One of the hardest journeys that any of us will ever walk is the pain of broken relationships. The people around us have the capacity to enrich our lives immensely, but also to break our hearts. As much as we might want it to be otherwise, we simply can’t have one without the other.
Being deeply hurt affects us in ways that we don’t even realise at the time. It wipes out our self-esteem, causes us to question our worth and makes us wary of future relationships.
At least, that’s what it did to me.
For a long time, I used being hurt as an excuse to hide away. It seemed so much easier to keep my distance than it did to risk my heart again. But I soon learned that with no risk, there is no reward. To experience the richness of everything God wanted for my life, I was going to have to learn to trust again.
That journey began three years ago, with a heartfelt prayer to God to lead me to the friends He wanted me to have. I no longer trusted my own judgement, but I knew I could trust God’s. So out into the world I went!
I wish I could say that it was easy from that point on. But it wasn’t. The truth is, even though I wanted to connect with people again, I always held something of myself back. Just in case. I thought if I didn’t invest so much into the relationship, it wouldn’t hurt as much when I was rejected.
Because even though I didn’t realise it at the time, that was what I was ultimately expecting. Rejection.
I’ve heard that emotional pain can be described as a kind of “psychological sunburn”. It hurts a lot and is sensitive for a long time afterwards. It’s not easily forgotten. And it’s something we don’t want to happen again.
Sadly, I carried this burden into all of my relationships. I would analyse everything that I said and did and wonder if I’d done anything wrong. I would take the blame for everything, whether it was my fault or not, just to keep the peace. I silently waited for everyone in my life to leave me.
This is not the life God wanted for me at all.
Over time I let some of my actions be motivated by my desire to please others instead of pleasing God. Boundaries disappeared, and I used being busy as a way to bury my emotions.
But living that way eventually catches up with us. God has had to teach me some very difficult lessons, one of which is that if no matter how hard you try to bury your feelings, they have a habit of coming to the surface anyway.
I had to learn that with God, I was actually strong enough to withstand being hurt again. I had convinced myself that if I let God choose my friends, I would be safe from that pain. But what I was unknowingly doing was putting an expectation on the people in my life to be perfect. Just as I tried to be for them.
Real relationships are messy.
We all need people in our lives that look beyond our messiness and see the potential underneath. Its true we need friends to laugh and cry with, but more than that we need people we can be real with. But it takes time and trust to build those relationships.
I have never felt God’s presence more than when I tried to rebuild trust and got hurt yet again. It felt like He was drawing me closer to Him every time, and in the process giving me something even more precious. A deeper relationship with Him.
There are so many verses in the Bible about Jesus being our best friend. He loves us, He forgives us, He will never leave us. But we have heard these things so often that we’ve almost become immune to their truths.
But these are real and tangible promises from God.
Jesus is continuing to teach me the value of vulnerability. It takes a lot more courage to let someone really know you than it does to hide. And while I know that I can’t actually hide anything from God, it is with His discernment that I am learning which earthly relationships also deserve that privilege.
I want to encourage you that the rewards of such friendships far outweigh the risks. I am thankful to God every day for the gift and blessing it is to have such extraordinary people in my life.
Proverbs 27:9 The Message (MSG)
“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”