I looked across the table at my boyfriend and replayed his words in my mind. “I just don’t enjoy spending time with you.”
I never knew a heart could break so suddenly, so rudely — in only one sentence. I was desperately grasping for anything to help soften the sharpness of those eight words. I could muster only three: “Take me home.” As we drove, my thoughts were as blurry as the trees going by. How can a three-year relationship end in three minutes?
The term “broken heart” is so widely used in our society that it often sounds romantic. In those moments, I learned just how terribly unromantic it is — the kind of tearing, ripping brokenness that demands your full attention, the kind of pain that won’t let up.
A broken heart might be a woman who gets the call from her doctor that she has miscarried. It’s the child who learns that his father has cancer. It’s broken relationships, debilitating depression, dreams dying and crumbling in our hands.
I walked into church the day after my heart broke. Broken, aching hearts fill the pews in each of our churches every Sunday. Although surrounded by community, the pain still felt intensely personal. “The heart knows its own bitterness” (Proverbs 14:10). The deep ache can feel as isolating as a prison cell. The Enemy wants nothing more than to lock believers in that cell of pain, and keep us trapped in isolation. But God wants the opposite. Here are three things to remember when you are tempted to stay home on Sunday morning with a broken heart.
Broken Hearts Are Open Hearts
“There are many sorts of broken hearts, and Christ is good at healing them all.” —Charles Spurgeon\
“God is the only Physician who can fully heal a broken heart, and he has never failed in his ability to heal.”
Imagine your heart is failing and you require a very risky open-heart surgery. At the hospital, there are several doctors who claim to be proficient at this surgery, but only one has a spotless record — nothing has ever gone wrong with his procedures. Everything he does is perfect.
Would you then choose a doctor with lesser experience, or a poorer record? Not if you value your life.
God is the only Physician who can fully heal a broken heart, and he has never failed in his ability to heal. Sarai, David, and Hosea all suffered broken hearts for different reasons — a barren womb, a shameful trail of sin, unrequited love — and God healed them all. A broken heart is an open heart, and an open heart is vulnerable. In this time of vulnerability, let him be your refuge. Let him fill you with healing through the singing, praying, and teaching of your church family.
Pain Is Personal, Healing Is Corporate
Have you ever had a close friend going through a great deal of pain, and they didn’t tell you? It’s painful when you finally learn about it. It’s painful for at least two reasons: (1) it hurts you that they are in pain, and (2) it hurts that you were not trusted to carry their burdens alongside of them.
As believers, we are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). No one would argue that one man can lift more than ten men lifting together. So, why do we often ignore the hands extended to help us carry our burdens, and try to bear the weight on our own? We may always bear the heaviest portion, but encouragement and support from brothers and sisters will significantly lighten the load. Battle hurt with heartfelt singing, loneliness with community, and discouragement with the ministry of God’s word.
Surround yourself with God’s people, and you will see that healing does take a village — and that the village is stronger for it. We must combat resounding pain with resolute worship to the Father, alongside brothers and sisters who can pray with us and for us.
Worship Creates Perspective
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
“Worship puts our pain in its rightful place — under the reign of an already victorious Father.”
Though suffering is never a small thing, God is always greater. Worship refocuses our minds on God’s greatness, and puts our pain in its rightful place — under the reign of an already victorious Father.
As strange as it may feel in the moment, lift your hands in praise and remember that the victory has been won. Remember that the God who holds your life in the palm of his capable hand is leading the victory march. “He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Standing at the top of the mountain of adoration, we are suddenly aware of our smallness. And it’s not offensive to us at all. We find joy in knowing that Christ is glorious beyond our imaginations and gloriously in control of all things, including every inch or second of our heartache. Nothing can touch you except that which has been carefully filtered through his loving fingers.
Let heartfelt praise remind you of his great love and absolute sovereignty, and let these reminders bring healing to your broken heart. Worship is a balm for even the deepest of wounds.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (NKJV)
Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?
I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.
But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy. Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.
Pain is the reminder that the real enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.
And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw?
Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way.
We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.
The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain — with food, achievements, drugs, alcohol or sex — never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.
We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us. If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us. It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.
Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.
So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?
We invite God’s closeness.
For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else.
Our key verse (James 4:8a) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.
And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.
One of my personal favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Verse: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, NIV)