Remember that relationship that was ruined? It might have been a falling out with a friend recently. Or maybe it was something that happened over a decade ago, and every now and then you think of that person who was once closerthanthis to you, but now you don’t even have her telephone number or email address.
Are you haunted by a broken relationship?
I want to encourage you today that you may not have seen the end of that person—or that relationship.
I have not had many “falling outs” with people over the years. I tend to make and keep friends, and if we are really close, and something comes up that seems to cause a “break up,” I tend to be a peacemaker. I reach out. I apologize. I own my part. And I try to at least keep the relationship such that, if we run into each other somewhere out and about, we can say hi and catch up a bit.
But there were a few relationships that got broken where it did not seem possible to stay friends. There was a ministry partner who cut me off when I left his church. There was a woman who fell into a deep, dark place after getting married (I was a bridesmaid), and within a few months of the wedding, informed me she wanted nothing to do with me or any other Christian. There was another woman who made a big decision without telling anyone, a decision that proved to be a life-altering mistake, and when I tried to talk some sense in to her – lovingly – she cut me off completely. There was an editor who did not honor a written agreement we had and ended up firing me because I wanted to hold him to our contract.
In each of these cases, I was in agony. I hate relational strife. I love peace. And in each of these cases, I tried to save the relationship. I’m a big fan of “agreeing to disagree,” but being able to stay in a relationship. Especially when that relationship represents hours, days, weeks, and months of doing life or doing meaningful work together.
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But I have been reminded over and over that God is the ultimate peacemaker, and the ultimate redeemer. Are you in a situation now where you have experienced the break-up of a friendship? Let me encourage you to stay hopeful. God might not be finished with it yet!
In each of the cases above, I found myself haunted by the brokenness. Every so often, I would think of one of these people and my heart would just hurt. Sometimes I would cry. I would want to reach out to them, but having already tried that in the past, I had to let it go. I had done everything I could.
Except one thing.
And that one thing—oh! that thing!—is so powerful.
I’m talking about prayer.
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Five years after a that ministry partner told me he did not want a friendship with me, around Christmas time, I was driving from Virginia back to New York and he came to mind. We had not spoken in years, not since he had rejected my last attempt to get together and salvage something of the relationship. That last conversation we had was one that made it clear our friendship was over. But we had shared some wonderful years of ministry together, and I was still gut-wrenched over the loss of that relationship. So, as I drove up I-81, I began to pray.
I prayed hard. I prayed with tears in my eyes. And I asked God to bring reconciliation between us. We still had mutual friends. I still had a tremendous amount of respect for him. But a wedge had found its way between us, and it seemed like it would never go away.
After praying along that drive, I had peace. The passage in Philippians 4 is true:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I didn’t have any reason to feel peaceful after spending that time in prayer. Nothing had changed in the situation. Yet, peace filled my heart, replacing the grief, and I continued on my merry way.
Imagine my delight when, a few weeks later, an email appeared in my inbox from my old friend. God had been moving in his heart too, and he was making his first step toward reconciliation. In the years since he sent that email, there has been total restoration in our relationship. We live in different cities now, but when I think of him, I know that we are totally OK now. All is well.
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That experience several years ago inspired me to begin praying earnestly for the other broken relationships in my life. And over the course of time, God moved in each of those situations and there has been reconciliation. The woman who cut me off after her wedding got divorced a few years later, and when her marriage fell apart, she was moved to go back and revisit some of the other relationships that had gotten broken. While we are not close friends anymore, we had a very good conversation that left us knowing we can always say hi if we see each other on the subway (which is exactly what happened!)
I can tell similar stories about others as well. I believe in the power of prayer, that God responds by moving in our hearts and granting us the grace of forgiveness and the gift of reconciliation.
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There is still one relationship in my life that remains unmended. And I continue to pray. I am hopeful that God is not finished with us yet.
There may be times when you just have to let it go. But there are other times when you can’t. Something in you keeps hoping that there will be reconciliation, if not total restoration of the friendship. And I believe that those are the cases when God wants us to pray, and believe in, and hope for, his power to heal.
Of course, a big, huge part of this process is being willing to forgive. In each of these cases where I was hurt by someone, when they were ready to reconcile, I was ready to let go of the past. You can’t’ forgive someone if you’re going to hold on to it. And let me tell you, as deceptively “good” as it can feel to bear a grudge, there is nothing like that the liberating feeling of forgiving someone, for reals. You can physically feel the load lift from you when you are able to find the grace, through God, to forgive.
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So how about you? Are you thinking of a relationship in your own life that seems like it is over for good?
Let me encourage you to pray. Right now, bring that person to God in prayer and ask God to do that thing that only God can do. Heal. Restore. Renew. Redeem.
And get ready for it. Because I believe with all my heart, it will come.
And when it does, I’d love to hear about it!