The old covered walking bridge across the Delaware River had stood for as long as anyone could remember. It connected the town of Portland, Pennsylvania with Columbia, New Jersey. One year during the spring, ice flows combined with a large amount of rain and the swollen river washed away part of the bridge and weakened what remained.

Trust between people is like a bridge built from both sides of a river. When it is built with care and careful planning, it will be durable — capable of weathering the storms of life. Occasionally it will need repair and require periodic maintenance; but individuals in a trusting relationship will feel safe putting a great deal of their emotional weight on the bridge — it’s where keeping one’s promises is expected; sensitive secrets divulged are carefully protected; and personal flaws and weaknesses are accepted.

Building the bridge called trust is costly, risky, and requires a substantial time investment, but the rewards are truly fulfilling. Happy are those who have one or two close relationships!

But what happens when a large section of the trust bridge is washed away through betrayal, deception, or broken promises? The ache and bitterness of one’s soul can be almost unbearable. In Psalm 55:12-14 King David wrote about the agony caused by a friend’s betrayal: ‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.’

Is it possible to rebuild the trust bridge? How can we be sure it won’t be washed out again?

Because we are all fallen human beings, the potential for getting hurt again is always a possibility. Only Jesus, the friend of sinners, who loved us while we were still His enemies, is worthy of our complete emotional trust. His nail scarred hands continually reach out to us, inviting us into His loving embrace.

But God intends for us to take the risk of restoring broken relationships and of establishing new ones. The trust bridge must be rebuilt from both sides. Whether it is a marriage, a parent-child relationship, or a friendship, the following principles apply to rebuilding trust:

For those who have been wounded:

  • Pray for God’s healing hand and for His protection against the root of bitterness that frequently springs up from a wound. Healing may take a long time depending on the damage done to the trust bridge.
  • Know that trust and forgiveness are not the same. Forgiveness may be given long before trust is re-established. Those who have breached trust must demonstrate their trustworthiness over a period of time.
  • Talk with a close friend, a pastor, or a counselor – they can provide insight and a different perspective. Don’t go through it alone!

For those who have broken trust:

  • Pray regularly for God’s healing touch upon the wounded person and for sensitivity to their needs.
  • Know there are no quick fixes for the pain caused, nor any shortcuts to getting back to the way things were. A great deal of patience and humility is needed to hear the other’s pain.
  • Accept responsibility for your actions without blaming others or explaining them away. Attempts to explain tend to minimize the offense and show the wounded loved one you ‘don’t get it.’
  • Accept the consequences of your actions, including the emotional distance, and make restitution when possible.
  • Be accountable for your actions without becoming defensive.
  • Ask God to give you a view of your sin from His perspective and to allow you to grasp the severity of the wound you caused.

God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ The wonderful benefits that spring from trusting relationships is worth the risk of potential heartache. God can heal heartache, but He won’t fill the lonely void within when we refuse to build trust bridges with others — especially with His people!