Monday, May 31, 2010

How do you handle the pain?

Hurt. Anguish. Betrayal. Disappointment. Can you imagine having people who you shared your life with and had so many special moments with suddenly turn their backs on you? The sorrow would be enough to break your heart and make you want to give up. Many of us have been there at some point in our lives. Whether it was a girlfriend who stole your boyfriend in high school or a colleague who got your promotion at work, most of us have experienced something akin to that if we have lived for any length of time.

Over the last six months I have walked that dark valley. I was blindsided by some people I cared about very much. One day they just turned on me and began giving me the angry, silent treatment. They began talking to other people and before long I lost a few more friends who I considered very close. When I tried to reach out to them to find out what precipitated their actions, I was rebuffed. They wouldn't talk to me. They stopped coming to church.

As a Christian it is hard to know what to do. How do you handle the pain and feeling of betrayal? I have to be honest with you. At times I felt like retaliating and getting mean. I wanted to shout to the whole world and tell everyone what was happening. I wanted to do something that would make them hurt as much as I did. But that isn't me. The truth is that to this day, I still care for them a great deal.

So I looked to Jesus and asked him what to do. Believe me, I prayed an awful lot. When I felt overwhelmed, I gave it to Jesus. I asked him to take the hurt and the pain. You know what he told me. HE said "come to me and I will give you rest." The truth is that nobody knows the pain of betrayal better than Jesus. When you read through the Gospels you see how the very men he loved, turned their backs on him. Peter denied him three times. The inner circle of his friends, Peter, James and John, fell asleep when he asked them to sit with him on the night of his agony. Judas betrayed him to the authorities. The crowd who had hailed him as the king on Palm Sunday were shouting "Crucify him" on Friday. As he looked down from the cross, Jesus revealed how we should handle the hurt when people turn on us. He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

When I read those words I think about the number of times my actions have offended Jesus. I can't tell you how many times I have done things out of my own selfishness and neglected to consider Jesus' thoughts. I get on my high horse about certain things and act as if I'm the one who needs to be pacified. I live my life without thinking about God and his feelings. Yet, he continually reaches out to me and calls me back. HE forgives my arrogance and knows how weak and foolish I can be.

That's the man I want to be. I want to be more like Jesus, more forgiving, more filled with grace. The truth is that this is what it means to be a Christian. It isn't about being a judge or jury in God's courtroom. It isn't about making sure we keep every iota and tittle of the law. It isn't about us at all. It is about God and being His agents of reconciliation in this lost and broken world. We are called to follow Jesus' lead. He forgave the sinner on the cross. He forgave Peter for his denial. He forgave Thomas' doubt. He restored each and every one of those who let him down and he declared his love for them was stronger and deeper than life and death. That is how we should strive to live our lives: giving grace and reflecting God's love.

The truth is that even if we strive to be more forgiving like Jesus, we will still have our moments. For example on one particularly emotional day, I left church and heard a song on the radio. It was about a man who had been wronged by his girlfriend. He happened to go to church one day and heard the minister say, "Pray for those who hurt you." So he began to follow that advice and began praying all kinds of nasty things happen to his ex-girlfriend. I laughed when I heard the song. He had captured my sentiments at that particular moment.

None-the-less, I am praying for my friends in the proper way. I pray for their peace. I pray they find what they are looking for. I pray that someday we can be friends again. If not, I pray that God will fill the hole they left in my heart and help me find peace.

So enough for confessions. Now it is time to praise God for He is good.


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