I have a friend who is processing not only a horrific betrayal, but she is left cleaning up the mess—an extremely large mess that involves interacting with, and explaining details to, scores of people who’ve been impacted by betrayal on a large scale. It involves legal complications, administrative challenges, and tough choices during a time of great personal disappointment.
My friend wants to choose thankfulness in the middle of all this mess.
But how can we be thankful when we’ve been betrayed?
We can’t rejoice over evil and we should grieve for the pain that sin brings. We’re naturally angry over the brutality of it all and the shame it brings to the gospel.
But thankful? What is that all about?
My friend knows the Word, and she wants to obey these instructions “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials . . .” (James 1:2) but how do you consider a betrayal “joy?”
How in the world can we follow this commandment: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18)?
Did God mean for us to “count it all joy” and “give thanks” in every situation—including betrayal?
We’ve all experienced betrayal, whether it’s the adulterous husband, the prodigal child, or the back-stabbing co-worker. Betrayal has injured us all at some point.
Thankfulness is not the normal inclination of the heart that has been betrayed. As we’ve been studying the book of Colossians, I’ve been struck by how much the thinking and communication of Paul is gratitude-drenched. And right here in Colossians 3, we see wedged into the middle of a significant template for fleshing out the Christian life, three simple words: “And be thankful.” (v. 15) Remember, Paul penned those words from a prison cell.
What I’ve learned (through facing some heart-wrenching betrayals) is that I can’t reach “thankfulness” automatically. I can’t get to the place of being thankful until I’ve first traveled the path that carries me deep into God’s heart.
The first step down the path toward thankfulness is described in Colossians 3 where we’re told to “put on” compassion. This is an action word. This is something that takes effort, choice, and determination. Put on compassion.
How do we “put on” compassion?
It’s important to understand that compassion is not an emotion. Compassion is a disposition of the heart. Compassion is a virtue that is developed through experiencing personal suffering. Compassion flows from a heart that has received a deep work of God’s grace and understands the nature of sin and temptation.
In order to develop compassion for my betrayer, I need to get an accurate perspective.
I must view them as one who is desperately needy: they (as we all are) are in desperate need of God’s grace. The fact that they’ve betrayed me isn’t the most important aspect of their betrayal, not at all. They’ve betrayed love. They’ve betrayed God’s love.
When I focus on that, I know they are in great need.
When I focus on their great need, and consider what may’ve led them down the path toward betrayal, I am practicing the important process of empathy.
There is more to say on this, and I’ll continue tomorrow, but today I hope you’ll spend some time soaking up this passage that provides our pathway to thankfulness.
Are you willing to ask God to supply you with compassion for your betrayer?
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