When Friends Betray
Have you ever been in a situation where you wish you could just go and hide?
There are times in life where the pressures of life push in on all sides. Life becomes almost unbearable. All we want to do is to hide—we want to remove ourselves from the situation. We cry out to God, “Why? Why is all of this happening? Why aren’t you protecting me and watching over me?
Several years ago (1989 to be exact) I hit the wall. I was involved in an exciting ministry. My professional career as a research scientist was going well. I was even leading a troop of Boy Scouts. Things were going well. I was looking forward to a wonderful future. Then it all seemed to fall apart.
It all started early in 1989. I was at a men’s conference when I had an excruciating toothache. I flossed the guilty tooth and that seemed to help. I thought it must have been a popcorn kernel. A month later, I went to work, but didn’t feel well. I went home early. I was feeling ok that evening so I went to the Monday evening Boy Scout meeting. I was teaching the boys to tie the standard knots. My fingers seemed uncoordinated and I kept dropping the rope. I thought I must be tired.
On Tuesday morning, I had trouble washing my hair and I could hardly put the cap back on the toothpaste. I got ready for work, but I was dragging my left leg. My wife noticed and asked me how things were going. I told her that things were fine, but I was a bit clumsy. She looked at me and said she was taking me to the doctor. I asked her why she would do that. She said I was not well. I offered to drive the car; she declined my offer.
On the way to the hospital, my wife let out a sigh and exclaimed she had forgotten to pack a suitcase for me. I told her that would not be necessary. She told me I wouldn’t be home for a long time. I tried to convince her that all I had was a brain flu. She was unimpressed. She, of course was right.
Well, I did go into the hospital and had brain surgery. Following that I had sinus surgery. Following that I had a root canal. Following that I had two-years of recovery that seemed to never end.
I still suffer from the effects of that illness, but I must confess, that even after all I went through, it is not nearly as bad as when a person is betrayed by a friend.
The pressures of life can be had but I have found they are easier to deal with than when friends decide to abandon and forsake you. This is what happened to mighty King David and he tells us of his lament in Psalm 55.
The background is very important for understanding this Psalm. David’s son, Absalom, had left Jerusalem as was planning to kill his father and take over the position of King of Israel. When David heard of this plan, he was forced to flee Jerusalem, the city he loved. He would again head into the wilderness. David was certainly disappointed in his son, but could he expect anything else from Absalom. After all, Absalom had loathed David ever since David failed to act regarding the rape of Absalom’s sister, Tamar. So, David was probably not surprised regarding his son. But Absalom was not alone in his conspiracy. One of David’s close friends and confidants was also involved. David learned about the involvement of his close friend and counselor as he was leaving Jerusalem. In 2 Sam 15:31 we read, “Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” David had been betrayed by his long-time friend. While in the wilderness, running from his son, David penned this Psalm of lament.
How did David deal with his friend’s betrayal?
One does not need to be in the ministry long before being betrayed by someone considered a friend. Such betrayal causes great pain and agony. We ask ourselves the hard questions, “Why? Why did my friend betray me? Why did my friend turn on me? What did I do wrong? How could I have avoided this?” Well, the answer is usually that this was unavoidable. People can be in your circle of friends and then turn on you. They may even say that it is just time for you to go. How do we respond to this? How do we keep on ministering? In Psalm 55 we see the response of David to this type of betrayal. His response is probably very realistic and is perhaps a blueprint of how we deal with these pressures.
David Recognized His Frustration
…Give ear to my prayer, O God, And do not hide Yourself from my supplication. Attend to me, and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily, Because of the voice of the enemy, Because of the oppression of the wicked; For they bring down trouble upon me, And in wrath they hate me. (v 1-3)
David went to God in prayer. He asked to attend to him and to hear him. He admitted his restlessness. In pain and agony he moaned out loud. He recognized his frustration because he was being oppressed by the wicked who, through their actions, demonstrate their hate for him. As we will see, those that in reality hate him are the same ones who claimed to be his friend.
David Wanted to Run Away
My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape From the windy storm and tempest.” (v 4-8)
David was in great pain. He is running again for his life. He is fearful and overcome with trembling. He is in horror. How does David respond? He wanted to have wings like a dove so he could fly away. He wanted to isolate himself from the situation. He wanted to run so that he would not have to deal with this. He wanted to escape.
David Demanded Instant Retribution
Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, For I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around it on its walls; Iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it. Destruction is in its midst; Oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets. For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; Then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, My companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, And walked to the house of God in the throng. Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell, For wickedness is in their dwellings and among them. (v 9-15)
David prayed to God that He would destroy this new enemy of His. He saw that all this revolt would bring about was oppression and violence. However, this new enemy was not supposed to be an enemy at all. If he was being attached by an enemy then he could bear it. He had done so before. He faced lions and bears; he had defeated Goliath; he had survived 16-years of pursuit by Saul. He was not being assaulted by a man to his face. If he was being attacked in the open then David could have hidden.
Rather, David was being attached by his companion and his acquaintance; he was attacked by a friend and counselor. David sees the danger of those who are passive-aggressive. They are nice to your face and say all the right things to your face. But then they gossip behind your back and they instigate people to come against you. David had no time for these sorts of people. He called on God to demonstrate His wrath against them. David called for retribution. He called for them to die. He begged that God would take them alive into hell. These are strong words, but this is the exact feeling one has who has been betrayed by a friend.
Once David released all these emotions, he still had one more response to the pressure caused by such a betrayal.
David Humbled Himself before God
As for me, I will call upon God, And the Lord shall save me. 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, For there were many against me. God will hear, and afflict them, Even He who abides from of old. Because they do not change, Therefore they do not fear God. He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; He has broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, But war was in his heart; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords. Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; But I will trust in You. (v 16-23)
David then realized that he could not control the actions of others. He could not stop people from hating him. He could not stop people from seeking to destroy him. All he could do is control his own reaction to the situation. David said, “As for me…” David took three actions that we should also take when we are overcome by the pressures of this world.
1. David called on God
David was greatly distressed by all that had happened. He realized that all he could do was to go to God and pray—David prayed and he cried out loud. David was broken and all he could do was to fall on his face before the Lord God of the universe. David turned his focus to the sovereignty of God. God is control of all things. In like manner, we must recognize that we are immortal and invincible until God is finished with us. Nothing can happen to us until God is finished with us.
2. David turned to the Lord
Then David turned to the salvation of the Lord. Only the Lord God Jehovah can save us. David called on the Most High God to save him. The Lord is the one who was David through all of his campaigns from shepherd boy to King.
3. David trusted in His sustaining power
David realized he could cast all of his burdens on God because He is the One who sustains. This passage could also be rendered, “Place back on God what He has allowed to be placed on you.” Then He will sustain you.