Friendships bring us great joy, but they can also cause immense pain when people we love and trust fall short. If you haven’t experienced rejection or betrayal yet, you will someday. Having a relationship with God doesn’t make us immune to the hurts of this life, but it does help us forgive those who cause us pain, including our friends.
We all have to deal with people who disappoint us. For example, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them” (2 Tim. 4:16). Even though he felt betrayed and abandoned, he chose to forgive his offenders’ cruel actions.
It’s important that we learn how to forgive our friends. Harboring bitterness and resentment will only lead to more heartache, stress, and broken relationships. Also, the Lord holds us accountable. That is why Jesus said, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14).
Let’s consider how Paul handled his disappointment.
~ He responded with forgiveness. Paul said, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them” (2 Tim. 4:16, emphasis added). Both Jesus and Stephen said something similar in the final moments of their lives (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).
~ He practiced what he preached. Paul wasn’t interested only in what he could gain from friendships. He knew he needed to be willing to “turn the other cheek” and help those who had mistreated him in the past. Waiting for a chance to retaliate or wishing them harm would only indicate an unforgiving spirit.
~ He affirmed God would never leave him. “The Lord stood with me,” he says (2 Tim. 4:17). Although Paul’s friends deserted him, he knew that the Lord remained. Christ promises all believers, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
~ He trusted God for empowerment. Paul writes, “The Lord . . . strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Tim. 4:17). He could rely on the presence of God to accomplish his calling—taking the gospel to the world (Phil. 2:13). Chances are, people will persecute you. In tough times, some of your friends will abandon you. However, God has promised that all adversity will eventually come to an end (1 Pet. 5:10).
~ He remained confident in the Father’s deliverance. The apostle closed his letter with the assertion, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18). Remember that the Father may deliver us from
hardship or through it (Isa. 43:1-4). He also rescues us by calling us home to be with Him. For Paul, God’s deliverance came by allowing Nero to execute him.
A Faithful Friend
What kind of friend are you? Are you dedicated to those you love, or do you often disappoint them? Perhaps you are faithful, but your friends consistently fail you when trouble comes. I urge you not to hold it against them.
Hurt and rejection are painful but unavoidable parts of life, but healing is always available if you are willing to forgive. You and I can take comfort in knowing that the Lord Jesus never leaves our side, even if everyone else does.
Copyright 2011 In Touch Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org