FOR THE DAY YOUR HEART IS BROKEN
“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”
- Ezekiel 36: 26-27
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Romans 8: 38-39
Dear Brother, Dear Sister, Dear Friend,
Love between human beings is an amazing gift, but it comes with the risk of one day ending. If love is true, it never really ends, but it does change. There is a deep and ugly pain that comes with heartbreak. Opening ourselves up to another person takes incredible courage. Sometimes relationships take us on ecstatic flights of joy and we think we’ll never come down to earth ever again. And then suddenly she leaves you, or he betrays you, or they hurt you, or the feelings that once felt like the sun in your chest fade into nothing. You find yourself crashing to the ground, devastated and alone, and you wonder how you got there.
A heart can be broken in so many ways. Sometimes we walk into a room and find our one true love entangled with someone else. Sometimes the person we thought we would be with forever tells us they do not love us anymore, or that they never loved us at all. Sometimes we want someone to be ours but they never seem to see us. This person might be a hopeless crush, but it also might be a parent, a sibling, or an old friend who left us behind. Sometimes somebody we care about hurts us, physically or emotionally. Sometimes we lose someone we love dearly to death. Grief makes us hate the world for continuing to spin without them. Sometimes our hearts are broken not by people but by some devastating defeat in life. We do not get into the school of our dreams, or we give up going to college because we need to work to support the family, or we fail to get the job or the promotion we thought we deserved, or the part in the play, or the spot in the band. For a while, we feel like we never want to love or dream again.
And sometimes there is never a climactic tragedy at all, but our hearts shatter into pieces, little by little, every day. As I was growing up, the thing I wanted most in the world was to fall in love, get married, and make a family of my own. Over time, bit by bit, voices in the world and in my own head picked away at this dream. They told me love does not last, or that two men could never be faithful to each other, or that I was not good enough or handsome enough or cool enough or confident enough to be a man that somebody could want. Soon enough my heart was nothing but an embittered mess of broken dreams.
It breaks my heart anew to know that you are reading this letter and nursing your own wounds. I am so sorry for your loss, your hurt, your pain. Whatever happened, you do not deserve this suffering. This is a part of your journey that must be endured and can only be overcome with God’s grace. I wish I could make it easier.
Please remember that you need not go through this alone. When you are ready, talk to trusted people about your heartache and let them support you. As always, cling to God, for He is with you. God will hold you in your sorrow and put you back together again, piece by piece. In time, your healing will be a symbol of the ultimate salvation God promises to all of us. As it says in Revelation 21: 4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”
One of the tragic truths of the human condition is that people do not love perfectly, at least not this side of heaven. We fall short of the selfless, generous, faithful, and honest ideals modeled for us by Jesus. We are broken by sin and our moral vision is clouded by insecurities, fears, prejudices, lusts, and pride. When your heart is broken, you face not only your own personal tragedy, but also the evidence and weight of all the sin in all the world. This pain exists because we are not perfect. We hurt each other because we are flawed.
And yet, that is not all we are. We are loved by God, and God offers redemption to all. In times of suffering, it can feel like we are abandoned by God, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, God is with us intimately in our hurt. He suffers beside us. If we offer our pain to Jesus, we join him on the cross and our suffering unites with his for the redemption of our world. As Christians, we believe that the Hebrew Scriptures testify to the coming of our Lord, Jesus. Listen to the words of Isaiah 53: 4-5: “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” Jesus suffered for us that we might be saved. When we suffer with broken hearts, we can offer that pain to God and spend our time on the cross with Jesus that we might die with him and, in time, be raised with him to new life.
If we open ourselves to God, He will teach us how to love more truly, fully, and deeply. He will heal our brokenness and show us what love really is. This is why we must pray for those who hurt us. When our hearts are broken, it is easy to succumb to violence in our thoughts, words, or deeds. It feels natural to hate or judge those who hurt us, to hate or judge ourselves for somehow not being good enough and bringing on this pain.
