Spiritual growth is something to strive for as we grow in our relationship with the Lord. But what about betrayal? Betrayal is the ultimate act of mistrust and breach of faith in someone or something. Is it necessary for spiritual growth?
The most obvious betrayal in Scripture was when Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities. He was one of Jesus’ closest friends and knew He’d be praying in the garden. Judas used his privileged information against Jesus. It was Judas’ betrayal that acted as the catalyst to Jesus’ crucifixion, which led to his resurrection and redemption for our sins. In the midst of our own betrayal, Jesus has empathy, because He’s been in that sorrowful place of having trust ripped away by a close friend.
But what about other examples in the Bible?
David was betrayed by his adviser and friend, Ahithophel, who aligned himself with David’s son, Absalom, who was trying to take the throne. Listen to the agony of David’s heart as he grieved the betrayal of his friend:
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it … but it was you, a man of my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together in the house of God. –Psalm 55:12-14
I know you’ve been there — that deep place of sorrow and grief because the one that you loved, that you spent time with, that you shared your secrets with has abandoned your relationship and rejected you. It’s a deep pit of mourning that threatens to swallow you whole.
Is there hope? Is there a way to dig out and grow spiritually through the betrayal?
Here’s how David managed:
Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me. –Psalm 55:18
This isn’t an overnight fix, nor a pat answer to “just give it to God.” This is a gut-wrenching, mournful cry to bring your sorrow to the only one who truly cares about your pain. It’s not easy.
The opinions of others don’t always help. The culture will tell you a good god wouldn’t let someone betray you; certainly this work is from evil. Is it? And even those in the church may try to convince you the betrayal you’re experiencing is because of some secret sin you’ve committed, that you’re not in the will of God, that He must be angry with you somehow. I disagree strongly with both of these stances.
Who are we to know why things happen?
Joseph summed it up best when he said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph and betrayal had long-standing history. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was framed for rape by his employer’s wife, and his friend said he’d help him get out of prison, but forgot about him. Every single one of those situations somehow shaped Joseph to fulfill the calling on his life — to save his family, and the nation, from starvation. Joseph dealt with betrayal after betrayal, and instead of hardening his heart against the world, “The Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor” (Genesis 39:21). Did God cause betrayal? I don’t think so. But He allowed it to happen to spiritually form Joseph into the man he needed to become.
If you’re trying to heal from betrayal, learn from those who have gone before us:
- Stay the course. Do what God is calling you to do, even if it’s painful.
- Cry out to God. It’s okay to tell Him you’re hurting. He’s the safest place for you to bring your emotional injuries.
- Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Well-meaning people will give you all kinds of advice, but it’s not always helpful. Listen to what God has been speaking to you.
- Keep your heart soft. Resist the urge to harden your heart against people. Keep loving. Keep forgiving. Keep believing that God will use this for good.
Is betrayal necessary for spiritual growth? Maybe. I don’t know the journey you’re on. But I do know God is a good Father who knows your story and wants every good thing for you. What was good for Joseph’s spiritual growth meant a long line of betrayals. What is good in your life may not be exactly what you envisioned, but God will bring you through it. He is faithful to lead and guide you through all your difficulties.