When a Friendship Falls Apart: Finding God’s Path for Healing, Forgiveness, and (Maybe) Help Letting Go

Even in the closest friendships, sometimes hurt happens. Misunderstanding. Distance. Disagreement. Even betrayal and deceit. Perhaps you have experienced this kind of anguish, this kind of brokenness, firsthand. The loss can be staggering, a blow not only to your happiness and way of life but also to your confidence and sense of identity. The pain may haunt you for years to come.

Friendships are precious to me—worth fighting for, praying about, and working through. But sometimes, in spite of my best (yet imperfect) efforts, I’ve had friendships falter and fail. In my experience, friendships fall apart in different ways, for many reasons:

Maybe you entered different seasons of life, and you no longer had much in common.

Maybe one big, awful misunderstanding took a catastrophic turn—un-take-back-able words, dramatic door slams—and almost overnight the friendship was severed.

Maybe hurt feelings and unhealthy patterns snuck in over time, small fissures in your trust that eventually widened into a chasm that feels uncrossable.

Or maybe nothing happened at all—and that’s the problem. You just . . . drifted. Stopped calling, stopped making time for each other. One day you looked up to find an ocean between you.

However brokenness entered your friendship, it’s a wound. A loss. And the loss of a friendship is often accompanied by a host of unwanted companions: insecurity, anger, isolation, bitterness, guilt, regret. The closer the friendship, the greater the pain. It’s a lonely loss, a private grief, like a divorce no one can see. No one’s going to send cards or flowers. Hallmark doesn’t make a Friendship Breakup sympathy card; churches don’t offer Friendship Loss Support Groups. It’s not something we can announce on social media, seeking support or prayers; in fact, chances are, the broken friendship was intertwined with a larger group of friends, so it’s tricky to talk about it anywhere, to anyone.

And when the relationship is between two faithful Christians, two people seeking to honor God in all they do, the pain is compounded, the fallout even more complicated. Godly friendships aren’t “supposed” to fracture, but sometimes they do. We offer our hearts in especially vulnerable ways in Christian relationships, sharing weaknesses and struggles, doubts and fears; our daily lives may be frequently interwoven through church fellowship connections. So when we can’t work things out with a Christian friend, we may experience an additional cascade of emotions: guilt, shame, doubt, isolation. To add to the convolution, we may even suffer division, misrepresentation, or misunderstanding in our mutual relationships with other believers.

Our compassionate Father knew our relationships would sometimes flounder, and in his grace, God went out of his way to include multiple examples in Scripture of believers whose friendships struggled, people like Hannah, Sarah, Rachel, David, Mary, Martha, and many others. You and I are not the first, last, or only ones to falter in friendship.

In Acts 15 we read about Paul and Barnabas, two leaders in the early church who disagreed so sharply that they ended a years-long ministry partnership. News of the split must have sent shock waves through the church. What heartache their story holds. Even Jesus, who loved perfectly, experienced broken friendships. On the night of his arrest, in his greatest moment of need, his friends fell asleep while Jesus wept alone; hours later, he was betrayed by one of his most intimate companions.

Knowing that even the most righteous of people can let one another down, God has provided encouragement and tools throughout Scripture to help us. In his pages we find counsel for handling complex dynamics with integrity and wisdom. Scripture can help us seek reconciliation and restoration when they are possible; and in relationships where those things cannot be found, the Bible guides us in seeking a sense of resolution, the resolution that comes from a clean conscience, healing, and the peace only God can give, the “peace . . . which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, RSV).

Let’s take our hurting hearts to the Friend who is never too busy, never insensitive, and never selfish; the Friend who hears our hearts’ cries, knows our deepest needs, and meets them perfectly—now that’s a friendship we can rely on.

Posted on September 21, 2023

Elizabeth Laing Thompson is the author of many books for women and teens, including All the Feels, All the Feels for Teens, and the When God Says series. She writes at ElizabethLaingThompson.com about clinging to Christ through the chaos of daily life. As a speaker and novelist, Elizabeth loves finding humor in holiness and hope in heartache. She lives in North Carolina with her preacher husband and four spunky kids.
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