Pastor Ed Grant
The old covered walking bridge across the Delaware River had stood for as long as anyone could remember. It connected the town of Portland, Pennsylvania with Columbia, New Jersey. During the spring one year ice flows combined with a large amount of rain and the swollen river washed away part of the bridge and weakened what remained.
Trust between people is like a bridge built from both sides of a river. When it is built with care and careful planning it will be durable, capable of weathering the storms of life. Occasionally it will need repair and certainly will require periodic maintenance, but individuals feel safe to put a great deal of emotional weight on the bridge: keeping one’s promises is expected; sensitive secrets divulged are carefully protected; personal flaws and weaknesses are accepted.
Happy is the person who has one or two close relationships! Building the bridge called trust is costly, risky and requires a substantial time investment, but the rewards are truly fulfilling.
What happens, though, when a large section of the trust-bridge has been washed away through betrayal, deception or a litany of broken promises? The ache and bitterness of soul can be almost unbearable. King David wrote about the agony caused by a friend’s betrayal: ‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.‘ (Psalm 55:12-14).
Is it possible to re-build the trust-bridge? How can we be sure that it won’t be washed out again?
Because we are all fallen human beings the potential for getting hurt again is always a possibility. Only Jesus, the friend of sinners, Who loved us while we were still His enemies, is worthy of our complete emotional trust. His nail scarred hands continually reach out to us, inviting us into His loving embrace. Having said this, however, God does intend for us to take the risk to restore broken relationships and to establish new ones. The trust-bridge must be re-built from both sides. Whether it is a marriage, a parent child relationship, or a friendship, the following principles apply to re-building trust.
For the wounded:
1. Those wounded need to take an emotional inventory: what happened; what has resulted from the person’s action; in what ways can I still trust him/her and in what ways is it unwise to trust?
2. The wounded desperately need God’s healing hand and His protection against the root of bitterness that frequently spring up from a wound. Healing may take a long time, depending on the damage done to the trust-bridge.
3. Trust and forgiveness are not the same . Forgiveness may be given long before trust is re-established. Those who have breached trust must demonstrate their trustworthiness over a period of time.
4. Talking with a close friend, a pastor or a counselor can provide insight and a different perspective. Don’t go through it by yourself!
5. Ask God for wisdom and discernment to help you determine the sincerity of the person’s sorrow over the offense, the desire to make restitution, and the efforts to change.
For those who have broken trust.
Solomon wrote, ‘Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for.’ (Prov. 16:6a). Love is the consideration shown for the injured; faithfulness is demonstrated by consistent change of behavior . Fleshed out it looks like this:
1. There are no quick fixes for the pain caused, nor are there any shortcuts to getting back to the way things were before. A great deal of patience and humility is needed to hear the other’s pain, often many times.
2. Accept responsibility for your actions without blaming others or explaining them away. Attempts to explain minimize the offense and show the wounded loved one you ‘don’t get it.’
3. Accept the consequences of your actions, including the emotional distance, and make restitution when possible.
4. Be accountable for your actions without becoming defensive.
5. Ask God to give you a view your sin from His perspective and to allow you to grasp the severity of the wound you caused.
6. Pray regularly for God’s healing touch upon the person and for sensitivity to their needs.
God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.”
The wonderful benefits that spring from trusting relationships is worth the risk of potential heartache. God can heal heartache, but He won’t fill the lonely void within when we refuse to build trust-bridges with others, especially with His people.