About fifteen years ago, I ended the friendship with my best friend, Sarah*. We became close friends at the beginning of high school after I wrote her an apology in her yearbook for something wrong I’d done to her in the 7th grade. Even though we ran in different friend groups, and even though Sarah was the most popular, wealthiest, and arguably the most beautiful girl in our entire academy (numbering about 600 students), she was drawn to me after my act of honesty and we spent hours on the phone and hours at each other’s homes. The popular kids in my class treated me as an equal because of my association with Sarah and I even became a favorite to her popular older brother, Riley*.
But then something devastating happened during our senior year of high school. Through a series of very traumatic events, I found out that Sarah had been lying to me for years about some very significant things. Suddenly, I was completely disoriented in my high school world. The closest friendship I had had been completely fake. Not knowing how to respond to this, I distanced myself a little bit from Sarah, but continued to be friends with her.
We ended up going to the same college. I remember Riley writing me a note asking me to watch out for Sarah and take care of her. During our first semester, rumors began circulating that Sarah’s roommate, Patty*, was using drugs. I immediately went to Sarah and confronted her about the issue. She confirmed that it was true and confessed that she would even drive Patty off campus sometimes so she could smoke. When I asked her if she was going to get Patty help, Sarah just shrugged her shoulders and said, “why should I? It’s her life.” From that point on, from my own choosing, Sarah and I were no longer close friends. I could not trust her. She was not and never had been the person I thought she was. Gathering up my courage, I pursued help for Patty on my own, which Patty surprisingly was very grateful for.
That was about fifteen years ago. For years I bitterly regretted the friendship I’d had with Sarah. For years, I had a very difficult time trusting new people. When I would meet someone, the first thing I would do was look for something wrong with them so I could justify a reason for not becoming friends with them. That was how I protected myself and that was the beginning of a season of life I would go through as a very judgmental person. It was absolutely miserable. A large part of myself died when I ended my friendship with Sarah. I asked God many times why He’d ever allowed me to be friends with her.
The literal and figurative deaths that we experience can be so powerful that it alters how we view life. I know that when I go through seasons of life that feel like a death, it’s hard to see beyond that. Physically and spiritually, I am extremely nearsighted. Just the other day, not having my corrective lenses in, I thought an orange blur on our bed was Nick’s phone in its orange case. Before he left the house, I reminded him not to forget his phone. Chuckling, Nick answered, “that’s a bus.” I moved closer to the orange blur and saw that sure enough it was a toy school bus lying on its side.
My physical nearsightedness gets me into little scrapes now and again, but it’s my spiritual nearsightedness that has caused me much greater pain. Because I cannot see the end from the beginning, I do not always go through hardships peacefully. In the past week I have been stressed over tight finances, a friend going through a nasty divorce, a sick child, and a family member struggling with declining health. When I only see the problem at hand, I worry, lose sleep, struggle with doubts and resentment. But Philippians 4:4-5 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (ESV). I love that this translation uses the word “reasonableness.” If I could trust that Jesus, the One who died and rose again, “is at hand” and working in ways I cannot see, I could have the most accurate picture of all of my hardships. I could go through these hardships rejoicing that Jesus is with me, rejoicing that he specializes in bringing life out of death, and that would actually be the most reasonable way for me to live.
About a month ago, I had a dream about Sarah. It was very vivid and it indicated warning or trouble. For a few days, I had a nudging on my heart that I needed to contact her and ask her if I could pray for anything. I found her on Facebook and messaged her. Sarah responded rather quickly and I was shocked by her response. She shared that just a few days before, Riley had overdosed on drugs and almost died. For 15 years Riley has been addicted to drugs and has progressively worsened even though he has gone to rehab. He told Sarah that he thinks he’s eventually going to die because he cannot overcome this addiction. Sarah told me that she believes the only thing that can save Riley now is Jesus and she asked me to pray with her for him.
I wept when I thought about Riley and Sarah. I had not thought about them in a very long time. But in thinking about them I knew that I loved them and that I no longer regretted having been friends with them all those years ago. First John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers and sisters.” Fifteen years ago, I had no idea that Jesus would bring life out of the painful death of my friendship with Sarah. The last drama that she and I had together was when she refused to help Patty out of her drug addiction and now, she and I are working together with Jesus for Riley to break his addiction.
What “death” are you experiencing in your life right now? Have you experienced “death” in your past that you still wish had never happened to you? Are you in such deep pain or is your vision so dark that any possible resolution or good seems impossible? Go ahead and lean into the pain, grieve, and tell trusted people of your sorrows and let them mourn with you. It’s important to do that. But in the pain that you are living, remember that it is not the whole picture of your reality. Jesus is real. The grave is empty. Jesus is with you now. Nothing is impossible for Him. Although you cannot see past what is in front of you, Jesus sees it all and He’s working in it all. Because He rose from the dead, resurrection is in your future. It may be in a few weeks, it may be in 15 years, it may be when Jesus returns, but resurrection is yours because it is His. In Jesus, we don’t have to fear any type of death because death could not conquer him and it will not conquer you. - Deanne Snell
*These names have been changed to protect identity