“Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.”—Proverbs 25:19 (ESV)
I love how picturesque the proverbs are in describing truth in simple terms. The above proverb became very real to me recently when my wife twisted her knee when she slipped. As we walked back to the car from a trip to the hospital, her knee buckled and she was in great pain. For several weeks after that accident, she had to wear a brace to prevent her knee from giving out.
And I had the experience recently of an old filling falling out of a tooth leaving an pending in my tooth that caused a crack in my tooth while I was eating leading to a piece of tooth breaking off. Until my dentist appointment I have been eating on the other side of my mouth to avoid more damage and pain.
Buckling knees and cracked teeth are sudden, painful, and unexpected. But once the weakness is revealed it is hard to place trust in those areas again until after they are proven strong again and able to do the job they were meant to do. Even then, we sometimes are reluctant to place too much on them for fear that the pain they caused might return.
When we fail in our responsibilities at the moment when we were most depended upon, the damage can be great. The proverbs says this is “treacherous” failure. The Hebrew word betrays a break in trust, where dependability, even vows of loyalty were broken to the destruction of the one who placed trust in another. The failure is pictured as a massive breach of trust.
And just like a buckled knee can send a person to the ground and a broken tooth can cause excruciating pain, so too the failures of a trusted person bring great harm to the one who was depending upon the faithfulness of another.
What do you do when you are the one who is failed and have lost trust in another? Wisdom says we should move slowly in placing trust back in the failed one. We must make sure they are trustworthy before placing the responsibility back into their hands lest we be betrayed again. This will take confrontation, confession, conversations, and re-commitment on both parties. Over time, if there is a willingness, humility, forgiveness, and love, restoration can be achieved.
How about if you are the one who was treacherous and cast aside trust? Go to those you have failed without excusing yourself and your actions. Ask for forgiveness and offer to make right what you messed up. Humbly recognize that this will take time—maybe a long time—to reestablish trust. Be open to further questions, further need to confess your failings when they are uncovered in the process, and continuing discussions about where things started to go wrong. Be aware of any self-justification on your part. Listen.
Like a faulty knee and a broken tooth, the Master Physician can bring healing to even the worst and most painful failures. But we must allow him to work in us and through us so that we can be sure that the catastrophe is not repeated, bringing greater damage and more pain next time.