rebelling against low expectations

4 Things I Learned from Heartbreak


It’s funny how we think we’re above certain things.

I thought I’d have enough sense not to fall in love with an unbeliever. I hoped I’d have the emotional strength to stick to my convictions and not let a non-Christian guy mess with my mind and heart.

Unfortunately my seventeen-year-old self fell (hard) for an atheist. It took over two years to realize that waiting and praying for his conversion just wasn’t worth it. We were only very good friends, but I saw that my expectations were much higher than his, and I was being sucked dry.

We finally ceased communication altogether, and he got a girlfriend. A year later the hurt resurfaced, and I had to do some serious processing and praying, because I realized I was not over him. I still needed a lot of healing.

God has done a lot of work in me over the ensuing months. The pain of this heartbreak taught me a couple of hard, but very necessary lessons.

Compromising Spiritually is Never Worth it

Firstly, compromising spiritually is never worth it. Shortly after I began distancing myself from this guy, I did my Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission. I drew closer to God and experienced him like never before—and saw how much I’d compromised spiritually.

I hadn’t been as open about my faith as I should have, because I was scared I’d lose this guy’s good opinion. And his unbelief had been a huge distraction. Much of my prayer time consisted of desperate prayers for his salvation, and often in church I found my mind wandering to him.

I was ashamed to admit it, but God had taken a backseat to this dude. And the compromise was not worth it

Boundaries are Healthy

I also learned that you CAN get out of the (figurative) boat when it comes to relationships. A relationship is a give-and-take thing.

It isn’t worth it if you’re the only one giving; you have to set boundaries and take care of yourself emotionally as well. You cannot afford to let another person drain you.

It’s OK to Not Understand Your Grief

Grief is strange and it’s OK to not understand it.

My grief would catch me unawares and drive me to tears at the strangest times. While my head knew I was far better off without him, but my heart struggled to come to terms with the rejection and pain.

In the end I gave up trying to understand my grief. It was better to acknowledge that, yes, I was struggling and sore over things not working out as I’d dreamed. I found more peace when I let the grief wind its erratic course. I didn’t let it rule me, but stopped trying to suppress or explain it.

It’s OK not to be in control of your emotions. It’s OK not to understand why you’re stuck on someone who has long since moved on. And it’s OK to cry. There was lots of healing in letting my tears flow.

God is Your True Healer

Ultimately, God is the true Healer. The turning point in my journey came when the Lord reminded me to look to him and find my healing in him.

I was crying in bed one night when a picture came to mind.

I saw myself sitting in the literal ruins of my heart: a labyrinth of broken walls and rubble and rocks. But God sat beside me and wrapped me in his arms. We cried together, and he reminded me of his everlasting love.

I knew the Lord was telling me to focus on him rather than my pain.

Yes, it was satisfying to bang the steering wheel and sing Breakeven at the top of my lungs—but it didn’t help the healing process. The only way I would be whole again was if I took my eyes off myself and turned them to the Healer.

So I tried to fix my gaze on God and keep it there. I saw that the tighter I clutched the broken pieces of my heart, the more I cut my hands. It was better to give all the pieces to the Lord, and be vulnerable about my struggles, no matter how ridiculous they seemed.

I’m afraid I don’t have a shortcut to beating heartbreak. It’s a slow process, and it’s different for everyone. What I did learn is that you can save yourself a lot of pain by not falling for an unbeliever. Compromising spiritually is never worth it, as nothing can compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing God better. Allowing yourself to stay in a damaging/one-sided relationship is also a bad idea and can cause deep hurt.

Finally, let yourself grieve, even if you don’t understand your emotions. It’s good to be vulnerable with a few people you trust; it makes it easier for them to pray with you and support you in your journey.

And I would recommend steering clear of the break-up songs, catchy as they are. Instead, run into the arms of your Father. No one heals like he does: totally and completely, with mind-blowing love, patience and gentleness.

One thing I am thankful for about my heartbreak is how the grief drove me to God and showed me another side of him. Our Lord is truly beyond compare.

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About the author

Jeanette van As

stands on nothing but the grace of her Father. She’s a South African ministry kid, homeschool graduate, and lover of music, reading, writing and all things Celtic. She blogs at Only By Grace

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By Jeanette van As
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