When I was little, I laid on my bed many nights and cried into my pillow for a friend.
But things are different now. Somewhere along the line, God allowed so many dear ones to spring up along my path. Now, if I’m crying into my pillow, it is more likely to be about the friends that I used to have.
Nearly every one of you, I suspect, has lost a friend.
A move across the country. A new school. A marriage. An argument. A choice.
There are very few things that scar a heart as much as a discarded friendship.
I’ve felt it.
There is helplessness, when despite all your love, they still fade away. There is anger, because how dare she just leave, after all these years? And, sometimes, there is guilt, because she wasn’t the only one who walked away, or kept holding a grudge.
So, what do we do? Shrug it off and move on? Close ourselves up? Choose better friends? Try to never say anything that might ever offend anyone?
If you’re recovering from a friendship-gone-awry, here are a few things to remember.
1. If you’ve tried your best to reconcile, that’s all you can do.
Whether it was her “fault” or yours, it doesn’t matter. If you need to go to her and apologize–or offer forgiveness–do it.
But after you’ve humbly sought to restore the relationship and she still won’t have anything to do with you, you can’t do anything else.
Strike that. You can pray.
I know. That helpless feeling creeps over you and it feels like a prayer might be the most powerless thing you can imagine.
After you’ve confessed your sin or humbly offered restoration, keep living. Move forward. If you have God’s forgiveness, you have what you need to go on. By His grace, your friend may one day see the truth. Or she may not.
But after you’ve done your best, it’s okay to go on with life.
2. Love her from afar.
I could tell you to forget about her.
But you spent nights laughing till 3 in the morning with her. You saw each other at your best and worst. She holds some of your deepest secrets and knows your wildest dreams. She shares some of your most-valued beliefs. You’ve giggled on long car rides with the stereo cranked up, singing along to your favorite CD.
You’ve shared so much love and life.
And now that she’s gone, you miss her. And you probably always will.
Several years ago, I lost one of my best friends. It was sudden, drastic, and final. She dropped off the face of my world, without even a word to me. Others in her life received her hate-filled, backstabbing, anger. I didn’t even get a “Goodbye, I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” I didn’t even rate high enough for that.
The past 6 years of silence have not dimmed my memory. I haven’t seen her at all. A few reports from other friends, a few added sorrows when I hear of the suffering her choices have caused. And you know what? I still love her desperately.
Maybe I don’t cry myself to sleep like I did when she first left. Maybe I’m not picking up the freshly-shattered pieces of trust. But deep in my chest is an ache that is still there. I think it will always be there.
I never got a chance to try for reconciliation. I may not even cross paths with her again. But I have spent the last 6 years loving her from afar, smiling at her memory, tearing up a little at the old pictures of us in our cowgirl hats and bandanas, with the little-girl innocence that we both somehow lost. I can get lost a long time in the photos of her clear eyes, wondering where it all went wrong, wondering why I didn’t notice she was slipping away.
You lost a friend. You may not be in her life anymore.
But don’t stop loving her. She still needs your prayers. And you also need something — you need the bittersweetness of the memories you made together. Don’t throw out the gift she made you, or toss out the photo album of you two together. God gave you those moments, and they were full and true and sweet. Remember them. Savor them, however short.
3. Don’t become like her.
If the end of the friendship was her doing — if you’ve done your best to make things right — then you have been wronged terribly.
Whether it began as a silly argument, a drastic misunderstanding, or a sudden change in her personality, don’t let the hurt she inflicted on you make you bitter.
Friends have shared with me about the lost relationships that still weigh them down. Whether you live 200 miles away or cross paths with your former friend every week, you will still hurt. You’ll have different challenges to sort through, but you are still an abandoned friend.
And it hurts dreadfully.
Often, she is hurting too. It’s not an excuse, but it is the truth. As much as you’ve been hurt, remember that she is a person too, with a complex life and maybe surprising reasons behind her betrayal.
Forgive her. Whatever the reason — big, or small, or completely unknown — forgive her. As you were forgiven all those terrible things that Christ bore for you with joy, forgive her.
4. Relationships are complicated and hard and heartbreaking — and worth it.
You may not want to try again.
Sometimes I get so weary of the hard work of communicating and navigating misunderstanding, that I just want to hide. “People are so complicated,” I mutter. “Life would be so simple without people.” While I’d never want to actually try life without others, sometimes it seems that there are endless troubles wherever there is more than one person involved. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy.
Don’t let the scars keep you from loving again.
Because there are true friends to be found. They will take effort, trust, maintenance, forgiveness, humility. But they exist.
Keep loving and reaching out. Friendship is worth it. So worth it.
Related Post: “Putting the ‘Forever’ in Friend”
5. When all else fails, Jesus knows.
I can say all sorts of true and sentimental things. But one thing remains.
He was having the worst night of his life. Off-the-charts stress. All His buddies were taking a nap when He needed their camaraderie the most. All except one.
That one was coming now, his pale face flickering in the approaching torch light. He was coming silently, standing between a pair of rough temple guards.
And that one friend walked straight up, mustered up his nerve, and kissed Him on the cheek.
Acclaimed writer Michael Card sings these words, words that resonate with everyone who has ever been betrayed:
“Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord?
Why did he use a kiss to show them?
That’s not what a kiss is for.
Only a friend can betray a friend.
A stranger has nothing to gain,
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.”
– from “Why” by Michael Card.
So when my words run out, my encouragement fails to touch the depth of your hurt, my sharing in your loss echoes empty, this truth can hold you up.
He is not an untouched Stranger, a heavenly man who felt none of our pain. He took it all, tried it all, died bearing it all.
And God took on flesh and bared his face to the mocking kiss of a man who played at morality for 3 years, who put on a role for his own gain, who lived moment after moment in traitorous, silent scoffing at the works of the Christ he claimed to believe.
“And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone
And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not”
– from “The Silence of God” by Andrew Peterson
So when you’re crying, alone in your bed, remembering that one-time friend…this is all I have to say.
He is not untouched. He knows. And His ears never weary of hearing our cries. His arms never tire of pulling off our burdens.
Once they were friends. Now we only remember.
But one Friend never fails. And thank God — thank God! — for that firm foundation, that soul-anchor.
Because, now, I can love without fear. Whether it is returned or not.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 8:38-39, KJV –