When Love Breaks Your Heart

For the sake of transparency, I’ll start by saying that I do not know what unexpected loss feels like. I’ve lost relatives, but never without warning.

It was anticipated and I was blessed with time to prepare for the inevitable.

While every loss we experience is painful and heart wrenching, this is not the kind of heart break that this day in history brings to so many.

Rather, it’s a sudden, unsolicited, unexpected ripping of your heart – a kind of pain that leaves you breathless and paralyzed.

It’s a kind of pain that one feels as they helplessly watch the plane holding their loved one careen straight into a building.

A pain that courses through their soul every year as they remember that horrific day; a day filled with fear.

Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear

When we think of love, we think of the good moments in life; the moments that leave us smiling and hopeful.

Love is a white gown and tux.

Love is laughter and the cry of a newborn child.

Love is found in the comfort of a friend.

Love is extended through the hands of rescuers responding to Hurricane Irma.

Love is experienced when our brothers and sisters in Christ are truly happy.

Love is known in and through Jesus Christ.

Love is the cross.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16).

But what about the hard times; the times when we actually feel our hearts breaking inside of us?

I recently watched a movie starring Will Smith (Howard) titled Collateral Beauty.

In this story, after coping for years with the pain of his daughter’s death, Howard writes letters to Love, Death, and Time.

To his surprise, Love, Death, and Time incarnate actually approach him.

The part that stuck out the most to me was when Love (Keira Knightley) approached Howard and passionately tried to remind him that love is the fabric of life; the only reason for anything and that he simply could not live without it.

In his excruciating pain, Howard retaliated, crying – “I felt you [Love] every day when my daughter laughed and you broke my heart.”

With sympathy in her voice, Love responded with words of hope – “I was there in her laugh, but I’m also here now in your pain.”

Scripture tells over and over again that God is Love; that they are one in the same; that whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16).

As human beings, we naturally categorize those which are alike together – things such as joy, happiness, life, contentment, peace, love…all of these are considered to be good.

In the same manner, we also categorize all that we believe to be bad into a separate group – pain, hurt, sorrow, destruction, death, hate, etc.

As basic as these constructs may seem to our societal fabric, they are but mere human paradigms and have no bounds against the Love that is God.

If Love is God, then it is not restricted to only that which we consider to be good.

Sometimes pain is the truest form of love because it keeps us from living a life without all the fullness that God offers, because as our hearts break, they are graciously exposed to the love and comfort that God so desires to pour into your life.

It is ‘out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given (John 1:16).’ It is ‘the fullness of Christ that fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:23), and to know this love that surpasses knowledge is to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

There is complete fullness in God; a fullness that is seen in the life, mission, and purpose of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19) and therefore, accessible to us through a love saturated in pain.

Those two words – love and pain – are rarely coupled together, but in all of history, Jesus’ pain is the ultimate expression of love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…(John 3:16).

When the grip of pain bears down on our hearts – the pain of loss, confusion, loneliness, betrayal, self-loathing, abandonment, a burning hatred for those who stole what we love most – it is hard to recognize the sweet essence of Love.

But just as Love broke the one and only Son, so too does Love break our hearts to put them back together again; to raise to life a man or woman set free in the arms of Grace.

Life is painful and sometimes all that’s good seems so ambiguous and obscure against the smoke and fire of a life crashing down around us.

But as we remember this day 17 years ago, we can turn our eyes from the smoke and fire and instead look into the face of perfect Love.

Human tradition and the basic principles of this world tell us that where there is pain and heartache, love cannot exist.

But this is not true.

Truth – the Gospel – tells us that God is Love and that this Love will go with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6), even when He breaks your heart.

Author: Kristin Holl

I am a jeans and t-shirt wearing, passionate, jump-in-with-both-feet, entirely flawed but wholly loved by God kind of girl who is learning to embrace grace over perfection. I am a brand new wife to an incredible man, daughter to two wonderful parents, and sister to three awesome brothers. When I'm not busy writing grants or analyzing data for the local nonprofit that I work for, I like to fill my time with music, writing, reading, hiking and fellowship with friends and family. I have a passion for Biblical literacy and deep, personal understanding of Gospel truth. It is my daily desire and prayer to be consumed and compelled by the cross. As C.J. Mahaney says, "we never move on from the cross. We only get a more profound understanding of the cross."

