Betrayal is one of the most painful experiences one can go through. It is a double loss of significant relationships and the sting of loved ones turning their backs on us. Whether a spouse, a family member, or another significant other, it is hard to go through these personal rejections unscathed.
The natural response is to want to retaliate and punish the offender. Like any loss, we go through waves of emotions of denial, anger, and despair. But how do we come to the last phase of grief: acceptance and peace?
Today I was reading the last record of Paul’s communication to his friend Timothy, before he was executed. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul laments of the desertion he felt from his friends. “Demas deserted me because he loved this world” (verse 9). “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm” (verse 14). “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them” (verse 16).
Paul was able to have the attitude of Christ. While Jesus hung on the cross, he said to His Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ attitude toward his betrayers was one of forgiveness and grace. So how do we come to a place of forgiveness? How do we see our thoughts turn from obsession over what evil others have done to us to thoughts of releasing our anger and hurt to God? When we surrender our wounds to God, we are filled with humble praise to the Lord who loves us, forgives us, and delivers us from the pains of this world.
Before Paul launches into telling Timothy about who has deserted and hurt him, he says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his Kingdom, I give you this charge.” Do you see what Paul is doing here? Paul is released from the burden of revenge, bitterness, and sorrow. He is set free from the wounds of betrayal because he is confident that our Holy God will justly judge all sin. He knows that God is in control and His righteousness prevails. Paul doesn’t focus on his betrayers, rather he focuses on the calling God has given all of us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
At the end of 2 Timothy 4, we see from where this strength and freedom come. “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly Kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:17-19).
Releasing our captors to the Lord is handing over our anger, judgment, and acts of retribution for God to deal with them. It is praying for them to turn their hearts to God and a holy life. This allows the comfort and strength of the Lord to rejuvenate our souls. When we hold bitterness and vengeance in our heart, we give access to Satan’s oppressive thoughts and acts. This new freedom from the wounds of betrayal brings us to a place of safety and peace. We will be “rescued from every evil attack” (2 Timothy 4:18) and we will bring glory and honor to God.
There is one final helpful but difficult step I have learned through the years. After I forgive my offender, I pray a blessing over them. Jesus says to love our enemy. This is an act of unconditional love when we pray for God to bring them to a place of trusting Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior and to bless them.