After author C.S. Lewis lost his beloved wife to cancer, he wrote in A Grief Observed, "Grief and pain are the price humans have to pay for the love and total commitment we have for another person. The more we love, the more we hurt when we lose the object of our love. But if we are honest with ourselves, would we have it any other way?"
Perhaps you've experienced romantic heartbreak, and as Lewis suggests, you've asked yourself if you would have it another way. And without hesitation you've answered, "Yes, I would. In fact, I feel so devastated by the grief of lost love that I'm determined to avoid it at all costs in the future."
Certainly, losing a special person can feel unbearable. The good news is that God wants to bring you comfort and help you embrace romantic grief, rather than run from it, so you can love again without fear.
Some things in life are certain: taxes are due on April 15, everyone will eventually die and all love ends in pain. Think about it. No matter why we experience romantic grief, heartbreak is always the result, sometimes because of divorce, sometimes because of death and others due to breakup. Sound negative? Not really.
When we accept the reality of heartbreak, it can open our hearts to love, rather than keep us from it. Here's why: If we are afraid of getting hurt and insist on arranging our lives to avoid romantic grief, we forfeit the chance to love because, as Lewis stated, grief and pain are always love's price tags. On the flip side, when we accept the inevitability of heartbreak, we are one step closer to developing the courage it takes to love, no matter the cost.
I recently visited a blog written by a man named Tom who lost his wife to breast cancer. While reading his thoughts, I was moved because Tom understands the need for courage to embrace love.
"My love for her will never fade," he writes. "[It] was a love of devotion with no conditional boundaries. I would marry her all over again if I knew we had to face the adversity of breast cancer."
Because Tom knows that God is "near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18) he is willing to travel the difficult road to experience the gift of love, in spite of the cost.
I once heard a story of a boy who was getting beat up daily by the school bully. Day after day, the bully attacked him on the playground; and day after day, the boy walked home overcome with self-pity and defeat.
Then one day, his father gave him permission to beat up the bully.
"The next time he comes at you, beat the pulp out of him," the father said.
With new confidence, the boy walked to school the next day, and waited in anticipation until the last school bell rang. Then he ran onto the playground to face his enemy. When the bully came toward him, rather than cower or flee, he fought back.
Not surprisingly, the bully never bothered him again.
I know a woman who often says, "I won't be able to handle it if I get my heart broken one more time." Unfortunately, she believes that grief is like this bully who is going to beat her heart to a pulp, and that she'll be trapped by grief forever. Unfortunately, she has not grasped the truth that her Father has given her permission to beat up the bully of grief.
Granted, facing romantic grief doesn't mean that we beat it up one day and move on the next. Instead, it's a process of healing. But in the end, God has granted us the certainty of winning the war against grief and helping us regain the courage to love. His desire is never that we stay stuck in emotional pain and become paralyzed by relational fears.
Sometimes when we're in emotional pain, we can feel like God has deserted us and doesn't notice our grief. In his book, Lewis also wrote about his wife's passing:
"Meanwhile, where is God? …A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence…There are no lights in the windows….Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?"
Certainly, we've all felt at times that God seems distant during heartache. However, to face grief successfully and love again, we need to consider God, not in light of our emotions, but in the light of His truth.
In Psalm 10:1, Asaph knew what it was like to live by his feelings when, like Lewis, he asked, "O Lord, why do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"
Thankfully, Asaph didn't get stuck in grief through unbelief. Even though he wondered where God was in verse 10:1, by the time he came to verse 14, he embraced the truth when he wrote, "But you, O God do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand."
The word "grief" in this passage is the word ka'as in Hebrew. The amazing part of this word is that the most nominal forms of it involve the trouble which man causes triggering hurt feelings. Guaranteed, if you're experiencing romantic heartbreak, you're experiencing a whole lot more than just a few hurt feelings! It's comforting to know that according to ka'as, God notices all your heartache, overwhelming or not.
If you feel that you're swimming in a sea romantic grief, remember that no matter how insignificant you think your pain is to God, He notices. Not only that, but He has considered it to do something about it.
You might be wondering how you can tell if you've moved through grief to embrace love again. One sign is gratitude. When we're grateful for the good that was given to us from God in our past relationship, we can be confident that emotional healing has happened. And when our desire to embrace the future overshadows our desire to hold onto the past, we know that we have said good-bye with grace. When we believe that God can fill our hands and heart with mutual love again, we know we have grieved well and that we have entrusted our heartache to Him. When we can thank God for the part others have played in our lives, we can be confident we have been enhanced by knowing them—and we're ready to embrace love again.