What causes us to become sidelined with our calling, with the life we were created to live that brings life to others? Among the possible reasons, one that appears most frequent and devastating is betrayal – in friendship, in work, in church or ministry.
Betrayal, or at least the sense of betrayal, wounds at the deepest level – trust. It can diminish, if not destroy, our ability to trust in every direction: with others, ministry, ourself and God.
I didn’t really understand the devastating effect of betrayal until I experienced it myself with a friend. Now I can understand it and spot it in a person’s story and behavior.
It is such a common element of life that is a frequent theme in books and movies. It is also a frequent theme in scripture. Most remembered is Joseph betrayed by his brothers and Jesus betrayed by a friend and disciple.
What makes Judas’ betrayal of Jesus so real to us was when Jesus said, “This is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared by bread has turned against me.’” (John 13:18) The scripture Jesus was referring to was Psalm 41:9:
“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
David talked about his sense of betrayal when his friend and advisor, Ahithophel, joined Absalom’s conspiracy against David:
“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God…” Psalm 55:12-14
This ought not happen in friendship or ministry, but it does. What possible good could come out of betrayal?
The Beauty of Brokenness
Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
There is an ancient Japanese craft called Kintsugi where china is repaired with a lacquer that is laced with powdered gold, so that the cracks and the joins become visible seams of gold. (Pictured above) It highlights the cracks and repairs as an event in the life of an object rather than allowing it’s service to end at the time of its damage or breakage. The damaged and repaired object it now more beautiful and valuable. So it is with us as the life of God is seen in our wounded and redeemed life.
Becoming Very Much More
C. S. Lewis said, “When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well, he often feels that it would now be natural if things went along fairly smoothly. When troubles come along he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing he means to make of us.”
It is often through the “pressed”, “crushed”, “perplexed” and “knocked down” times of life that we are pushed “on, or up, to a higher level”. God knows the “tremendous thing he means to make of us” and he won’t be dissuaded.
Seeing Invisible Realities
Paul finishes this thoughts about out clay jar experience of life by saying,
“Therefore we do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
There is always something greater going on. Evil may have the loudest voice, but it does not have the last word. We need to always ask God what is going on that is yet unseen.
Next week I will finish my thoughts about the experience of betrayal by talking about what to do in the midst of the pain and disorientation of it.
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Hey Gary. Thanks for putting to words what many of us experience. For me, betrayal has an agenda: diminish and isolate, then incapacitate.
I found particularly helpful Lewis’ words on suffering you shared: “It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing he means to make of us.”
We underestimate the fullness of our stature, as well as what it will take to unveil it. Not always, but certainly sometimes.
So good, Gary.
I too have experienced betrayal and profound disappointment. (It is something everyone gets to experince, I suppose.) And I’ve felt its weight and effect on my life. It causes me to doubt myself and others. I can see myself holding back, not engaging, which ultimately leads to wondering if my engagement is even needed at all. As you said, it sidelines us. Tragic. Thanks for your encouragement. I want to grow past this sidelined place. I dont want to get stuck here. Thanks for helping us get there. I’m looking forward to your next post.