I’d hurt her feelings, and she didn’t want to talk to me. I gave her some time and space, yet a couple weeks later she still wouldn’t talk to me. Our relationship felt irreparably broken.
How can you heal a broken relationship? Should you always seek restoration, or does the Bible tell us that sometimes it’s okay to walk away? And what if the other person refuses to talk to you about it?
These are big questions, but important ones.
Let’s start with a more foundational one: How important are relationships?
God created us for relationship
The Bible puts a lot of emphasis on relationships.
God to man:
Acts 17 tells us, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (verses 26-27).
God wants a relationship with us, but He also wants us to want a relationship with Him.
And man to man:
In Genesis 2, God created Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden. With the perfection of nature around him, God looked at the man and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (verse 18).
In His great wisdom, God created us to need each other. That means relationships are important.
But how much effort should we put into broken relationships?
A perspective from nature
On October 8, 2016, a storm by the name of Hurricane Matthew tore through our area. You may have seen pictures of homes underwater in Lumberton, a small town less than thirty miles away from my home. Seven weeks later, we are still dealing with the aftereffects of the flood waters.
A friend and I talked about the clean up and reconstruction efforts, and we realized two spiritual truths we all need to grasp.
Some of the bridges that washed away are being rebuilt.
In Acts 15:37-39, the apostle Paul didn’t want to take Mark with him on his journey because Mark had proven himself unreliable to Paul.
Yet, at some point, these two men worked together to rebuild the trust between them. By the time Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, Paul wanted Mark “because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”
They rebuilt the bridge and restored their relationship.
Some of the bridges are being rebuilt several feet farther downstream.
Restoration cannot occur in some situations, and it’s better—wiser—to do what you can down the road or with someone else entirely.
Think of David and King Saul. While their relationship started out well, it deteriorated over time. Saul became consumed with jealousy, to the point that even Saul’s son Jonathan understood that restoration between them wasn’t possible. (Read more of the story in 1 Samuel 17-20.)
Yet David never left Israel completely. Although he left the state borders for a time, he remained true to God and returned once it was safe. And he pledged his allegiance and protection to the only living member of Saul’s family, Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9).
He built his bridge several feet farther downstream.
What about your broken relationship?
What does God want you to do with the relationship lying in pieces before you? Only you and He can answer that.
But know that the answer doesn’t fully rest on your shoulders. It also depends on the other person’s response.
In my case, I wanted to work on the friendship, rebuild the bridge between us. But she never did. As much as I don’t like that, the problem is between her and God. I’ve done what I felt He asked me to do, and that’s all I can do. That’s all God expects me to do.
But I’ve also allowed God to continue to work on me, to make me a better friend, and to protect future relationships from the harm caused by this bad experience.