“In this world, you will have trouble.”
–Jesus Christ (John 16:33)
Throughout His time on earth, Jesus reassured His followers of many things – that He is good, trustworthy, and loving. He gave them answers about life’s questions, how to treat one another, and of course, this paramount truth: He is the Messiah sent to save them. In addition to all of these very important things, Jesus also took intentional time to make sure that we knew that in this world, we will have trouble. His message behind these words is simple. Life won’t be easy, and you and everyone you know is broken. You will go through pain, loss, and anger. You will be tempted to sin, and you will sin against others, even those that you love. Life on earth is not going to be easy. Jesus told us! And as we study scripture and live our lives, many of us come to some level of acceptance that we won’t see perfection on this side of Heaven.
And yet, when we lose something, when someone that we love hurts us deeply, or when life just doesn’t turn out the way that we expect it to, many of us are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to cope. In my last blog post, I wrote about the process of supporting a loved one who is grieving or coping with pain. But today, I want to take a step back to consider the process of how we, as individuals and followers of Jesus, can process pain, betrayal, and loss for ourselves. And rather than beginning with abstract thoughts or biblical examples, I want to share about what’s happened in my own life.
• • •
Like most everyone else on earth, I have experienced a great deal of pain in my life. I’ve been through breakups that I thought would crush me, and I have family drama that has brought the absolute worst out of everyone involved. I’ve moved away from friends, and I’ve lost people that were dear to me. I’ve survived loss and abandonment, betrayal and abuse, and I’m still here.
Through all of my own painful experiences, I have come to the very important realization that everyone’s life is hard, including mine. (Remember that – “in this world, you will have trouble” bit?) No one is excused from suffering.
Still, while I have been through some pretty challenging things in life, I have never experienced breath-taking, brain fog inducing, pit-in-my-stomach, heartache the way that I have in this most recent season. Recently, I’ve been grieving. I’ve been hurt deeply by the actions of someone who I love and trusted and respected deeply. I’ve been sad and angrier than I can ever remember being and for several days, I just couldn’t shake any of it.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you too have felt the sting of betrayal and the ache of loss all in one. Maybe you’ve had to grieve the loss of someone you love or a relationship that meant the world to you, not because of death, but because someone left, lied, or broke their promises. Maybe you’ve been hurt by the actions of someone you love, and maybe you’ve tempted yourself with the thought that if you could go back in time, you would do it all differently. You would change things, and even if you couldn’t change what they did, you’d change how much you trusted. You’d protect you and your’s, making sure that you didn’t get left feeling so lost, broken, and angry. Maybe you’ve been there. I know I have.
• • •
“If you could go back one year, what would you do differently?”
This question was posed to me just last week. Now, I think the person who asked may have been looking for a more measurable answer in regards to my work, my mental health in dealing with COVID, or something else more practical. But instead, my answer, with absolute resolve was this:
“I would have trusted other people more.”
I know, I know. The response to betrayal of trust is trusting more? How does that make sense? Well, biblically speaking, I believe that the teachings of scripture actually inform a very simple – “trust no man/only trust God” philosophy. So understanding that there is a difference between the kind of loving trust I can have for another person and the ultimate trust that I have in God alone is key here.
The ultimate trust in God says that I lean on His understanding above all else (Proverbs 3:5), I find refuge in Him alone (Psalm 118:8), and believe with everything in me that God is real, He loves me, and He hears me (Isaiah 26:4, Mark 11:24, Psalm 9:10). I trust that God is perfect and will never lie, leave, or change. (Matthew 5:48, Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:8)
In contrast, the loving trust that I have for another person is limited, not necessarily because of their actions, but because no man or woman can be infallible or faithful the way that God is. Jesus Himself actually experienced this in His lifetime! Think about Judas who famously betrayed him or even Peter – one of His closest followers – who would deny even knowing Him. Whether by malicious intent or a mistake informed by the instinct to self-preserve, we humans are prone to break trust at times. Because we are mortal and fallible people who are tempted by sin, we are not reliable. We are broken! And while we are unable to be ultimately trusted, the good news is that we do have a good and faithful God who is trustworthy.
That still leaves many of us with this question – then what does it look like for me to lovingly trust others?
If we are commanded to love one another the way that Christ has loved us (1 John 4, John 15:12), we have to look at what that love looks like. For one, that love never seeks vengeance (Romans 12:19, Proverbs 10:12), it holds others more highly than ourselves (Philipians 2:3-4), it withstands hardship (Proverbs 17:17), and it covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). The love that we are commanded to give to one another doesn’t fear betrayal or inflict punishment (1 John 4:18). And finally, if the love that we give one another is supposed to mirror Christ’s love for us, it is sacrificial. (Ephesians 5:2, Matthew 5:48-52)
I know, I know – this is challenging. Our culture informs a love between friends that is conditional upon the other person’s good behavior or treatment of us. But one glimpse at 1 Corinthians 13 (our classic scripture reference on love) as well as all of the other scriptures sighted above has me convinced of this:
loving others like Jesus looks a lot like trusting them with your whole heart, knowing full well that they are capable of breaking it. After all, didn’t Jesus Christ pour out His whole heart for us, knowing full well that we would sin against Him over and over?
