5 Truths About Responding to Betrayal

Betrayal is a dreadful act that can cause profound and lasting damage. It is one thing to suffer harm, but it is quite another to suffer harm from someone you trusted. When we are brought to anguish by those we considered loyal friends, the deep emotional and psychological wounds are often slow to heal.

Jesus Suffered Betrayal

Scripture teaches that Jesus suffered as we do, and so he sympathizes with us in our affliction. Most of us know that before his murder, Jesus was delivered to Jewish officials by one of his own disciples. Judas is a name synonymous with shattered trust. But we may not realize the great affection Jesus had for his wayward follower and the way he agonized over his betrayal. Even though He knew from the beginning what Judas would do (John 6:64), Jesus loved and served him until the very moment that he left. John 13 testifies the betrayal troubled Jesus in His spirit; which in the original language implies: revulsion, horror, and anxiety. Just like us, Jesus felt deep and complex emotions because of the unfaithfulness of his companion.

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
John 13:21 (ESV)

5 Truths About Responding to Betrayal as a Christian

God worked for our good, even as we sinned against Him (Romans 5:10). This is our motivation to care for those who have hurt us. Here are 5 biblical truths to help guide our response to personal betrayal:

  1. You are accountable to God for your response to those who hurt you. You have no control over what others do. But you are liable for your reaction to them. Proverbs 24:17-18 warns that rejoicing over the downfall of an enemy can invite God’s displeasure. He cares greatly about the heart of His people.
  2. God alone has the right to bring justice to sinners. This will help you understand the command of Proverbs 24 better. Practicing forgiveness is not overlooking justice, but rather placing it in God’s hands. Romans 12:18-21 teaches you to entrust vengeance to God and to overcome evil by doing good to your enemies. (We must note Romans 13, which describes civil authorities as God’s instruments of punishment against wrongdoers. Personal forgiveness does not require you to refuse to report heinous crimes).
  3. Blessing your enemy is not a sign of your weakness or of your approval. Rather, it is proof of your heritage as a child of God. Doing good to someone who has harmed you does not mean you are a push-over, nor that you are saying what they did was ok. Rather, Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:43-48 that blessing your enemy shows that you are conducting yourself in the pattern of your Heavenly Father.
  4. Unforgiveness is not protection against further harm. It will result in bitterness that will impact far more people than just your offender. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns that a root of bitterness in your heart will grow and defile many. You may feel that withholding forgiveness protects you from getting hurt again. But in reality it will only bring destruction and difficulty to you and those close to you.
  5. God will equip you to desire that which you would naturally hate and accomplish that which you would naturally find impossible. If you read the first 4 truths and feel overwhelmed, let the Gospel comfort you. Through Christ, God promises to equip you with everything needed to do His will. His Spirit will work in you that which is pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:20-21). Whatever is required by God, is provided in Christ. And that includes the desire and ability to forgive and love your betrayer.

Taking the Next Steps

Working through the pain of betrayal is often a long journey, but one that cannot end until it begins. So let me encourage you with these first steps: Confess to God your current mental and emotional state toward your offender. Agree with God on what His word teaches about where you need to be. Rely on the power of Christ to help you walk out love and forgiveness. And seek counsel from a pastor or wise godly friend who can help you with practical actions toward this end.

Waiting for the Lord…

‘…How long will these people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?’ – Numbers 14:11

‘Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God..’ – Deuteronomy 7:9

‘I wait for the LORD…and in his word I hope..’ – Psalm 130:5

‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done’ – Psalm 143:5

‘..When the son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ – Luke 18:8

‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ – Hebrews 11:1

As I write this, it is approx 7AM in the city of Hong Kong. In that city is my son, Jack. And today he turns 2 yrs old. And I will not be there to celebrate with him, although that has been my constant prayer for the past 10 months. We have all been there, in that place where after long periods of prayer – the thing that you asked for does not come, or does not come in the manner you hoped. How do you feel then? More importantly, how do you respond? What is the next step? For me, I am not angry. I am disappointed in the situation, but I am not disappointed in God. I am not bitter. But, I do wrestle with temptation. For me in-particular, when a prayer seems to go unanswered, that temptation works itself into my life in 2 ways: 1) I am tempted to be discouraged from praying consistently and passionately – even though Jesus implored us to ‘always pray and not lose heart’ (Lk 18:1)2) I am tempted to think that God’s ‘silence’ equals inaction; that somehow he is not involved in whatever I am praying over. Now, I understand the fallibility of both of those temptations. But I am sharing what I wrestle with. Yours may be different; Perhaps it is anger or bitterness; resentment or separation. Whatever those temptations are, in moments like these we must combat them with the word of God.

The people of Israel saw many miraculous signs in their wilderness experience. But there were also days of ‘silence’ when it appeared that God was not present. The people assumed God had left them, forgotten them and abandoned them to the fate of death. Yet, God was there and was trying to teach them to not just rely on signs and wondersHe wanted them to believe in HIM, not just to believe in signs. God is a faithful God, and He desires His people to KNOW that; for it to echo in their souls as truth. Because the Psalmists believed in Him, not just His signs, they had the confidence to wait on Him in the ‘silent’ times; And their confidence was based on the promises, the word, that God had spoken. Because God is faithful, His word is faithful. It can be trusted. The promises He has made to us will be fulfilled. In those quiet times, when things are not coming together as we hoped – it is critical for us to remember what God has done; what He has already said. Meditate on how good He has been to you, and remember that HE is faithful and He will not change. His voice will come again. You can wait on Him in expectation. But will we? Will we wait on Him with confident, expectant, faithful hearts? That is the question that Jesus wondered, out loud. Faith is when you are assured in your spirit – by God’s spirit – of what He has promised. You are convicted these things will come to pass, not because of what you are seeing at the moment. But because your hope is in the faithful one.

I miss my son. I will mourn not being with Him tomorrow. But I have asked God to keep my heart faithful; to keep my prayers consistent and persistent; to keep me encouraged and to help me trust in His faithfulness to us. And He has answered that prayer. Even as I type this, even as I mourn missing Jack’s 2nd birthday, I am remarkably hopeful. I know that God started this adoption process; I remember all that He has done in the past year; I have been meditating on all of His works on our behalf. He has kept this process moving. He has removed roadblocks and He has knitted our hearts toward the son that He chose for us through adoption. I believe that. I KNOW that He is faithful. And I trust in the words that He has spoken to me – over the many days of this journey. And today – I hope in those words. I am convicted of what I cannot see. And I believe that soon, very soon, by His grace – I will hold my son. And I believe He can, AND WILL, do ‘far more abundantly that all that we ask or think‘ (Eph 3:20).

We have all been in this place, and we will all come to it again – over and over in our lives. My faith family, in the silent moments: rest in the faithfulness of our great God and Savior. Guard your hearts from temptation by trusting in His word. Meditate on all He has done. Believe in Him.