7 thoughts on “When Love Breaks Your Heart”

  1. Very good! Excellent!

    The love that wounds to heal. The Promise of Pain. Transformational Trauma. The Cross.

    “To you who I love: I will expose your flaws and show you how you should act.” Revelations 3:19 (D.I.T.)


    PS. How are we to know if it is love that wounds us or evil??

    1. As we discussed, I believe the difference between pain as a result of love and pain as a result of evil is found in the matter of trust. Job trusted God, therefore accepted his pain and heartache as holy and intentional (Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him – Job 13:15). Additionally, I’m wondering if perhaps this question is unnecessary in the bigger picture. A trust and hope in God guarantees many things, one of which is that regardless the source of pain or heartache; regardless of that which is intended to harm us, God will always intend for good (You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…Genesis 50:20). So essentially, regardless if it is necessary pain for growth, unnecessary pain by our own folly, or pain as a result of the inherent evil of this world…regardless of the source, the outcome is always the same. It may not make sense to us, as I’m sure Joseph’s pain of being betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, held captive, falsely accused, and imprisoned didn’t make sense at the time (because it didn’t fit within his category of good), but in the end he was actually able to see, understand, and articulate that which had been intended to harm him was actually used for his own good by God. Now, we may not be blessed like Joseph was and able to actually see the good as a result of pain such as 9/11 or the death of a child, but as one of my favorite quotes says, “heaven will always tell the stories that earth missed.” This is not to say that pain is easy to endure, but it is to say that when we have this trust and hope, it instills in us a capability to proclaim as Horatio G. Spafford did when his four daughters were lost to the sea –

      It is well with my soul.
      When peace like a river attendeth my way,
      When sorrows like sea billows roll,
      Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.

      1. This is all I can say at the moment:

        When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.” Rev 1:17

      2. I finally found some words, it was a jumble in my head all night:

        here is what our discussion and your paragraph did to me:

        I finally accepted my own hamartia (failure to meet the goal, insufficiency, sinfulness) because I was finally strong enough to do so, without seeing it as an attack on me. Rather I can see that God is not saying “You could have done better.” but “You can do better” and all of the things that i hated and resented in my life have been for one purpose alone:

        To help me recalibrate and be more able to hit the mark, to be less insufficient, to be less sinful, to more of who God is calling me to be. To, as coaches will often say, “Live up to your potential.”

        I’ve spent my whole life being shamed, or ashamed, but God says, “There is now no judgement to those in Christ.” I don’t have to feel bad to recognize my insufficiency, I just have to own it. And I do. For one of the first times in my life down to my core I do. As my favorite band says, “I’ve been a liar and I’ll never amount to the kind of person you deserve to worship you, You say you will not dwell on what I did but rather what I do.”

        God whose name can be translated “I will be who I will be” draws me on into the promise of the future, not the blame of the past.

        And it has floored me.

        And has for awhile, but I have not articulated it and so not brought it to my consciousness, and thereby be freed to act in that knowledge.


        1. I think that is exactly right. In light of our conversation, I went to 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 last night. This is what it reads:

          “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, no counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

          This is the core of salvation, that Christ became sin so that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our sin or even our attempts (failed or successful) at a holy life; when he looks at us, he sees Jesus Christ.

          Pain is not a punishment as many people would like to believe. Pain is, exactly as you describe it, a means by which to recalibrate our steps and set us back on track towards a life following Christ.

          One of the biggest ‘ah-ha’ moments I’ve had is when I finally realized that God is not disappointed in me. How could he be? He knows all things; all that is to come and all that has been. If that is true, then it would be against his very nature to be disappointed – to be sad or displeased because someone or something has failed to fulfill one’s hopes or expectations. God is never disappointed by my failures because he already knows them better than even I, however he does love me enough to correct my attitudes, actions, and behaviors, and like any change, that is going to hurt sometimes.

  2. What an encouragement, as it seems that the burdens of everyday life sometimes are winning. Thank you for reminding me that my hope is in Christ alone.

    1. Thank you Dad!
      I’m glad this was an encouragement and a good reminder that our hope is always in Christ, even when the good seems to be eclipsed by the bad. Thank you for reading!

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