I love fall. I love the sudden need for sweaters and boots, the warm aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg and the beautiful colors of the leaves. Most of all, what I love about the change from summer to fall is that it reminds me that God’s grace and mercy are new every morning. It reminds me of how much I can trust him.
So as you grab a cup of warm cider or hot tea on this crisp September morning, imagine with me this story, which is not unlike one you’ve heard before.
It goes something like this: Boy meets girl. Girl falls for boy and his charm. Girl makes plans for the future with boy. Things get complicated, and those plans don’t work out. Both of them walk away, broken and confused. Months or even years later, girl and boy bring their baggage into every good relationship that comes their way. They want love, but they trust no one.
As one who has been hurt, I know that words fail to express what it’s like to have a broken heart. I can also testify to how tempting it is to tuck away those feelings and pretend they don’t exist. But that’s just about the worst thing to do.
So what’s the secret to bouncing back? How can you mend a broken heart? Is it by hardening your heart, building strong walls and refusing to let down your guard so as never to feel that crippling pain again?
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
The truth is this: no matter how much you’ve been hurt, if you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior and that he died for your sins, you’re called to love others with a Christ-like love. That means forgiving the friend who stabbed you in the back, the parent who walked away when you were only a child and, yes, the guy who cheated on you with your best friend.
You see, if we don’t surrender the pen of our story to God even in the valley, we may see our pain and our distrust of others resurface later on in life. Even worse, we may find ourselves tucking away our hearts in a deep, dark dungeon, which no one can access. But this is not what God calls us to do. He calls us to love (John 13:34) and to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15).
It’s also worth mentioning that pain is not a sign of weakness. It is the perfect picture of strength to gaze into the mirror, to be honest with ourselves and to cry out to our heavenly father. He knows our hurts and our tears—he even keeps them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8)! And he is faithful to those who trust him. We know this because he sent his son to die for our sins, and he promises eternal life for those who love him.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my scup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Psalm 23
If you have been hurt by someone, lay it down before the Lord and ask him to heal your brokenness. Don’t let your story end with locking up your heart where no one can touch it. Instead, choose to be vulnerable. Choose to see this situation as God’s mercy, because he could be teaching you an invaluable lesson. Choose love and forgiveness, and let God be the author of your story.