“There is no pain equal to that which
two lovers can inflict on one another,” Cyril Connelly declared. He
was probably right, but fallouts between friends can come a close
second. What can be more painful than to lose the friendship of
someone we had assumed we would be walking with all the days of our
It is an enormous relief if
reconciliation can be achieved, but realistically we have to accept
that there are times when “all the king’s horses and all the king’s
men cannot put Humpty together again,” to quote the nursery rhyme.
It makes one feel marginally better to know that even Paul and
Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement that they too parted
If you have been
abandoned or severely slandered by someone you once walked closely
with, you will know how just how deep such shocks can go. Instead of
enjoying unlimited access to their thoughts and feelings, you find
yourself obliged to guard yourself against them. How devastating is
that for your whole sense of well-being?
The more closely bonded we are to people
or projects, the more likely we are to suffer an acute reaction if
they are taken away from us. In extreme cases, such relationship
breakdowns can provoke identity crises that plunge us into profound
anxiety and depression. The great danger then is that we lose that
most precious of all qualities – our courage. Nothing of lasting
value is accomplished in the Kingdom without faith and courage.
Relationship breakdowns can be equally
painful whether they are brought about through other people’s
shortcomings, or as the result of our own foolishness. It may only
be much later – if ever – that we are able to unravel all the
dynamics that were at work, and to begin to make sense of what has
It is wise to be on the alert, for
spirits of division are ever on the prowl to drive wedges between
believers. We are often slow to recognise flash points building up,
hoping perhaps that they will dissolve of their own accord.
Sometimes we need to rouse ourselves to action. When people started
putting their trust in the bronze serpent that Moses had lifted up
in the wilderness, King Hezekiah realised that something was
profoundly wrong in the heart of his nation. Recognising that what
had once been a God-given means of salvation had now become a snare
and idol,7 Hezekiah proceeded with immense courage to cut down the
There are times when we may need to
be equally as decisive in dealing with anything that is leading our
hearts astray.8 The Lord is jealous for our time and attention. It
grieves Him when we allow our energies and affections to be diverted
in some other direction and become inward-looking and exclusive.
More than we are likely to realise at the time, it is a kindness if
the Lord shoulders His axe and lays it to the root of our idolatry
and wrong priorities in order to bring us back into line with His
best purposes for our lives.
When I was sixteen, I was delighted
to be going out with a young lady called Jean. When I returned from
a week’s holiday, I discovered to my intense distress that her
affections had switched to someone else. I was devastated! It took
me the best part of two years to recover. But in retrospect, God was
already thinking far ahead.
Shortly after I became a Christian, the Lord asked me to pray for
Jean regularly. Years went by without any contact or sign of
encouragement, but one night I had a dream. I turned to Ros and
said, “I can’t believe this: Jean’s become a Christian!” Two days
later I received my first letter from her in over a decade. “I
thought you would like to know that I have just become a Christian
and been filled with the Spirit. I’ve led a couple of people in my
village to the Lord already!”
I had only been praying for one
person, but the Lord was thinking of all the people He would one day
be reaching through her!