It was days before Christmas, the church was filled with poinsettias and Christmas trees, an array of white candles were placed before the altar, the nativity scene glowed serenely in the distance. I was surrounded by beauty, but rather than marveling at it, I knelt before the tabernacle and sobbed. My boyfriend and I had just ended our relationship, and even though deep down I knew this was the right decision, my heart felt as though it was shattered. As I cried, I offered it to God: “Here God, I’m laying it all down — my pain, my fears, my confusion — you can have it all, you can hold my broken heart.”
Will You Let Me Love You?
Eventually, my tears subsided and my breathing returned to its rhythmic pattern, but I did not go. There was nothing anyone could say or do in that moment to make me feel better. So I stayed at the foot of the cross for nearly two hours. Jesus was the only person who understood the depth of my heart; who fully understood love and heartbreak; whose love for me was unconditional, insurmountable, and all that I would ever need.
As I sat in prayer, I reflected on my past relationships. If I was being honest, I really hadn’t been single for any significant amount of time, since I was 16-years-old — a truth I’d tried to ignore for awhile. At 24, I was tired of it. For the first time, I didn’t want the love of any man other than God. I felt God asking me to let Him love me, but only Him: “Don’t turn to another man, for affirmation. Stop searching for love in other places, let Me be enough. Let me be the One you lean on when you’re tired, confused, or afraid. Let Me love you. Will you let Me love you?” A quiet “yes”, rose within me and, in a heartfelt prayer, I vowed to give God a year of being intentionally single so that I could be truly free to love.
Dare to Be Vulnerable
Chances are, your heart has been or will be broken at one time, too. As death is part of life, heartbreak is part of love. It may be tempting, in the midst of pain, to become cynical about loving someone again. But I warn you against this. C.S. Lewis speaks to this as he writes:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Allow your heart to heal, but do not give up on love; do not let your heart become unbreakable; dare to be vulnerable. If you’re struggling or have ever ever struggled with the heartbreak of a relationship ending, here are some ways to let God hold your broken heart. Know that I am praying for you!
Honor Your Emotions
It’s ok to be sad. In fact, if you’re not sad, that’s a little concerning. Your heart is broken. A relationship you deeply cared about has ended. You will experience a period of grief and that isn’t a bad thing. We live in a world that is constantly trying to tell us it’s not good to be sad, that if we’re sad we need to fix it. We try to numb ourselves by texting new people, by binging on Nextflix, by becoming overly busy, by sleeping, by entering into new relationships. But at the end of the day, that doesn’t change the fact that our hearts are grieving. Numbing yourself is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound — sure, it might cover it up, but if you’re not properly caring for the wound it won’t actually heal. So I encourage you to allow yourself to grieve, to let yourself feel the pain. But remember, “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). This too will pass. While the pain won’t disappear overnight, your heart will heal. Day by day, the heaviness will become lighter, easier to bear, and you will find your thoughts are not so consumed by this moment in time. As you heal, you will become stronger. Eventually, you will be free of that pain (I promise!), but know that it’s a process, and do not become discouraged.
Reorient Your Time
It’s easy to feel alone when you first break up. Figuring out what to do with all my free time was the one of the hardest transitions of my breakup. In a matter of hours, I’d lost a best friend; suddenly, I had a LOT of alone time. So I found new ways to spend my time — I signed up for a retreat, I reflected on scripture every morning, I surrounded myself with family and friends, practiced piano more often, read new books, and traveled to new places.
Rather than resenting your new state of singleness, embrace this time! Submerge yourself in prayer, surround yourself with people who love you, engage in activities that bring you joy, cross something off your to-do list, try new things! And always remember that while loneliness is a very real feeling, you are never truly alone, for God will never abandon you.
Don’t Listen to Depressing Songs, Try These Instead
Really. I will be the first to admit that I love listening to sad music. There’s something so beautiful in the raw emotion of the lyrics. However, I will also be the first to admit that listening to these songs does not usually orient my heart to God, allowing me to trust in his plan. Instead, I am usually left wallowing in self pity. So, I’ve tried to listen to songs that remind me of God’s plan for me, even in the midst of pain. Here’s a glimpse of my “God-Oriented Breakup Playlist,” maybe you’ll find some of these songs helpful as you start to heal and move forward:
A Future not my Own — Matt Maher
Desert Song — Hillsong
Make a Way — I Am They
I Shall not Want — Audrey Assad
Trust in You — Lauren Daigle
Oceans — Hillsong United
Come as You Are — Crowder
By Your Side — Tenth Avenue North
Steady my Heart — Kari Jobe
Blessed be Your Name — Matt Redman
Clarity, Not Failure
It might be tempting to think this relationship “failed” you. As Christians, we believe dating is a step towards discerning marriage. Rather than viewing this as a failure, try to have the perspective that you are one step closer to your future spouse/vocation. God has a PERFECT plan for you, do not be afraid! Here are some practical steps to embrace this perspective:
For better or worse, the people we are closest with teach us something about ourselves. (The song “For Good” from the Broadway play Wicked comes to mind…if you don’t know it look it up! It’s fantastic). What did this relationship teach you about yourself, about dating, about what you want (or don’t want) in a future spouse? Write it all down and remember these things the next time you you enter into a relationship.
Rather than praying that God puts a man in your life (though I’ve definitely been guilty of that), I’ve learned that it may be more helpful to pray for your future spouse. Pray that God keeps him close to Him, pray for his heart, pray that he has the courage to live a chaste life, and pray that he does not despair. I’ve found that this can help me to move outside of myself and focus on someone else, while at the same time, remembering that everything lies in God’s hands. Don’t hesitate to pray for your future spouse. Odds are he/she has, or is, or will be experiencing heartbreak at sometime too. In fact, perhaps he/she too is questioning God’s plan for his/her vocation and your prayers matter.
Read some books about dating and relationships. In today’s society, amidst the hookup culture, it’s hard how to know how to properly date and discern a relationship in a way that honors God and upholds the dignity of those involved. I highly recommend reading Emotional Virtue by Sarah Swafford, If You Really Loved Me by Jason Evert, Christian Dating in a Godless World by Rev. T.G. Morrow, and for girls How to Find Your Soulmate with Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert. Also, check out the Life Teen blogs on relationships.
Ask “How?”, Not “Why?”
I pestered God with questions:
“Why did this happen?”
“Why isn’t he in love with me?”
“Why do I have to go through a breakup, again?”
However, this only led to overthinking, speculation, and replaying and analyzing every detail of our relationship. Rather than allowing myself to moving forward, I was staying stuck in a world of “what if’s.” Frustrated that I wasn’t gaining insight to the situation, I realized I wasn’t asking the right questions. The truth is, I probably will never know some of the answers to those questions, and I’m not sure God intends me for me to. When I switched my ‘whys’ to ‘hows’ and ‘whats’, I was able to make progress:
“How can I love you best, God?”
“How can I be joyful in the midst of this trial?”
“What do you want me to learn from this situation?”
“How can I trust you more fully?”
Here, I began to find answers, and it is these answers that will lead me to deepen my relationship with God, to grow, and to heal. God wants you to heal and to grow, too. Don’t be afraid to ask Him “how?” instead of “why?”
Some days, I am tempted to vow to never fall in love again, because I never want to risk feeling the heartbreaking pain of a breakup again, because I am afraid to open up my heart again and risk it being broken. But it is on those days that I am reminded of C.S. Lewis words: “to love at all is to be vulnerable…” I do not want my heart to become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. Because love is a beautiful thing, it is the greatest virtue, for “we love because God has loved us first” (1 John 4:19). And so, I dare to be vulnerable, to put on love. I pray you do the same.