“At my first defense, no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me. . .and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth” 2 Timothy 4:16-17
I was on my knees, crying out to God. I wanted someone to hurt. A LOT. I wanted God to break the person. Did I mention I wanted the person to feel a bunch of pain? I felt betrayed. AGAIN.
The apostle Paul doesn’t hold back about betrayal in his letter to Timothy. He confides about those who deserted him during his public trial. I can’t imagine being on trial for my faith which may cost me my life. I can only speculate how crucial to have the support of Christ followers on the sidelines. When I have a teaching opportunity, I draw strength from familiar faces who know me. And those are friendly crowds as opposed to those who want to do harm!
Shock. Confusion. Anger. These feelings accompany betrayal because the very nature of the pain means there’s been trust; a level of intimacy and understanding which cannot be immediately duplicated. When Paul says “no one supported me,” the meaning of the phrase is literally, “stood with me” or “came forward with me.” In the apostle’s trial, betrayal means a failure to give or offer help. A withholding.
How does Paul teach us to deal with betrayal resulting from someone’s failure to be there, emotionally and/or physically? First, he names the offense. Paul says “I was deserted at an extremely vulnerable time.” Second, he forgives the offenders. I have found I arrive at forgiveness more quickly by naming the person’s actions and calling them forgiven. For instance, I say to the Lord, “I forgive so-and-so for taking advantage of my fears, dismissing my needs, failing to reach out, validate my efforts, etc.”
We know Paul forgives because he is able to ask for the betrayal of others not to be held against them. I want my dialogue with the Lord to include betrayal not to be held against the person. This request reveals a heart who grasps the mercy of God toward itself. I want to be mindful of the many times I have hurt others through withholding. I fail to give an encouraging word, a helping presence, or a word of validation because it’s easier to go along with the crowd. Ultimately, betraying the heart of Christ inside me. I need mercy just as much as the person who hurts me.
Finally, Paul teaches us about affirming the Lord’s presence. He says, “But the Lord. . .” What beautiful words in the context. He says the Lord stood with him and strengthened him. I love how a very dark hour in his life turns into an overwhelming experience of God’s strength and nearness. It reminds me to let go of trying to control my relationships so that I am not hurt through betrayal. I want to have an open hand to receive the Lord’s presence in dark moments if someone fails to support in a vulnerable time; I will not be abandoned by God. The Lord brought about deliverance for Paul even though there was no one who stood with him.
Sister, I am grateful God comes through for me and you in spite of who isn’t able to stand with us when we are struggling physically, in need of help, a word of validation about our feelings or someone’s support in a moment when we are taking a stand for our faith. How do you move through the pain when you find yourself wanting someone to hurt A LOT? ~ Laura