By Jennifer Griffin
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” Colossians 1:17.
Someone once told me, “You never forget your first love.” In fact, I’ve heard those words more times than I can count, and for many years told myself, “Well, that’s no problem—I’ll just get it right the first time and never have my heart broken. My first love will be my only love.”
And I can just imagine my heavenly father lovingly looking down on me, knowing full well that a shattered heart would be the very thing to draw me to him.
I remember that heartbreak like it was yesterday: it was the middle of a cold, bitter Michigan winter, and I had been both a college graduate and a 21year old for just over a month. I had recently returned from a relaxing holiday vacation and couldn’t wait to buckle down and hunt for my first full-time job. I was also anxiously awaiting a major change in my life—one that would involve first a question and then a pretty little ring wrapped around my finger.
It wasn’t all written in stone, and I didn’t have all the details quite figured out, but I was well on my way to planning out the rest of my life. It was going to be perfect.
But then the phone rang, and everything changed. In a single moment, I went from being on cloud nine to having my heart torn to pieces and my sails irreversibly redirected. And the scariest part was that I had absolutely no control over which way the wind blew me.
In a few short breaths, the person on whom my happiness had depended for nearly two years uttered a sequence of words I’d never wanted to hear. And just like that, my hopes and dreams slipped like water through my shaking hands. I hung up the phone and suddenly realized I had no idea who I was apart from who I was with him.
The weeks that followed the breakup were filled with anxiety, anger and fear—anxiety because I no longer knew what my future held, anger as a result of being deeply wronged, and fear that I’d never love again. It was only by God’s grace that older, wiser believers came alongside me and helped me find hope in the word of God in the midst of the pain. And as I began to trust in God’s promises, even when I didn’t feel like they were true, I began to wake up from the dark dream.
In Ephesians 5:14, Paul beckons the sinner to awake in Christ when he writes, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” And that’s precisely what happened to me. As I awoke, I could see that God’s allowing me to part with my “first love” was his way of reaching down and rescuing me from my selfishness. He opened my blind eyes to see that I hadn’t been living a life that honored him, even though I’d always called myself a Christian.
And so the problem was never that I’d been hurt; the problem was that my heart had been in the wrong place and depending on the wrong thing. Until the storm, I was so convinced of being in control of my own life that I didn’t think I really needed God. But his plan for me was not to sail smoothly through this life, depending on myself and on finding earthly love. His plan was to allow me to become completely broken so that I could look up and see how much only he can love me. He took my broken heart and allowed me to be beautifully broken before him, trusting him to hold me together.
It’s been about two years since God intervened in my life and placed me on this new path of unclenching my fists and surrendering control of everything, including my love life. While I’d never say that life is easy, I am now better equipped to handle life’s problems, including messy breakups, because I treasure and trust the many precious promises of God, which I learned in the storm. Here are just three of them:
God is sovereign
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” Proverbs 16:9.
This verse is a gentle reminder to me that I’m not the author of my own life. Even though it is good for us to have goals and work hard toward them, it is also good to always be open to the idea that God may have a different plan for our lives than we do. I’m so thankful God had a different plan for me because my brokenness led me to discover my identity in Christ, instead of in the person I was dating.
God is working for our good
“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” Romans 8:28-29a.
An often-quoted passage, these words from Romans imply that no matter what we face in life, even our trials benefit us because they ultimately make us more like Christ. And when we share in Christ’s sufferings, we also get to share in his glory, as we’re told in 1 Peter 4:13.
God knows what the future holds
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” Psalm 139:16
This verse from Psalm 139 was first introduced to me by my faithful and encouraging mother, and it is a sweet reminder to me that if God has written every day of my life in his book, if that plan includes marriage, it will come to fruition in his perfect timing. There’s no need to try and force it into happening. I can trust God with my future love because, after all, 1 John 4:19 tells us that we only love because God first loved us.
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