How to Climb Out of the Pit of Betrayal
Have you ever experienced betrayal? Well the first time it happened to me I was 17. We lived in Columbia, South Carolina, and I was very involved in basketball. I was pretty good at it. A lot of schools contacted me about playing for them like Notre Dame, University of Florida, NC State, just to name a few, Villanova.
And everything was going just perfect until right before my senior year my parents informed us that we were moving a thousand miles away to Houston, Texas.
So the basketball season started in Texas, and I did really well. I was averaging over 20 points a game. And suddenly, I am talking about out of nowhere, for no rhyme or reason—in fact I was talking to my brother about this situation last night. He said, “Ed I can’t talk about it because it makes me angry.” But out of nowhere in the middle of this big game the coach benched me. He didn’t play me. He totally betrayed me.
I was the best person on the team, talking to all of these major colleges around the country, and I was just there stuck on the bench. My whole world was spinning out of control.
My thing was basketball. That’s what I did. That’s what I worked on. I looked and to my shock and dismay, this guy totally and completely betrayed me. I trusted him, and he turned on me. It was horrendous. I was in the pit of betrayal.
Bitterness and anger welled up in my life, and I began to lash out at God. I began to say, “God, why me? You know I’m a preacher’s kid. I grew up in church, God. I am pure, I am holy, I am living the life, I am going to Bible study, and why me?”
Have you ever said that to God? Have you ever felt that way before? I mean I was only 17, at a defining moment in my life, and then all of my scholarship hopes, I thought, were just ripped from me. That was the first time I ever experienced betrayal.
You show me a betrayer; I will show you someone who has parents who betrayed. Betrayers have betrayers. It is a learned thing. We just learn it. You show me parents who are eaten up with envy, the crazy eyes of jealousy, and I will show you somebody who has pushed people in the pit. I will show you somebody who is a liar. It is interesting.
So we have the opportunity—here is a good thing—we have the opportunity to break the cycle of betrayal. We can break it. Maybe you are on the receiving end of it. Maybe you are on the giving end of it. We can break the cycle when we understand some of these deep truths of scripture. Joseph, son of Jacob, was brutally betrayed by his brothers.
“So when Joseph came to his brothers they stripped him of his robe— the richly ornamented robe that he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now, the cistern was empty and there was no water in it.”
Now I want you to get a picture of that. You saw me earlier in that pit. It is scary to go down in the pit. A lot of you right now are in the pit, and you have lived in the pit for a while. You are having a pity party, a black tie invitational pity party, and it is all about the pitiful circumstance that you are in.
I understand there is nothing like betrayal. I understand you have to have a grieving process. I understand because Lisa and I have talked to people going through divorces, and we have talked to people who have been totally shafted and shamed and disrespected.
We have talked. But you know what? There comes a time where you have got to stand. And when they disrespect you and disrobe you, there comes a time when you have to fight the devil, not just break down but breakthrough.
Now Joseph obviously needed a breakdown in his life. He thought he was the man. He was bragging about how he was his father’s favorite son. He bragged that God gave him a dream where his brothers and his father were bowing down to him. The dream was from God, but his arrogance in sharing it was off the charts. And what happened? God allowed him to be tossed into the pit to break him down. God didn’t cause it, God allowed it.
I needed that in my life when I was 17. Basketball was my god. That was my thing, and I needed a breakdown. And believe me I had a breakdown in the pit. I got a severe case of mono. I had to quit basketball, and a lot of the colleges who were talking to me just ran away. It was horrific.
I was searching for identity, for purpose, for meaning. I understand what it is like to be in the pit, and many of you do as well. If you do not, it is going to happen to you, so you better get ready for the pit stop. But see, here is the good thing. It is a stop. You do not live in the pit. I mean, the pit is nowhere to live.
You build all of these walls around you and say, “You know what? I will never trust again.” You build all these walls around you, “I will never give my heart again.” You build all of these walls around you and isolate yourself, and then you try to drag others in the pit with you. And you just share pitiful pity stories for the rest of your life.
That is no way to live. We have to break out and break through and that is the good news of it. Because, living in the pit can either lead to a total breakdown or a breakout.
I have talked to people in the pit, and they are afraid to love. And some—you will not believe this—are afraid to even be loved, “If I love and the love is returned, it is just a matter of time before they envy me, they get jealous of me and push me in the pit and betray me and lie about me. So I will never love and I don’t want to be loved again. I will just surround myself with pets. I love animals.”
I asked God this question as a young 17-year-old, “God, why me? Why me? Why me? All the hours of practice and all the sacrifice, and this guy totally abuses me, and totally betrays me.” My family doesn’t even like to talk about it even to this day. But here is what happened to me at Florida State (the place I would never have chosen): I began to get involved in this church. And because of that breakdown God began to rebuild me, and I moved from “why me?” to “what now?” I looked up.
I did not look down and around anymore. I looked up and I said, “God, what now?” And because of that transition in my life, because I changed from one question to another question, God began to birth the idea and the vision for Fellowship Church, even in my life as a 19 and 20 and 21 year old.
And I am here to tell you, had I not gone through that horrific betrayal when I was 17, I do not believe I would be where I am today. So I can look back and, yes I still probably have some anger about that toward that guy. I am just being boldly honest here, and I need to pray about that and work on that.
But you know what? Right now I can thank God for the pit. I can thank God for the breakdown, because God enabled me to break out and to break through. God is preparing you for what he has prepared for you. I do not care how deep the pit is. I do not care how horrible you think it might be. God is always deeper. He is always loving. He is always purposeful, and he wants to take you out if you will just look up.
Here is what the Psalmist said. Man, this is a verse to grab hold to this week. Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit,” that is what God wants to do, “out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”