to fight the infectious toxins of bitterness and resentment that threaten to invade and take hold. I have done both, and consequently have either delayed or expedited my healing and restoration.
I have learned that I cannot trust my feelings to help me do the right thing. It is an act of the mind and will, not the emotions to let go and let God take control, to forgive and release myself from the prison of bottled up self-righteous anger. Forgiveness is not saying the other person was right or that they did not hurt you. It is acknowledging that what they did was indeed wrong and brutally painful, but choosing not to dwell on the wrong that has past and instead concentrate on the hope that is ahead. When you forgive, you purge the poison from within that threatens to destroy the life God wants you to live for your good and his glory. You abandon if only and embrace what will be.
Forgiveness is rarely a one and done event, but something you often must choose to do daily as you resist picking back up that which you have already placed at the foot of the cross. This morning, as I struggled yet again with forgiving someone I had cared about for betraying my trust, God spoke to me through his Word:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” —Ephesians 4:31-32, 5:1-2.
God wants me to forgive so that I am not destroyed by the malicious emotions that unforgiveness cultivates in my heart. He is thinking about what is best for me, not just the other person. His desire is that I leave the fragrant aroma of Christ behind wherever I go, and he knows that I cannot do that if I am harboring a spirit of bitterness or resentment. Because I am human, selfish and sinful, it is only through Christ in me that I can forgive and begin to fear less and love more.
As I close my Bible, today, like always, I write these thoughts to myself and ask God to use them to speak his truth and hope to you, too.