Friends of mine went through a divorce some time ago, after the husband learned that his wife had been involved in an affair. I was in a difficult situation, being friends with both spouses. Attempts had been made to reconcile (including counseling) but trust had been broken beyond repair in their eyes.
The divorce process was ugly. Neither the wife nor the husband were willing to concede much, and both pointed their fingers at the other as the reason for the broken relationship. He blamed her for the affair and she blamed him for taking her for granted, to the point that she searched elsewhere. Looking at the situation from outside of the heated emotion, I could see that BOTH of them were right and wrong.
They were right that their spouses had made a mistake, and they were wrong that the other’s mistake was worse than their own. While they justified their actions within their minds, neither spouse was exempt from responsibility for the regression of the marriage.
After the divorce, the wife moved out of the area to start over. I lost touch with her but continued communication with the husband. We talked on the phone and met for occasional meals. After some time had passed, I asked him if he was ready to start dating again? He shrugged and said, “I don’t think I can ever trust another woman again.”
That situation had a profound effect on me. It was before my calling to seminary, and I was struggling with my own issues related to forgiveness. While trust is something that is earned, it certainly didn’t seem fair that someone who had not done anything wrong (in his case, potential new dates) should start out being perceived as untrustworthy.
So while trust is something that is gained over time, a new relationship cannot begin on the grounds that the new girlfriend has to prove that she isn’t untrustworthy. My friend’s lack of trust has caused him to be unhealthy in relationships. Instead of seeing people in a generally favorable light, he sees them as untrustworthy until they prove otherwise.
This perception is typically a phase in a healthy healing process, but when lack of trust becomes the default or the norm, it negatively affects every relationship the person experiences (including other family, friends, co-workers, etc). The lack of trust then becomes HIS unhealthy problem rather than the problem of those with whom he is involved.
In John 1, verses 16-17 we read, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” And then back to verse 11, “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
Do we really believe this message of grace that we proclaim as Christians? “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” It doesn’t say that you ‘will’ or ‘might one day’ receive God’s grace. We have already received it. Belief in God’s grace through Christ is supposed to release us from the burdens of our past, trusting that nothing prevents us from God’s love and forgiveness.
Jesus’ promise of love and forgiveness strengthens us to be real and honest about ourselves, acknowledging that we are imperfect yet still accepted by God. If we are generally untrusting of others, how can we trust God? And before we can trust others, we have to trust ourselves.
My friend is in a new relationship but it took years before he was emotionally healthy enough to recognize that he was part of the problem in his past marriage. He had to overcome his trust problem by facing his fear. It wasn’t just about trusting women for a relationship, but he also had to deal with trusting himself…trusting that he was worthy of love and another relationship. Now through humility and grace (recognizing that while imperfect, he is lovable), he has blossomed as a person and as a partner.
You and I are redeemed through Christ. It’s already done; which means that we can face the discomfort of our fears without the threat of God’s rejection. When we are feeling vulnerable, Jesus is our solid foundation to stand upon. The healing process is slow, but Jesus helps us grow and mature in our faith and understanding. And over time, we recognize his presence where we were blind to it in the past.
Are you feeling redeemed? Has the experience of freedom through Christ filled your spirit with hope and joy? In 2015, let’s make an effort to release past burdens and move forward in the freedom, love, and grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.