Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine about how tough break-ups can be. She is single and I am married, and over the years we’ve both had friends who have become hardened towards men as a result of bad break-ups. We also have friends who have become wounded and insecure because of the rejections they’ve experienced. Since that conversation I’ve spent some time reflecting on my own experiences with break-ups. I’ve certainly had my share of them, and I’ve written about it a lot on this blog. However, since getting married I haven’t discussed this topic in quite some time even though a lot of my readers are single, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about break-ups in the past few years.
As I mentioned above, break-ups are tough in that they have a special ability to change you for the worse. The way you respond to a break-up can have a tremendous impact on the person you will be after. Some women have a permanent chip on their shoulder toward men. If they ever hear a story of a man breaking up with a woman, they immediately assume the worst about him. And once in a new relationship, bitter women can drive men away with their lack of trust, constantly waiting for him to screw up and hurt them.
On the other side of the break-up coin are the women who simply lose confidence in themselves. I fell into this latter category. I had a great family that did an amazing job of affirming me as a child, so I was actually very secure in who I was through middle school and high school. It wasn’t until I was an adult and started dating that my confidence began to waver. After suffering through a couple break-ups, I doubted whether I was even lovable at all. Would ANY man every want to marry me??
One of the things that make break-ups so difficult to work through is that they tempt you to believe lies about yourself. Break-ups get inside your head and it’s really hard to separate yourself from them. You can’t step outside the situation. As a result, it can be hard to even know how to pray. Do you pray that God would reunite you with the person? Do you pray that God would change you or your ex so that the relationship can work? Or do you pray that God would simply make your feelings go away? And what does it mean when your feelings doesn’t go away?
All of these questions make it terribly difficult to discern God’s will and direction amidst a break-up. You don’t know what He wants from you or what you’re supposed to do. As a result of that confusion, I often handled break-ups very badly. My confusion about God’s leading caused me to act out of fear instead of trusting in His care. I said and did things I shouldn’t have; I also put my security and confidence in things I shouldn’t have.
Looking back on those days and the intense emotions I experienced, I have finally realized the best way to categorize those times in a manner that would have helped clear up the confusion. Or at least some of it. After a break-up, many of us experience what can only be described as true suffering. As a single woman I was hesitant to label my break-ups that way because they seemed so small in comparison to the suffering of others–I had a roof over my head, a great family, a promising future. What did I have to complain about? But as I look back on a couple of those break-ups, I really did suffer. I cried a lot. I was depressed. I lost weight because I had no appetite. I was physically and emotionally distraught. Why? Because some break-ups are like a death. You have lost someone important in your life, as well as the future that you thought you had with them. And in the face of death, the normal human response is to grieve. Many times to go through a break-up is to suffer.
The reason I urge you to think of break-ups within the category of suffering is that it can give direction to your emotions. No, the Bible doesn’t say much about break-ups but it DOES say a lot about suffering. The Psalms of Lament, such as Psalm 30:8-12, can articulate the feelings you are having, sometimes better than you can yourself. Scripture also helps us to direct our suffering towards hope and perseverance:
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. – Psalm 5:11
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. -Psalm 18:2
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. – Rom. 8:18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Cor. 4:16-18
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. – James 1:2-3
Like all forms of suffering in this world, God wants you to take refuge in Him. So no matter the circumstances of the break-up, that is the one thing you can be sure of. It is tempting to run to your family and friends, and they are certainly good resources, but always run first to your Father in Heaven. Break-ups are so incredibly difficult and if you are going through one right now my heart truly aches for you! But like all suffering this is an opportunity for you to grow closer to the Lord. How you respond to this situation will define who you are after, so examine whether you are responding in a way that will make you bitter, insecure, or refined as by fire.