As someone acutely familiar with sorrow and heartbreak, Elizabeth Elliot once wrote “We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem.”
Because we live in these conditions, experiencing a broken heart is almost inevitable. Many of us will face the intense emotional pain associated with grief, disappointment or other overwhelming circumstances. If you are currently working through heartbreak, remember there is purpose to these bad things. Through these experiences, we arrive at a place where we can learn the following four things:
Grief Can Teach Us What it Really Means to Guard Our Hearts
In our heartbreak, we learn to understand the fragility of our heart and emotions. The intense trauma of a broken heart can cause mental and emotional anguish along with tangible physical pain. This is one of the reasons Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
However, this doesn’t mean you avoid all risks. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” Consequently, guarding your heart is not about closing it off. It’s about entrusting its care to God as you take risks in conjunction with obedience to Him.
As Hannah Hurnard poetically writes, “It is happy to love even if you are not loved in return. There is pain too, certainly, but Love does not think that very significant.”
God is Close to Us When We are Brokenhearted
Psalms 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
In your darkest hours, when you feel like you have no other options, God becomes the only viable solution. When we turn to Him, He promises to draw close to us in return (James 4:8).
However, we should be careful to not assume this means we need to work to meet God halfway. Drawing close to God in our times of trouble is about making ourselves open to having Him come to us when we are in a place where we can’t go any further. During these times, we see God’s great compassion for us and we are likely to experience the most profound and intimate experiences of worship.
Brokenness and Self-Pity are Not the Same
When we experience heartbreak, it is easy to become self-absorbed in our unhappiness. We wallow in self-pity and our focus is only on ourselves. We ask ourselves questions like, “Why is this happening to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?”
We may also manifest self-pity though shaming ourselves with self-deprecating thoughts like “There is something wrong with me” or “I must be a terrible person.”
This is the opposite of true brokenness. When we are truly broken, our attention shifts from ourselves to absolute surrender to the sovereign will of God. In brokenness, we have the opportunity to live in humility and start really knowing and identifying with an intimate part of God’s character. The good news is that we have the choice between whether we live in self-pity or identifying with Christ in true brokenness.
God Can Redeem Heartbreak
Oswald Chambers writes “If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.”
This is tough challenge to people facing painful and difficult situations. It’s a concept that seems counterintuitive to what naturally feels right. However, as Christians, it’s important to recognize the broader picture that reaches beyond ourselves and accomplishes God’s ultimate plan. Through this, we are able to still have joy when we face trials and tribulations.
In the end, heartbreak is still painful, but it helps to know there is purpose, hope and God really does care. He is not sitting up high somewhere far off, indifferent to our pain. Scripture says He keeps track of all our sorrows and tears. He offers us hope and promises “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
While we wait for that comfort to come, we can trust that our suffering is not meaningless and it can be redeemed if we allow God to use it to shape us into something better.