Living and working cross culturally can bring out the best or the beast in us. Our topic for this month was about dealing with difficult co-workers. The topic is so broad that we are going to only touch on one aspect, betrayal. We first published this article in 1993, written by Mike Constantine.
Of the many trials and struggles that every worker faces, none brings more pain and perplexity than betrayal. There’s no better way to describe its effects than to look at David’s experience as it is recorded for us in the Book of Psalms:
“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…My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” Psalms 55: 12-14, 20, 21 NIV.
Does his experience sound familiar, painfully familiar, to you? I am convinced that every servant of God will have to pass through the experience of betrayal by a close, personal friend or perhaps even a family member. For some of us it may happen more than once, as in David’s case. Whenever it happens we experience dangerous symptoms that could lead to the death of our vision and ministry. Look at these symptoms with me.
In verse two David says his worries have overcome him. From the Hebrew it seems that the word he used means something like “I am distraught. I don’t know which way to turn.”
In our early years of service we experienced a very painful false accusation from a close friend. One of the things we remember is the sense of isolation that followed. Where could we turn? Who could we trust? If someone so close had betrayed us, who could we rely on? There were days that we felt as if all our strength had been stolen and we didn’t know who could help us get it back.
In verse six David says, quite unmistakably, that he would just love to run away. Modern translation: “If we had the money, we would hop on a plane and get out of here!” Nothing, I mean nothing, can make us want to resign and run away like being falsely attacked or having a confidence betrayed by a colleague. We feel that if we can’t trust our comrades, the sacrifice isn’t worth it. “Let’s go someplace where we’ll really be appreciated,” we muse. Of course running away doesn’t solve anything. We run out of God’s will, and we miss the work God wants to do in our character as well. It’s probably a good thing we can’t afford the flight.
Before we experienced that betrayal, a well-known leader told me something that profoundly affected our lives. He said, “Sometimes the Lord has to take us through unusual circumstances to build in us the right kind of independence.” When he said that to me, I didn’t understand it at all. But in the days and months that followed his words kept coming back to me. The right kind of independence. I knew what the wrong kind was. God never wants his people to be independent, rebellious servants who think they don’t need anyone else. No Lone Rangers! No Mighty Mouse PWs! (“Here I come to save the day!) No, I didn’t want to be one of those.
But what was the right kind of independence? Let me describe it for you in four words: stay, say, pray, and lay.
- First, the right kind of independence means that God wants us to stay where He has put us in spite of another worker’s attitude or accusation.
- Second, God wants us to hold on to the Word He has given us. We must not become defensive or vindictive, but must say what He says about us and about our fellow-workers.
- Third, we must pray, like David did, casting all our cares on the Lord. He wants us totally dependent on Him, for that’s when we are the happiest and the most productive.
- Fourth, we must lay a foundation for future success. The way we respond to a false accusation and betrayal can make the difference between long-term success for God’s work in our lives or long-term frustration of His purposes.
Don’t let the failure of another servant of God destroy your calling and effectiveness. Let God develop in you the right kind of independence.