If you have ever had a close friend betray you or let you down, you know it is a painful experience. Sometimes, you may feel that you cannot get over it. The Apostle Paul was hurt by people he once trusted. He says that Demas forsook him, and Alexander the coppersmith “did me much harm.” (2 Timothy 4:10-14)
When friends fail us, we may be tempted to get even with them, to do something to hurt them back. Or, we may be tempted to crawl in a hole of depression and never come out. We may think life is over for us and not worth living anymore. The Apostle Paul provides us with an excellent example of what to do when our friends fail us.
“At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them” (2 Tim. 4:16)
Paul was ready to forgive and move on. Even though it must have been painful for him, Paul was not going to allow these “frenemies” to bring him down, or to stop him from doing the work God had given him.
Jesus possessed this same attitude on the cross. “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.'” (Luke 23:34)
When some of Stephen’s own countrymen stoned him to death, he said this right before he died: “Lord do not charge them with this sin.” (Acts 7:60)
Not only was Paul willing to forgive and move on, but he also refused to the temptation to “get back” at Demas and Alexander because he says in 2 Timothy 4:14, “May the Lord repay him according to his works.” Paul gave the issue up to God to handle.
Paul even discusses revenge in Romans 12:19-21:
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Paul understood what we all need to understand, and that is, the most important thing for us to focus on is God and doing His work. When we focus only the wrong someone has done us, we can’t think about God, nor can we properly do the works He has given us to do. When all we can think and talk about is how someone did us wrong, we have no room to tell others about Jesus and all the good He has done for us!
2. Trust in God’s presence
“The Lord stood with me” (2 Tim. 4:17).
Even though Paul’s friends abandoned and betrayed him, still he had confidence that Jesus was a true friend who would always be by his side.
“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Jesus Himself was betrayed by a close friend. (Luke 22:1-6) He knows what you are going through, and He will comfort you if you allow Him to do so.
“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, w ho ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” ( Psalm 41:9)
3. Trust in God’s strength
“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.” (2 Tim. 4:17).
When friends let us down, it has a way of knocking the wind out of our sails, but if we look to God and trust Him, He will give us the strength to handle the pain and to move forward.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (I Peter 5:10)
4. Trust in God’s deliverance
“Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:17-18).
We don’t know specifically how God delivered Paul from the mouth of the lion, whether it was a literal lion, or whether it was a bad situation caused by Demas or Alexander, but whatever it was, God delivered Paul from it. Because of this, Paul had confidence that God would continue to deliver him from his trials.
We, too, should have this same confidence that God will deliver us from both the pain and dilemmas that we might suffer when a friend hurts or betrays us.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, a nd delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)
Also, like Paul, we too should hold fast to the faith that no matter who hurts us here on earth, one day God will bring us safely to His heavenly kingdom where there will be “no more tears.” (Revelation 21:4)
5. Focus on God’s glory
“To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Timothy 4:18)
Paul didn’t let what happened with Demas and Alexander take his focus off of God’s glory, and neither should we. If we focus only on the wrong that our friends have done us, we will forget about God’s goodness and His ability to turn our problems into powerful messages. Instead of thinking about the pain and injustice of what another has done to you, think about the joy God can give you when He uses your problem to help others. When God gets you through this, you will then have the credibility to help others going through similar situations. You will be able to use your experience to comfort, encourage, and strengthen others, thus glorifying God.