With Friends like That...Who Needs Enemies?

9:04 AMHeather

It was like a movie scene in some dramatic climax of a plot line. 

Except that it was real life and I was living it. 

We sat huddled in the hospital. Unwilling and unable to leave our vigil. The hours ticked by with excruciating pain, yet the time seemed so short. Because I think we knew. Deep down, I think we knew the truth of the inevitable. The end was near. I can even remember my uncle in tears and asking permission to not see my dad. He didn't want to offend us, but he needed to remember his beloved brother-in-law in better days. He didn't want to live with the image he knew was lying behind the closed door, in a hospital bed, lost in a coma as his body shut down.

I can remember hearing my uncle's words and still not processing the reality. Hope is a strange thing. It presses you through the hardest moments. Even when you know that your biggest hope will not come to pass. 

If you've ever sat in a similar vigil, then you know. You know how precious it is when people dare to sit with you. You know how endearing and meaningful it is when a friend chooses to sit with you through long days. Even sleeping next to you in a waiting room on the hard ground. Just to make their presence known. In the blur of those last few days, there were two friends who sat vigil with us. Bringing us meals. Even sleeping at the hospital in case we needed anything. Courageous and loving and kind enough to enter our darkest days that we longed to escape. And while their ability to leave was certain, they chose not to do so.

It's one of the most precious gifts you can ever give someone. To simply sit, without words. And be near. When things are hard and hope is dying. Because your loved one is, too.

So imagine. Imagine the pain and the confusion when words are said carelessly and without compassion by that same person. That same person who sat by your side and watched you pray and cry out to your God, choosing to run toward him rather than from him when your world is falling apart.

And that friend who sat through your hardest days dares to say this:

"Your father would not have died if you had enough faith. If you had prayed with enough faith, he would not have died."

It's beyond a sucker punch. It's wounding beyond measure because it's spoken by a friend who you thought had your back. Who you thought you could count on, no matter what. Who had seemed to prove that along the hard roads of life's journey.

Listen, a stranger or an author or a preacher could utter those words and I could write it off. It might sting, but it wouldn't wound as deeply and profoundly as it does coming from a friend. And not just any friend, but the particularly strong friend previously described.

It's strange to me that I felt prompted to share this story today. Because lately, I feel a very clear call to forget the former things and not dwell on the past. I feel God expressing to me a need to release past wounds and woundedness. In order to be freed to embrace the new things he wants to do (Isaiah 43:18-19).

But I know I needed to tell that story for someone. Someone has been hurt deeply by someone they thought they could trust. Someone reading this has felt that same sense of betrayal and confusion. And when you are hurt that deeply, it calls much into question. You wonder who you can trust. You wonder who really does have your back. It makes you question God. And why he would allow such wounding, especially when the pain comes from someone claiming to be speaking Biblical truth to you. When well intentioned but totally misguided Christians fling that kind of pain your way, in the name of God, it makes you wonder if you want anything to do with God at all.

Because for me--if what this friend said was true, then everything else became questionable to me. Every hope and truth that had become my desperate life raft was called into question. And my world was turned upside down.

Someone reading this knows this pain. This kind of wound that cuts to the soul and feels hard to process. With ripple effects that bring more pain and confusion. When someone you love and thought you could trust suddenly turns on you. Betrays you. Wounds you. Denies you. And seems not to care about the pain they've inflicted.


With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Jesus could say the same thing. Jesus could offer a hearty "a-men" to this sentiment, based on his own experience.

As I have been working through IF Equip's Easter study this last week or so, this reality is what has pierced my conscience.

I grew up in the church, with the frequent references to the cross and the beatings and the crown of thorns. To the flogging and the physical torment that the crucifixion was for Jesus. With the repeated challenge to consider all that Jesus went through on my behalf.

But this is the first year that I have seen--really seen with wide open eyes--the emotional pain that he endured. This is the first time that I have ever even begun to grasp that no amount of betrayal and emotional woundedness I ever experience can stack up to what Jesus endured for my sake.

Indeed, we have a Savior who suffered and experienced ALL that we experience. We have a Savior who knows. Who empathizes. Who appreciates even our most painful and tormenting relationship and betrayal. Who knows exactly how it feels when someone you love and thought you could count on and trusted with even your deepest feelings turns on you. Completely.

Oh, yes, bloggy friends. For anyone else stuck emotionally--stuck in some hard places where you cannot let go of what someone has done to you--please grasp this today. Please listen closely.

Jesus knows.

He knows first hand what that feels like. If you find yourself in stuck places, continually rehashing how you were wronged and feeling unable to forgive the offender, then know this.

Jesus knows.

Except for one thing. While you may have been surprised by the betrayal of a loved one, he was not. He knew what was coming. He knew that he would be abandoned and denied by his dearest friends in his darkest moments.  He knew that those who one week screamed "Hosanna!" would be crying out for his death the next week. He knew the fickle hearts of those who sung his praises at one point and would completely leave him when he needed them most.

Still--he invested in them. Still, he loved them. Still, he chose them.

And he knows exactly how we feel in our most profound emotional pain. There is no betrayal, no friend who becomes an enemy that he cannot understand.

As my eyes have been open this Easter season to his emotional torment, I've realized something else. Besides that Jesus knows exactly how betrayal feels.

The truth is that I've added to it. I've added to the betrayal of Jesus.

I've piled right on to the mountain of betrayal and denial when it comes to Jesus. I've been part of it all. Add me in to the group of frenemies of Jesus.

Because I've hung on to my pains like some badge of honor. I've clung to the insults and wounds inflicted by friends or family like some pet that I must keep close to me. I've thrown my own pity-party, time and again. I've used it all as an excuse and cried woe is me--poor me.

When Jesus endured such abandonment and neglect and emotional torment so that I could be freed. When he was going through it all, I'm coming to see that the emotional pain of being left for dead by his friends and being sentenced to death by his fan club was as painful as his physical wounds. 

And he did it all so that ALL of us can be freed. All of us can be forgiven.

In other words, he paid the price even for those who have offended me. He does not hold anything they've done against them.

So why should I?

Why should I discount the incredibly high cost that was paid even for those who've hurt me, all in my self-righteous name of my personal honor?

Because even while we were yet sinners--all of us--he died for us.

And not just died.

But endured. 

Enduring the denial and abandonment of those who claimed they'd never leave him. Enduring the turn of the tide of public opinion as those who had just called out his praises now demanded his death on a cross. 

And most of all, enduring the Father turning his back on his own son.

Jesus chose to do that.

Jesus chose to allow himself to being forsaken by his Father, made an enemy of God, so that I could be counted as a child of him.

Jesus, in fact, knew all that he would endure. Emotionally. Spiritually. And physically.

And he moved forward. 

He pressed through it all--all the layers of pain that came in those final hours. He pressed on, with his eyes on one final moment.

When he would declare, with his last breaths...

...IT IS FINISHED.

It is finished. All the wounds. All the sins. All that holds us back. All that we cling to in the name of being wronged. All that we hold close for the sake of our own "justice."

It is finished.

Jesus said so much in those three words.

He says to each of us-- whatever you have been through, whatever betrayals, whatever wounds by the hand of a friend or an enemy...

By my stripes, you are healed.

So let us all. Let every one of us dare to come to him and ask him to help us release it. To help us forget these former things...and not dwell on these past pains.

That we might be freed to run, unencumbered, on the unforced rhythms of grace. Allowing him to cover all our offenses...and those of others against us.

To truly grasp this gift of grace. And release ourselves from unforgiveness and bitterness.

Because Jesus knows our struggles. He knows exactly how it feels. 

And he says, "It is finished."

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