Life + Culture

Best Friends Make the Worst Enemies

Best Friends Make the Worst Enemies

Our best friends always make the worst enemies. Opposition of any kind can make life miserable, but opposition of a particular kind multiplies the misery.

We rarely give our enemies enough latitude to really hurt us. They can hurl insults, stand in our way, and even inflict pain, but we always have our guard up. But with our friends and family, we let them through the gates, inside locked doors, to the most vulnerable places. And too often, those we let near in love leverage precious trust to serve themselves at our expense — to betray us.

The husband who leaves for another woman.
The wife who gossips about her husband’s weaknesses.
The son who walks away from the faith.
The daughter who keeps making destructive decisions.
The father who over-works to avoid the family.
The mother who relentlessly demands and condemns.
The friend who disappears when we need them most.

Have you been betrayed by the ones you love most? When we have, we can retreat for a season — to process, to recover, to repair, and to prepare to forgive. God has given us a safe place to hide and find the strength and hope we need to press on in love.

Our Worst Enemies

King David knew the bitter flavor of betrayal.

It is not an enemy who taunts me —
     then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me —
     then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
     my companion, my familiar friend. (Psalm 55:12–13)

My companion. My familiar friend. My loved one. The one I trusted. I sailed out into stormy seas with them, filled with hope and affection and confidence, and then suddenly they fled to safety while they watched me drown alone.

We can hide from faraway enemies — from dangerous strangers or foreign armies — but we can’t hide from loved ones. The memories creep in everywhere we might hide, but their sweetness has been poisoned by betrayal.

David had his enemies — by the thousands — but the worst enemies had been his best friends.

The Prodigal Murderer

We don’t know who the familiar friend of Psalm 55 was, but we do know David was betrayed by the ones closest to him. Maybe the most painful betrayal of all was by his son Absalom.

David’s son murdered his other son to avenge his sister’s rape. Read those words again slowly, and think about the awful weight of this father’s heartache. If you have children, think about trying to care for your family in the midst of that kind of relational hurricane, all while your own heart is being beaten up and drowned.

Despite the evil Absalom had done, David brought the prodigal murderer home (2 Samuel 14:21). He established boundaries (2 Samuel 14:24), but he eventually welcomed his son with a kiss (2 Samuel 14:33). How did Absalom respond to his father’s kindness, patience, and forgiveness?

He conspired to overthrow his father’s kingdom (2 Samuel 15:12). He slandered his father’s reputation (2 Samuel 15:3). He lied to his father’s face (2 Samuel 15:7–8). And he forced his father into hiding for fear of his life (2 Samuel 15:14). He not only betrayed his own flesh and blood, but he betrayed the father who had forgiven him for murdering his brother. And his betrayal cost twenty thousand men their lives (2 Samuel 18:7).

When Words Are Swords

David may not have written Psalm 55 about Absalom, but he certainly could have said this about his son: “We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” (Psalm 55:14). He could have been thinking of his son’s deadly lies in 2 Samuel 15:7–8:

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
     he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter,
     yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
     yet they were drawn swords. (Psalm 55:20–21)

The soft words of a friend can be drawn swords in disguise — trading precious trust for selfish gain — convincingly promising precisely the affection and loyalty he or she surrenders so eagerly. David knew the most intimate kind of pain and opposition. Do you?

Take Cover

If so, you feel far more alone than you really are. Let the “But” in verse 16 call you out of loneliness and despair into hope again:

But I call to God,
     and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
     I utter my complaint and moan,
     and he hears my voice.
He redeems my soul in safety
     from the battle that I wage,
     for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear and humble them,
     he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
     and do not fear God. (Psalm 55:16–19)

Take refuge in the friendship of God. When friends or family leave you or fail you, know that he never will. He remains faithful, strong, caring, and close by — evening, morning, and at noon. He is relentless, persistent, unfailing in his love for you, and his love for you is strong enough to overcome any love that has failed you.

You Can Trust Him

Take refuge in the friendship of God, and let God judge the betrayer. As difficult as it might be to run into the arms of God when we’ve been betrayed in love, it may be even more difficult to surrender our desire for vengeance — our innate longing to make the one who hurt us feel something of the pain we felt.

But the same love that holds and heals us in the wake of betrayal also frees us from having to administer justice. God, in unparalleled love, not only promises never to leave or betray us, but he also promises to punish every sin committed against us — either in the horrors of hell or in the death of his Son. As you wait for him to act, remember that your Judge intimately knows your pain. Jesus was not only betrayed to death by one of the worst of his twelve closest friends, he was also denied three times by one of the best — and then abandoned by the rest.

Instead of going after his betrayer, David went hard after God. He trusted him to bring justice.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
     and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
     the righteous to be moved.
But you, O God, will cast them down
     into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
     shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you. (Psalm 55:22–23)

“But I will trust in you.” Those six words are strong enough to carry you over the massive waves of betrayal. Resist the impulse to take things into your own hands (or words), and rest your heart, the relationship, and the future in his capable hands. You can trust him.

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