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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Betrayed by a Friend

"It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God. Let death stalk my enemies; let the grave swallow them alive, for evil makes its home within them." Psalm 55:12-15 (NLT)

Of all experiences in life, betrayal by a trusted friend is one of the most difficult to bear.

Because of his preaching of judgment, Jeremiah found himself increasingly isolated until finally his close friends turned against him, seeking his downfall (Jeremiah 20:10).

Similarly, our lamenting psalmist describes an intimate friendship: "my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company" (Psalm 55:13-14).

They had worshiped together in the house of God, but now the friend has joined the enemies. From his enemies he could hide (Psalm 55:12), but how can he deal with treachery?

Betrayal by a close friend is devastating. It produces a feeling of worthlessness for having trusted an untrustworthy person. If foments anger and depression. It raises questions about our judgment. Because of the intimate friend's knowledge of our situation, such betrayal has great potential for further damage.

The betrayed psalmist turns to God, but with what language! He curses them to "go down alive to Sheol" (Psalm 55:15). In ancient Israelite thought, Sheol was the grave, around which might hover the specters or shadows of the dead.

But here the thought perhaps includes also the idea of punishment for the "evil [that] is in their homes and in their hearts" (Psalm 55:15). So also, Jeremiah prayed that his enemies "will not succeed" and that "their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten" (Jeremiah 20:11).

Can we do better, even in the extremity of betrayal by a friend? We can perhaps not rid ourselves of our negative emotions, but we can keep in mind that revenge is counterproductive. The word "forgiveness" in New Testament Greek means to "let go" -- not necessarily to have a change of emotion. If we can let go of such experiences we can move beyond our betrayal.

Help me, Lord God, to let go of the hurts that have come my way. Amen.

Excerpted from Psalms Through The Year: Spiritual Exercises for Every Day by Marshall D. Johnson. Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Fortress.  All rights reserved. Used by permission. For more information, go to the Augsburg Fortress.

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