Your heart is broken. So what now?
You may have a broken marriage. You’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Facing a brutally tough decision, maybe. Or, you’re in a health battle for your life. You’ve lost a job, then your finances, your confidence, and your dreams for the future all took a huge hit. The story goes on and on… You’re hurting worse than ever before. So what do you do now?
Heartbreak: it’s the common affliction of the human condition. We’re walking wounded, but we’re oh-so-adept at hiding the hurt (most days anyway). And whenever the hurt happened – whether one year or twenty years ago – it doesn’t alter the fact that we’re changed as a result of it.
A year ago today I was driving home from the hospital. And a year ago today, we knew that tomorrow, October 19th, would be THE day. We received advanced notice of our heartbreak. Advanced notice that extreme pain was coming. Advanced notice that everything was going to change. We knew leukemia was going to take my Dad from us and with a broken heart, I cried all the way home.
What do we do with a broken heart?
It’s the age-old question. What do we do when everything changes, when the hole in our heart is exposed and we’re left with unspeakable pain?
More than a decade ago, I suffered a miscarriage. Even though the heartbreak was years ago, I remember two very distinct things about that very difficult time: First, I had to make a choice to praise God (though my heart was completely broken) despite the pain. And even though I cried through that trial, I never really grieved the loss. I thought I’d dealt with it only to find that the pain rushed back on a tidal wave months later.
A friend had a baby and I wanted to go to the hospital and celebrate with her. I was completely shocked when I found that once there, I couldn’t bring myself to hold her sweet newborn. I was shocked more to find that there was a place of hurt I hadn’t dealt with – not in my heart, not with my husband, and not even in my walk with God. I had to go back and grieve the loss – to find the hurt place before I could ever hope to see it healed. Eventually, it would turn to joy, but the “eventually” had to go through tears first. (John 16:20)
The definition of the word “cleave” means: (v) To make a way through something forcefully, as if by splitting it apart. But… it also means: (v) To stick to something like glue. What a contradiction, huh? We might ask which definition we should follow. In this case, it’s both.
In the last year since my Dad’s death, I had to stick close to Christ, while battling to split from the desires of my flesh. I had to look at this loss through an eternal lens (something that is NOT altogether easy to do) instead of from the world’s view of death. This separation from the world and looking only through a Kingdom lens is difficult. It’s messy. Even embarrassing at times when emotion takes over. (I burst into tears in more than one meeting at work.) But with confidence, we must remember that Jesus has overcome death. He’s overcome this world that we’re in, and made a way for us to enter the eternal one my Dad is now in. After all – if we trust Him with our eternal security, how can we not trust Him in all other things? (Romans 10:9)
It sounds simple – leave it at the cross. But the act of doing so is much more difficult. We’ve got to trust our Savior implicitly in order to leave our deepest pain with Him. We’ve got to banish fear, shun uncertainty, forget bitterness, and refuse unforgiveness in our hearts. And it’s not one-time leaving. It’s daily. My Mom reminded me of that when I told her of struggles with a life-changing decision I’d once made. “We don’t leave something once and that’s it,” she said. “We have to leave every day.” Sometimes multiple times per day. We’ve got to continually share our hurts with Him, knowing that He will take on and adeptly handle what we dish out. We’ve got to come boldly to the cross, then leave it empty-handed. (Matthew 11:30)
This is the essential component – the faith piece that becomes the main ingredient in this recipe to heal a broken heart. We MUST believe in Jesus. This is not the Easter-Sunday-service faith, the extent that I’m sorry to say I’ve had more than once. This is the down-on-your-face, crying-at-a-bedside, desperate-with-need and heart-wide-open kind of belief that has the power to move mountains. This is where our faith becomes real. It shows up. He shows up. Our Warrior arrives to slay the hurts – no matter what they are – and turn the broken into the bold. No matter what the pain, He makes us whole. (James 1:2-4)
I’m a year experienced with the “I’ve lost my Dad” brand of broken. I’ve never gone a week without hearing his voice and now I’ve gone a full calendar year. I’ve felt grief. I’ve had to stick like glue and split like an ax. I’ve had to leave daily doses of pain at the foot of the cross and summon parts of my faith muscles that I didn’t even know existed. And after all of it, after all the nights crying and the days starting over, I’m reminded of one absolute truth:
Jesus has overcome the world.
In this world, I’m going to have pain. I’m going to miss the smiling guy in the photo every day for the rest of my life. I’m going to experience joys anew and broken places of my heart all over again. But — Jesus will be there to comfort every single one of them when I do. (John 16:33)
With JOY He’s restored,