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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Some Advice for the Heartbroken

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Let me be transparent: Heartbreak sucks.  When people leave you, whether due to conflict, differences, or death; the aftermath can be total disaster.  As a Christian and a pastor, I have felt heart break. I have felt the gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, flat-on-my-face-begging-God-to-please-end-my-life kind of heart break (that is a lot of dashes). I have also set across the table from people who have experienced great trial and pain. 

What can we say?  What encouragement can we give?  So often our answers are correct (read your Bible, pray, etc..)  These answers are right in so many ways.  If it were not for abiding with Jesus through the means of the Word and prayer I would not be alive today.  But, is that really all there is?  So often it seems we offer these things as a magic pill, when they are less like a drug and more like physical therapy.  Overtime they shape, they mold- and not without pain.  Alongside the Word of God and prayer, what can we do (or advice) hurting hearts to do?  

Here are three things that have helped me.  But, I want to again emphasize that healing from any sort of pain is a process.  True heartbreak will (rarely) pass away over night.  These three suggestions will not make the lonely nights disappear tomorrow.  These suggestions will not bring satisfaction to your soul.  Those are things only Jesus can do.  But, these suggestions are natural means that, alongside the Word of God and prayer, will bring healing.

1. Cry.  A lot.
Jesus wept.  The ink of the Psalmist's paper was drenched with tears.  Psalm 42:3 says, "My tears have been my food day and night."

Emotions are not the enemy of healing.  In fact, built up emotion is truly a dangerous thing.  God created us with emotions- to react properly to the things around us. 

Heartbreak hurts.  We should weep.  Our command is not, "Tell the weeping to suck it up!" but to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).  Weeping well was something Jesus did, and it is something we must learn to do.  

In fact, someone who is unafraid to show emotion is very unlike Jesus.  What makes Jesus sanctified is that He knew how to experience emotion without sinning.  He could grieve, laugh, cry, be angry, and celebrate without sin.  This sort of emotional self-control is a sure sign that the Spirit of God is at work in our emotion (Galatians 5:22-23).  Sanctified emotions produce fruits of the Spirit, sinful emotions produce works of the flesh (Galatians 5:22-23).

To have sanctified emotions we must, therefore, experience these emotions.  God is using good and bad times to conform us more into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-30).  He is after our good- our conformity to Jesus in this life and the next.

We cannot learn to weep well until we weep deeply.

Cry.  Encourage others to cry.  Cry with others.

2. Remember, but don't recline.  
The Scriptures give examples of the faithful setting up memorials (Joshua 4).  While these examples were often of victories, many of these reminders were of victories that at the time seemed to be defeats.  Consider Noah, looking at the rainbow.  Consider the disciples taking the last supper with Jesus.

Our lives are filled with such memorials.  There are places and things that will always bring back memories for us.

Go eat at the places that were dear to you.  Go walk at that park with all the memories.  Go to the last place you saw them.  Visit their grave.

I can remember where I would sit with my uncle before he died.  I remembered the spot in the lunch room where I would set with old high school friends.  I remembered where I first told a girl I loved her and where I had my first kiss.

Now, this may not happen right away.  Going back to some of these places will be painful, but climbing this hill will help bring solace in an unimaginable way.  Take time to go there and remember, alongside what happened, where God was during it.  The good and the bad.  The Psalmist remembered his past times of worship in the midst of his suffering, "
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival."

(This verse is also a reminder of the importance of the local church to those who are suffering, but that is for another post).

It's alright to sit in these places and remember, but it is not okay to never get up.  Or to put it another way:

But, don't let remembrance turn into reclining.  

Sitting in old chairs can be an enjoyable experience, but once you recline, you'll never be able to get up and press on.  Much like the post Thanksgiving dinner crash, it makes the joy of a past meal turn into regret.  Don't recline into regret, recall for remedy. All memorials were given to a people meant to move on.  Noah was to repopulate.  The disciples would be given a mission.  As we remember, we are healed and God enables us to move forward.

Hearts remedy through remembrance.

3. Forgive.  Them and yourself.
Here it is.  One of the hurtles of God's remedy to a broken heart.  Forgiveness.  I know what you're thinking, "You don't know what they did to me!"  I may not, but I know what Jesus did for you and that is all I need to know.

Jesus forgave the worst in you.  Extend the same to others.  The beautiful thing about Jesus' forgiveness is that He provides full reconciliation, without restraint, to all those who turn to Him.  Sadly, this side of Heaven, our forgiveness will never look like that.

You may not be able to have what you once had.  That isn't biblical forgiveness anyhow.  What you once had is just that- what once was.  Forgiveness is a present action that is forward facing.  As far as it depends on you, seek peace (Romans 12:18).  You don't need what was, you need a present peace.

Peter's restoration meant taking a new role (John 21:15-19) and sometimes ours will as well.  They may not trust you again, and you don't have to trust them again.  but, you cannot forsake peace.

Restoration is not about setting a relationship back, restoration is about making a relationship right.

Don't forget that this also means forgiving yourself.  Forgive yourself for things said (or unsaid), things done (or not done).  Those things are dead with Jesus and new life is an ever-present reality.  Resurrection from the dead is in many ways a lifetime project.

Jesus has raised us with Him, and yet we are growing into all that we will be (1 John 3:1-3).  We are being raised more and more from our deadness- and forgiveness is a massive piece of that.

Forgiveness is about peace to move forward, not the ability to go back.

Alongside abiding with Jesus, God uses ordinary things to shape us and heal us.  Tears, memorials, forgiveness: these are ways God, through suffering, conforms us more into the image of His Son.

We can go forward knowing that God has promised to complete this mission (Phil. 1:6).  Even in our pain, we can worship alongside the words of Jude:  
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. - Jude 24-25