Feb 10

Q&A: How Do I Handle the Pain of Broken Relationships?

2015 at 9:04 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Church Life | Friendship

Q. I’d be grateful if you could talk about emotions in response to when we are hurt by other Christians, particularly when there has been no reconciliation.

Few things dredge up so much emotional pain and confusion as broken relationships with other Christians. In poetic, haunting language the Psalmist describes the acute nature of this pain:

“For it is not an enemy who taunts me—

then I could bear it;

it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—

then I could hide from him.

But it is you, a man, my equal,

my companion, my familiar friend.

We used to take sweet counsel together;

Within God’s house we walked in the throng.

~Psalm 55:12-14

“It is not an enemy” that causes me pain, writes David. I know what to do about him. I can handle his attacks just fine.

I could hide”

“I could bear it.”

So for us, it is not the enemies of the Christian faith, the insulters of the godly everywhere, whose words and actions pain us most.

But it is you,” says David. My companion. My familiar friend. My sweet co-counselor. My fellow worshipper. It is your betrayal that hurts the most.

The friends we welcomed into our home and into our lives, the friends we confessed sin to and worshipped with and shared the gospel alongside—these broken relationships are painful in direct proportion to how sweet they once were.

In other words: give me a vicious enemy, any day, over a false friend.

Many of you know the pain of a broken friendship:

~You’ve been through a church split and lost half of your friends.

~A close friend has rejected you and the Christian faith.

~Your former friend still sits in the same pew at church but refuses to speak to you.

~You’ve had to leave a church because of the slander or persecution from other church members.

How do we handle the jagged edges of un-reconciled relationships? How do we process the grief, guilt, regret, hurt, anxiety, confusion, and even the loss of faith?

Before we do anything else, we must bring our grief to God. The answer is right here in Psalm 55. The Psalmist cries out in unbearable pain over this broken relationship, and then he turns to God.

“But I call to God,

and the Lord will save me” (v. 16).

We must not allow our disillusionment over another Christian’s actions lead us away from God. Rather, in our pain, we must turn to Christ.

For it was never other Christians in whom we were called to put our faith. It is not other Christians who save us. It is God who has rescued us from the power of sin and hell and only he can save us from the pain of these broken relationships.

We must call to God. We must pour out our heart to him. We must ask for his mercy on this relationship. We must pray for forgiveness for our own sin and a spirit of forgiveness toward others. We must bring our questions, our confusion, our hurt, our pain, our guilt, and our indecision over what to do next to the God who saves.

Who after all, knows more intimately the pain of false friends than our Savior, Jesus Christ? Who knows the rejection of sinful humanity whom he has created and blessed? In the moment when we feel rejection and pain, we must remember that we first rejected him. But he has reconciled us to himself. He is the great reconciler.

He is also the great comforter. And you are not the first saint he has comforted in this situation. Let these words from Charles Spurgeon encourage your soul:

Has it fallen to thy lot, my brother, to be forsaken of friends?... [H]as it come to this now, that you are forgotten as a dead man out of mind? In your greatest trials do you find your fewest friends? Have those who once loved and respected you, fallen asleep in Jesus? And have others turned out to be hypocritical and untrue?

What are you to do now? You are to remember this case of the apostle; it is put here for your comfort. He had to pass through as deep waters as any that you are called to ford, and yet remember, he says, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.”

So now, when man deserts you, God will be your friend. This God is our God for ever and ever—not in sunshiny weather only, but for ever and ever. This God is our God in dark nights as well as in bright days. Go to him, spread your complaint before him. Murmur not.

If Paul had to suffer desertion, you must not expect better usage. Let not your faith fail you, as though some new thing had happened to you. This is common to the saints. David had his Ahithophel, Christ his Judas, Paul his Demas, and can you expect to fare better than they?

Be of good courage, and wait on the Lord, for he shall strengthen thy heart. “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

“When man deserts you, God will be your friend.” And there is no greater, no truer friend we could ask for. Therefore, in the pain of broken relationships, call to God.

More thoughts to come…