It can be healthy to let your feelings be as they will be in the middle of an emotional crisis. You need to take time to grieve, to be sad, angry, or confused. Feel the feelings and let them move you to think, grow, create, talk, and do what you need to do as you make meaning of the storm inside you. But throughout the journey, offer your thoughts, feelings, and actions to God. Let Him move you to where He wants you to be. Whoever hurt you probably did so because they were hurt by someone else before they met you. So now you have a choice. Will you let the pain of injury or grief flow through you to add even more hate and violence to the world? Or will you open your broken heart to God so that He may fill you with healing grace and transform your misery into mercy, understanding, and, with time, peace?
Meditate on the questions you need to ask and seek the answers in God. Why did he betray you? Why did she lie to you? Why does your dad never talk to you anymore? Why did your mom walk out? What happened to them? Where is your loved one now? Are they happy? How does God see the person who hurt or abandoned you? What path do you need to take today? How can you set your spirit free from the pain of this experience?
If you allow God to heal you in this moment, you will stop the cycle of sin and pain. As Jesus is crucified, we read in John 19: 25, “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.” Take some time to picture this image. Mary and these other faithful disciples stand at the foot of the cross as Jesus undergoes great agony and death. Mary faced the greatest of torments when she watched her son tortured and killed, yet she stood by him in love, and she did this in solidarity with other loved ones who never left her side. She teaches us by example how to grieve while also following the way of her son and our God, Jesus.
Stopping the cycle of sin is especially important for the gay community. So many of us have been hurt in so many ways. Pain has come to us through families, friends, teachers, media messages, churches, lovers, and our own internalized hate. Sometimes we hide our suffering or pretend it is not there, but at some point it often explodes in our relationships. We need to heal our broken hearts to stop ourselves from breaking the hearts of others.
So how does one go about healing a broken heart? Pray and ask God to help you. Seek God in the quiet, in nature, in Scripture, in music, and in art. Let God find you in conversations with trusted family, mentors, and friends. Express your pain and your growth through poetry, painting, dance, writing, sports, or whatever creative outlet works for you. Engage in activities that are life-giving. At the end of the day, give it all to God and let Him work in you. As it says in Exodus 14: 14, “The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”
Resist the temptation to isolate yourself. Hiding away from life will give you plenty of time to lick your wounds, but the only salve that can truly heal you is the love of God and other people. We cannot fix ourselves, and spending too much time meditating on our own pain will move us deeper into bitterness. If we open ourselves in vulnerability to people we trust, it lets them know that they can share their burdens with us as well. If we are brave and reach out to others, we learn that we are not the only ones in the world with broken hearts. And we learn that we can help those who help us.
It can be tempting to run away from pain in drugs, alcohol, empty sex, or some other self-destructive vice. These things might feel good for a moment, or they might numb everything for a while. But the pain always returns when the high is over and brings with it a new mess of hurt. Each human being is a Temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in you and the people around you. Our human dignity demands that we treat ourselves and each other with love and respect, even when we hurt. It is hard to do this when our minds and hearts are clouded by substances, when we treat other people like objects, when we place ourselves and our pain at the center of the universe and use it to rationalize things we know are wrong.
I had a yoga teacher who lost her sister to suicide. Torn with grief, one of her mentors told her, “Sit with the pain and it will awaken you.” These words changed her life, and this story changed mine. If we deaden ourselves to pain with drugs, sex, denial, or sin of any kind, we avoid the hurt but we also fail to grow. We push the hurt behind a wall and fail to build foundations of understanding, compassion, or forgiveness.
Do not hide from the pain. Sit with it, let God sit with you, and allow yourself to be awakened. As it says in Ephesians 5: 14, “…for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
People will break our hearts, but we serve a God who works miracles. Listen to the promises of Ezekiel 36: 26-27: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” God is perfect love. He will never betray us and never leave us. We even hold onto hope that those lost to death will rise to new life in Him. As it says in John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
God can be mysterious. Sometimes we feel lost. But even when attacked by our greatest doubts and fears, He is with us. God will heal our lives if we let Him. As it says in Psalm 23: 4, “Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.”
I am so sorry that you are hurting. I hope you heal and grow through your time in this dark valley. I hope you find someone soon who looks unflinchingly into your eyes and sees your truest self. I hope you find someone who listens to you and opens up to you about their own struggles so that you can support one another. I hope you feel God’s presence in this moment and find in Him a love strong enough to carry all that you are, including the scars of this heartbreak.