• • •
So, let’s look back at my original answer to this question. Even in my wrecked, angry, and grief-stricken state, I would choose to trust more. Why? Simply put, because it’s worth it. It has to be worth it to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love and trust openly out of a response to who Jesus is and always has been. It’s worth it, even when I have my heart broken by any person because I can still trust ultimately in God, knowing that the gift of His presence will be so very real in the midst of it all.
(see Heather’s blog from last week – ALL THAT’S LEFT: A story of God’s presence in the midst of great absence.)
I sorely regret that, up until this recent revelation, I have reserved this kind of love and trust for only a select few. Throughout the healing process of this particular recent heartbreak, I have realized my own mistake of extending real, Christ-centered and Christ-inspired love and trust to only my few closest friends and confidants. Because of the ways that others have hurt me in the past, and out of the fear that I will have my heart broken again, I have withheld. That doesn’t mean that I’ve been a jerk to everyone in my life but a select few, but it does mean that I’ve withheld vulnerability – self-sacrificial, all-in, exposed love – out of fear of betrayal. I have been hand-picking a few “safe” people to share my whole heart with. And guess what? I still got hurt.
I’ve been guarded. For most of my life, I have held my armor up, ready to wage war against anyone who would dare hurt me. I’ve trapped my heart inside of a prison-cell of my own making – fashioned to keep others out by keeping myself locked in. I know, “But Becca, doesn’t the Bible tell us to guard our hearts? Shouldn’t we be protecting ourselves?” I thought the same thing, so I dug in.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Paul informs us here that guarding your heart is not a mechanical action of secrecy and privacy. It’s not an act of self-preservation initiated out of my own strength. Instead, it is all about allowing God to give me the kind of peace that guards my heart, and it comes as a result of prayers, thanksgiving, and allowing my anxious mind to rest in the knowledge of who He is.
So here I am… having experienced all of this junk, and having had my heart awoken to many truths about who Jesus is and all that He has for me. I’m here, feeling extremely convicted and encouraged by God to pursue a life of reckless vulnerability. But still, I’m left with the question that you may be asking yourself, “what does this even look like?”
• • •
First, I’m learning to trust the process.
It’s okay to grieve, to feel the hurt, and to process the pain. We are spiritual beings who are given minds and bodies to care for, and if that means that I need to cry, scream, and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, then so be it. Allow yourself to feel all of the ugly and painful feelings; let them exist and take up space and matter, because they do. Then, you can begin to do the hard mental work of accepting what has happened and getting comfortable in your new reality.
Secondly, I’m doing my best to remember that it’s not all about me.
We have a saying around our team at work – “believe the best.” It simply means that when we don’t like or agree with something someone is saying or doing, we believe the best about their intentions and who they are anyways. Listen, we all make mistakes. We are all sinful, and we are all capable of getting caught in a mess of sin that wrecks our lives and hurts others. But understanding that people’s dark, seemingly malicious acts, are likely to have absolutely nothing to do with me, has made all the difference.
Ultimately, sin is a spiritual problem with relational consequences. And while we can help one another along, it’s so important to take the pressure off of yourself and trust God with the things that you don’t control – i.e. another person’s actions.
Third, I’ve made the choice that this part of my story won’t define me.
This painful chapter is a part of the story, but the pain was not inflicted by the author of my story; It was inflicted by a broken person. God didn’t change. He’s always been good and He still is.
I think I have always had this idea in my head that the things I’ve been through would always be something I had to carry. As if the traumatized little girl who was left behind has a permanent residence in my life.
But the betrayal of others, thier brokenness, and the way I’ve been hurt does not have to define my future. Yes, God works through all of these things, but it’s not my job to carry the pain around with me. What I’m learning is the real, true freedom means laying every bit of that down.
We love the illustration that Jesus’ blood washes our sin as white as snow. But what about the notion that Jesus’ blood can wash the sins of others against us as white as snow? What if we can heal from that trauma, because the forgiveness of Jesus is bigger than what they did to me? (see attached Next Steps from Lisa Terkeurst)
And finally, I’ve settled on this – I trust God ultimately, and I will love others completely.
Vulnerability is hard, but not as much in light of who Jesus is. Trust is hard, but not as much when I remember that my ultimate trust is in God alone and that He calls me to be fully engaged, fully present, and fully loving to the people around me, and to be sacrificial and generous with my whole heart.
We might experience betrayal and rejection at the hands of broken people in a broken world, but we can still trust God for our good. And He is with us in the process.
Forgiving What You Can’t Forget – Video Study with Lysa TerKeurst
Follow @known.139 on instagram and stay tuned for a three-part IGTV series with Becca on Forgiveness, Trust, and Reckless Vulnerability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Becca Easterling is an Enneagram type 8, an extrovert to the extreme, and has a newfound love of Mochi ice cream that has taken over her life.