Ashley Ivester is a wife and homeschooling mom to three boys. In her spare time, she blogs at onthestreetwhereweliveblog.com.
Fall is my favorite season. I love the crisp air, open windows, pumpkins on porches, and full apple trees ready for picking. The vibrant colors of the leaves and the way that they cover the ground like confetti are delightful. The leaves signal an end and newness that will come.
Friendships can be like those leaves. Sometimes they end just when we begin to believe they might really last forever. An ended friendship can be a deeply painful loss causing real grief. During autumn our yard is covered in multi-colors. The leaves threaten to overtake every inch, so every week we diligently rake and bag them. Grieving over the loss of relationship is a lot like maintaining a yard in autumn, it’s just not as simple.
If you have experienced the loss of friendship, you may ask these questions: How do I forgive? How do I move forward free of anger, bitterness, or regret? How do I live in peace with that person? Here are some truths to help the Christian faithfully grieve:
We are loved with "a Never-Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”*
Think about that for a while! The reality about any human relationship is that it was never meant to fulfill us. We have the great love of the Father even when we experience rejection. His love is steadfast and will never cease (Lam 3:22).
The natural reaction to a broken relationship is to raise the accusatory finger, but it is more beneficial to look in the mirror. We need hearts willing to undergo godly examination. We should ask how we have wronged or hurt the other person. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (Jas 1:19). And then we should ask for forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9).
Think of the friend with kindness and sincerely pray for them.
After recognizing the wrong we have done, it becomes easier to put off feelings and thoughts of anger, malice, or slander toward the other person and put on compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love (Col 3:1-17). Choose to act, think, and speak of the other person with kindness. Jesus gave a radical command in Luke 6 when He said, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Pray God's blessing over the one who hurt you. He knows their needs and we can trust Him to act accordingly (1 Pet 2:23).
Strive for reconciliation through communication.
Be the one to reach out with hope of reconciliation. Ideally, a common ground can be found through a shared love for God, but that is not always the outcome. In such a case, the good news is that we are only responsible for our own hearts and actions. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18).
Keep your door open.
I love the story Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Dicamillo. One of the characters in it says, "There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand?" There is agonizing truth in that quote. Relationships are a two-way street. We can't force others to walk it with us. However, our doors can be kept accessible through a ready willingness to extend forgiveness, kindness, and grace should it be sought. In that event, does it mean everything will go back to "normal?" It depends on the situation. God is able to reconcile any relationship, but as we grow in wisdom it may change our relationship. There are also consequences to sin. We keep open the door to relationship while we seek God’s wisdom and guidance.
Remember, "I am not so very different from the one who hurt me."
This hits where it hurts the most, our pride. I usually think of painful incidents through the lens of something that happened to me, while being quick to ignore or justify times I have treated others wrongly. How often have I treated God with the same carelessness, betrayal, and rejection found in the cases I've presented to him? How many times has he been met with my silence and a withheld heart? How quickly have I chosen things or people over Him? How many minutes have I been unwilling to sacrifice for Him? What hypocrisy is found in my heart! Yet He relentlessly loves and pursues me! In his grace, God opens our eyes to see our sin, brokenness, and need. It is in that place that we can begin to practice loving others as he loves us. It is there that anger and bitterness are weeded out of the heart. He helps us repent of our lust for control with a reassurance of his presence and goodness. He gives the desire to extend grace and a willingness to forgive. All of that can happen when we begin to comprehend who we are without him and who we are in him.
God made us for beautiful relationship. Friendships are worth celebrating, fighting for, and maintaining. But sometimes, for whatever the reason, they may fall away like an autumn leaf that cannot be reattached to the limb. If your heart is littered in the debris of lost relationship, there is hope for you. God brings transformation when we give him our hearts and strive to apply truth. Choose thankfulness for what God has given and step forward in confidence knowing relationship with our Father is one that can never be broken because of Jesus. He works all things together for our good and his glory (Rom 8:28). We can trust in the One who has planned our every day, even when relationships hurt.
He gives and takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
*Sally Lloyd-Jones, Storybook Bible