FOR WHEN THE TIME COMES TO BREAK SOMEONE’S HEART
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
- Hebrews 4: 15-16
Dear Sister, Dear Brother, Dear Friend,
This letter is as difficult for me to write as I assume it is for you to read. Maybe you find yourself in a relationship that you know is not right. Maybe things moved too fast. Maybe you were swept away at first and you have slowly realized that you and this other person are not really compatible. Perhaps some part of you knew this person was not your soul mate from the beginning but you held on for experience or to not be alone. Maybe you put pressure on yourself to be with this person, you wanted above all else to avoid the guilt of hurting them, but the burden of dishonesty has become too heavy to bear.
Dating, feelings, and relationships can be messy, confusing, and painful. Sometimes people come together, sometimes they stay together, and sometimes they fall apart. It hurts so much to be abandoned by someone we love, and it hurts to leave. If you are wrestling with a difficult decision about whether or not to continue a relationship, turn to God. She will guide you if you let Her. As is written in Hebrews 13: 20-21, “May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lord, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Times get hard in any relationship, but that does not necessarily mean it is time to end things. Sometimes we feel the impulse to run as things get more serious. Intimacy can be scary for some of us, but if it is shared with the right person, the vulnerability of closeness is something to cherish and protect. Ask God if She wants you to push through the anxiety and stay.
Or maybe you are facing a different crossroads in a relationship. Maybe the initial rush of falling in love is over, but you have yet to learn the enduring depth of mature love. You may no longer lose yourself in idealized daydreams of who you thought this other person was, but if God wills it, you may be able to tenderly care for this other person and cherish them for who they truly are. True love changes with time, but it never dies. Maybe the love you share with this person is changing, but still true.
Perhaps you are discovering that there was never true love shared between the two of you. If this is the case, listen for God’s voice. She may tell you it is time to end this chapter of your lives, turn to Her for healing, and move on.
I have had several dating experiences where things went way too fast. I told myself I liked the other person, but after a few weeks, I realized I was just desperate to not be alone. I ended things, and the other person was left hurting. I thought I had broken this habit when I met a good, kind man who wanted nothing more than to make me happy. I liked him very, very much. We dated a long time, and I told him I loved him. I thought this was the truth, and maybe it was. But over time, a feeling of wrongness grew in my heart. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted to make him happy. But I felt myself growing more distant. There were little differences between us that I thought I could live with, but suddenly they seemed insurmountable. I prayed and prayed until I realized I just could not continue being with him. I was horrified at my faithlessness and the painful reality of the truth: I wanted to break up.
I yearned to avoid talking to him about this, but it was the truth and we both had to face it. In John 14: 6, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” We need to live in the truth if we are to be followers of Christ. Relationships should never be exclusively about how I feel or what I want. Nor should they be exclusively about what the other person feels and wants. Feelings come and go, wax and wane. Relationships have their ups and downs. Searching for a soul mate is about more than finding the person who sets off your brain chemistry just right, and it is about more than finding someone who matches a predetermined checklist of qualities. We need to hand our romantic lives, along with the rest of ourselves, over to God. We need to ask God the hard questions and listen to the answers. God, is this the person you want me to be with? How do you want me to love this person, as a friend, as a person to date for now, as the love of my life? Do we help each other grow in love for you? Do we help each other grow into the people you created us to be? Can we be true partners to each other and work together for the important mission you have entrusted to us? Is there hope that we can remain together and become family to each other?
Ask these questions in prayer and listen to God. She will answer you. Trust Her. If in time you discern that God is not calling you to be with this person, then let them go. It may break their heart and yours, but heartbreak is better than living a lie. Loving a person involves seeking what is good for them, not doing everything you can to avoid hurting their feelings. There is always goodness in the truth, even if it hurts. If you end the relationship, you will both be free to search for love that will truly satisfy your souls and bring you both closer to God.
I sometimes think about the men I have hurt in the past. I worry they might still be hurting and alone. I pray for them. I thank them in my heart for all they taught me. I apologize for the ways in which I used them. I wish them peace, love, joy, and faith in the tender God who holds us all in Her warm embrace. I try to trust that God will care for them, heal any damage I caused, love them, and lead them to where they need to be.
Why do relationships that once seemed precious burn out, explode, turn cold, and fade away? Why do some relationships grow into joyful and fulfilling unions that mirror God’s faithful love for Her people, and some relationships fall apart? I do not know. It is a mystery. But perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that people are complex. We all carry within ourselves infinite layers of beliefs, values, desires, fears, insecurities, and dreams. Finding a soul mate takes time, and building a solid relationship requires dedicated effort.
Along the way, it is easy to make mistakes. In the game of romance, we are often blinded by confusing and mixed emotions, miscommunication, different expectations, and conflicting points of view. It takes time to get to know somebody and to discover one’s own feelings. Gay people have some additional unique challenges. There are far fewer same-sex couple role models to show us what an authentic, honest, committed, loving relationship looks like. A lot of gay people wrestle with areas of internalized shame or self-loathing, and these elements often explode in the context of dating relationships. Sometimes after a long period of singleness or several heartbreaks, we start to believe we will never find a true or abiding romantic love. Rather than turning to God to carry us through devastation and pain, we sometimes decide to settle for what the world tells us is normal. We seek casual encounters, loveless physical intimacy, or relationships we know deep down are not right for us. In the end, these choices lead to people getting hurt, which adds to our guilt and often spirals into more hurtful behavior.
When we are haunted by our sins and mistakes, we need to trust in the absolute mercy of our loving God. Psalm 86: 5 says, “Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.” Ephesians 2: 4-5 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Titus 3: 4-6 reads, “But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior.” The truth is that Jesus knows us, understands us, and is waiting to forgive us as soon as we turn to him. As it says in Hebrews 4: 15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
For many of us, sins related to dating and sexuality are some of the most painful areas of regret in our lives. But once we repent, apologize, and make the changes we need to make, we also need to let go of shame. Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross for us to dwell in misery, guilt, and self-loathing. As Jesus says in John 10: 9-10, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Jesus showed us how to live, and he rose from the dead so that we could rise with him.
So please, today, die to sins of dishonesty and selfishness. Die to guilt and shame, and rise to new life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Listen to God and step into the truth. If it is time to break someone’s heart, then break it. Tell them the truth. Tell them everything. Admit your mistakes and apologize. Let them go. Let God take care of them. Pray for them. If you need it, pray for forgiveness, experience God’s mercy, and trust in God’s healing grace. Take time to grieve the loss of what you thought this relationship was going to be, and then move forward with your life. There is much adventure, love, and good work to be done for the both of you.