The world seemed to shift as the reality of what I discovered set in. The evidence in front of me confirmed that someone close to me had betrayed my trust.
The rush of emotions swirled like a tornado around me. Anger. Devastation. Hurt. Failure. Sadness. Denial. Judgement.
We have all felt that sense of betrayal at some point in our lives. Someone close to us didn’t keep a confidence. They said one thing to us and the opposite behind our back. A friend didn’t keep a promise we were depending on. Perhaps a spouse has been unfaithful. The list goes on. The point is we have all experienced a breach of our trust. The hurt cuts deep. How are we to respond in such a time?
Since you are reading this, your betrayal didn’t lead to your death, as was the case for Jesus. Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek and then let Him be led away to His crucifixion. And even in that ultimate betrayal, Jesus forgave. Forgiveness is so hard at any time, but betrayal has always been harder for me to forgive. Perhaps it is the intentionality of it. I can’t think of a time when betrayal was mistakenly committed. It upends a relationship built on trust, so you now feel like you are on shaky ground.
Perhaps you can relate. I know Jesus understands our feelings because He has been there. How do we forgive when someone intentionally hurts us? I believe it takes an understanding of what forgiveness is … and isn’t.
Refusing to forgive doesn’t hurt the offending person. It hurts the one who struggles to let the offense go. The hurt, disappointment, mistrust, and anger add a weight we were never meant to carry. It traps us and holds us captive. Harboring unforgiveness usually results in bitterness which affects every other area of life - our health, emotions, attitudes, and other relationships. If we become enslaved to unforgiveness, we only hurt ourselves. We are not really hurting the one who betrayed our trust.
Forgiveness does not mean the person betraying us is right. Betrayal or any other offense contrary to God’s Word is sin. Forgiveness does not say, “It’s okay what you did.” Forgiveness says, “I’m not going to allow your actions to enslave me in bitterness, anger and unforgiveness. This hurt does not have that power over me.”
We let the offense go, dropping that pain at the feet of Jesus and walking away. Leaving the grievance in God’s hands allows Him to do a work in people’s lives that we could never do, and the results of His work are far more powerful and life changing.
The deepest betrayals are ones committed by those we love. That’s why they hurt so much. If we allow God to do the correcting instead of our feeble attempts, the likelihood of a relationship restoration increases significantly.
Forgiveness does not mean we immediately restore trust in the individual. Trust develops over time. When the foundation of that trust is shaken or damaged, reparations take time. Forgiveness is the first step in reestablishing that foundation.
If we harbor unforgiveness, we hinder our relationship with God. Matthew 6:14-15 clearly reflects this, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We don’t want unforgiveness to hinder our relationship with God. People will let us down. God never does. He established the firm foundation of our relationship with Him at the cross. If Jesus can forgive His betrayer, He will assuredly give us the ability to forgive others. Ask for His help today. Instead of dwelling on the betrayal, give the pain to Jesus and ask Him to replace it with the freedom of forgiveness. Unforgiveness must then relinquish its hold on us so we can walk free – the weight gone.