O Lord, how my enemies have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of me,“There is no help [no salvation] for him in God.” Selah. But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,My glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head. With my voice I was crying to the Lord, And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept [safely];I awakened, for the Lord sustains me. I will not be intimidated or afraid of the ten thousands who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; May Your blessing be upon Your people. Selah.
Psalm 3: 1-8
The young wife and mother stood before me, tears mingled with mascara streaming down her face. I prayed with her at that Sunday eveningaltar as we asked the Lord to help her deal with the terrible pain of her husband’s betrayal.
A long road now lay ahead. She would have to recover from the traumatic emotional injury of betrayal and abandonment, as well as rejoin the workplace; nourish her wounded children, and downsize her lifestyle.
I wanted to tell her there was a quick cure for her deep grief, that in just a day or two everything would be all right. But as a pastor I knew better. Deep wounds normally require a long period of healing.
David found himself in a similar dark night of despondency. His son Absalom had betrayed him, along with trusted counselor and friend Ahithophel. No one has the power to wound us more than a family member or a trusted friend. The tragic story unfolds in 2 Samuel 15-19. David fled for his life from his son.
It would not be a swift journey back. David knew it. His psalm reflects it. He wrote his prayer to God in the very first spasms of enormous pain.
If you have suffered a nightmare experience, there’s help for you from this psalm. Follow the example of David.
I think there is no worse emotional pain that the pain of betrayal for it almost always stems from a close relationship, from someone you have trusted, and someone to whom you’ve opened your heart. The wounds of betrayal run deep and will affect every relationship in your life including your relationship with God. You may walk away from the one individual who inflicted the pain, but you carry that pain in your heart. Even if you find yourself in another healthy relationship, the pain of betrayal will often sabotage that relationship too for often we struggle to trust again.
In this psalm, David is describing the pain of a father who has been betrayed by a loved son. When you read this tragic story, you find multiple factors that led ultimately to the betrayal and that’s usually our case. There are few clean cut cases in life.
Betrayal often leads to betrayal. In this sad story, Absalom had a sister named Tamar. Her stepbrother Amnon fell in love with her and when she refused to return his affection, he raped her. After the fact, Amnon threw her out of his house and would have nothing to do with her. As she tore her clothes and put ashes on her head as a sign of mourning, Absalom pressed her to tell what had happened. When David, their father became aware of all that had taken place, he became angry but did nothing. So we have Tamar who was betrayed by her stepbrother and by her father who did nothing. Abasolom took up her cause and decided since David did nothing, he would take matters into his own hands. Often betrayal produced revenge. Our sense of justice wants the perpetrator punished for their deeds. And to be sure, justice is never wrong if the wronged allows it to work and never gives in to vengeance. So Absalom set up Anmom and he was killed and Absalom fled. David could have gone after Absalom and restored the relationship but he chose not to do so and the feeling of betrayal ate away at Absalom’s heart. The pain of betrayal unchecked wreaks havoc upon every life involved and unless we bring that pain to God for healing, it will bring destruction.
Absalom’s wounds were never healed so he set out on a path of vengeance. He reasoned that he was more worthy to be king than his father so the wounded chooses to wound. The betrayed becomes the betrayer. Absalom plots to overthrow the throne and David flees for his life. It is during this time that he writes Psalm 3 and gives us a lesson on how we may deal with life when we feel betrayed.
The first lesson we learn is to bring our feelings openly to God. We need to pour out before Him our hurt, anger, bitterness, and all the other feelings that accompany betrayal. It’s ok to express the feelings of unfairness or even the “how could you” feelings. David also tells us that betrayal leaves us feeling abandoned by everyone, not just the betrayer but our whole support group.
Thankfully the psalm doesn’t end here but David takes us farther toward healing as he teaches us to remember that God is our defense and He’s the One who can lift us up again and bring healing to our wounded spirits. David reminds us that even if we feel like everyone has turned against us, if we will place our trust in Him, He will sustain us and give us a peace that overcomes our fear.
Finally in the psalm, David teaches us to give the betrayal over to God and let Him deal with the betrayer. Scripture says that vengeance belongs to God for only He is capable of true justice. No matter how much we wish to revenge the wrong, make the person pay, if we start down that road, things won’t get better, they’ll just get worse. We might find some sort of satisfaction for a moment, but in the end nothing will be well.
Absalom chose the path of vengeance when he felt betrayed. David turned to God. Absalom allowed his bitterness to move him to destruction, murder, and rebellion and in the end it cost him everything including his life. David chose to eventually put the matter in God’s hands and even though some of his choices and decisions, had they been different, could have brought about a different outcome, in the end he found forgiveness, restoration and healing.
The reality of hurt, pain, anger, discouragement, and depression that comes with betrayal cannot be brushed aside. It can’t be overlooked or ignored but we can find healing. The betrayer may never repent or rectify things, but that won’t be able to keep God from healing our hearts.
Today, if someone or life has left you feeling betrayed, turn your heart to the One who understands betrayal better than anyone- Christ Jesus- who experienced the betrayal of a close friend and the abandonment and denial of His other close friends. Open your heart and soul and let the Holy Spirit do spiritual surgery of binding up the wounds and washing away the infection of betrayal and let Him breathe on your heart again with life.
George Wood gives us seven steps to help us recover from the devastation of betrayal:
Take your pain directly to God. David might have been able to no longer talk to those who betrayed him, but he could still talk to God.
Write down your feelings. David gives concrete expression to his pain, anger and faith.
Look at the problem realistically. David paints the picture as it is- dark. He wastes no time denying the reality of what happened and he doesn’t begin with a statement of confidence.
Declare God’s truth. David declares God’s truth- even when it is contrary to his feelings. He whistles his faith while walking through the dark forest of the soul where unseen monsters lurk.
Choose life. In his hour of great trial David must have wrestled with whether or not he even wanted or could go on living. He resolves his despair by coming down on the side of life. He asks God for help.
Rest. Knowing God hears led David to a moment of respite. When you’re deeply troubled you need rest so lie down and sleep. In the dawn of a new day, like David you can begin with confidence.
Express your anger. Anger, without vengeance, is God’s mechanism for protecting us when we’ve been hurt by another. Anger puts needed distance between us and that person.
Be exemplary. David senses his struggle is being watched, and his testimony has value for the needs of those who look on.
Dr. John Thompson