#19: How to Handle Betrayal

Has a friend turned on you? exposed secrets you’d spoken in confidence? lied about you? Worse, has a spouse broken your trust? If so, you know the pain of betrayal. It hurts.

You’ve cried, “How could I have been so stupid? If I had it to do over again, I’d never . . . .” If you’d only known, you’d have avoided that relationship at all costs.

It’s interesting that Jesus chose Judas as one of the Twelve, knowing the betrayal to come. Jesus’ best effort would be poured into His disciples. He would love them, mentor them, and let them see Him at His most weary, vulnerable moments. He’d entrust them with knowledge of His schedule and His usual hangouts—all the while knowing Judas would use that information to send Him to the cross.

Read Mark 3:13-19. Then glance through Matthew 10:1—11:1 and Luke 6:12-16.

Jesus prayed all night, then called aside twelve men. Some we know much about. Others are not mentioned by name again; we know them only as part of the group, or by tradition or early church writings. But one we know all too well: Judas, “who betrayed Him.”

The betrayer

His name was soiled by betrayal. Today, to be a betrayer is to be a “judas.” The first synonym listed under betrayal in my on-line dictionary is Judas kiss. A second apostle named Judas chose to be known instead as Thaddeus (perhaps a middle name). Jesus’ brother Judas wrote his epistle under the modified name Jude. Even now, few mothers would saddle a newborn son with the name Judas.

By the time Judas opened his hands to accept thirty pieces of silver, he was already traitorous. He was a thief, embezzling funds supplied to Jesus (Jn. 12:6). In a chilling reference, Jesus called him a devil (Jn. 6:70). And in Jesus’ beautiful prayer of John 17, He mourned Judas as the only one of the Twelve “lost”—prior to the act of betrayal, knowing that in Judas’ heart the deed was already done.

Judas’ motive is never given. Maybe he was disillusioned, having believed Jesus would be an earthly king, hoping to reign with Him (Lk. 22:29-30). Perhaps Judas felt disapproval from others among the Twelve, and reacted in anger. Or maybe he hoped to make a name for himself by gaining favor with the Jews’ leaders. Regardless, the sin was his own. Mark 14:21 says, “It would have been better for him if he had not been born.”

The betrayed

How did Jesus bear daily interaction with Judas? I can scarcely imagine the struggle it would be to foreknow my betrayer, yet empower him to go out in my name to minister (Mk. 6:7). Jesus wasn’t fooled by Judas; He wasn’t stupid or naive. He extended trust, and He was sold out.

If you’ve been betrayed, you’re not stupid or naive either. You loved someone, you extended trust, and you were sold out. To love is to be vulnerable, because love “always trusts” (1 Cor. 13:7). Let go of self-recrimination. Absolve yourself of responsibility for the betrayal and for the counterblow. Either one can become an obsession. Either one can eat you alive. Vengeance is God’s department (Rom. 12:19). He’ll bring about justice in His time, in His way. Release it to God.

It’s not easy. You’ve nursed the pain, going over and over the hurtful details in a cycle that may have been going on for a long time—perhaps years. How can you handle betrayal? Each time your mind starts whirling, find relief in three ways.
Busy your mind with prayer. Say, “Lord, this situation is no longer mine. I give my Judas to you. Please relieve the hurt and help me move on.”
Busy your tongue with praise (not gossip or pity-parties!). At the end of Psalm 35, David releases the pain of betrayal with these words: ” ‘God is great—everything works together for good for his servant.’ I’ll tell the world how great and good you are, I’ll shout Hallelujah all day, every day.” (The Message)
Busy your body with projects. Don’t just sit and think—move! Occupy yourself with positive activity. Build a new outlook in which your betrayer no longer has power to harm you.

Have you dealt with betrayal? What temptations come with it? How is God bringing healing to you?

© Diane McLoud 2013

4 Comments on “#19: How to Handle Betrayal

  1. To be betrayed is the ultimate sin a friend or family member can commit and for me forgiveness was impossible….or so I thought. It took a very long time, actually years before I realized that she had to live with what she did and that God would deal with her. How FREEING that was! I was able to move on without the baggage of anger and pain.

    • Revenge may seem to be the answer, but it’s never as satisfying as you expect it will be. The hardest thing—AND the most freeing—is to let go of it and forgive. Imagine that, God’s way is best! Thanks, Joan, for the comment.

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