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When my boyfriend broke up with me in January, my brother gave me this advice: "Maybe God has freed up your time for something. Maybe there's somewhere you're supposed to go or something you're supposed to do."
That concept helped me process the situation by shedding new light on it. Three months later, his words are still with me. I haven't moved since the breakup, and I haven't accomplished any concrete task that dating would have kept me from doing. But something happened. I realized I'd let dating distract me from God's purpose for me. I'd spent so much time focusing on the relationship and not enough time focusing on God.
After the breakup, I refocused on God, and in the process, I rediscovered myself. I realized I hadn't been seeking God when it came to my future, but I was building it based on what my boyfriend wanted. We'd been dating for a year and a half, and by the time we broke up, we'd been dating long distance for seven months. It became increasingly difficult when he suddenly decided he didn't want to think about engagement for a few more years and that he was unwilling to relocate. I felt like I was being asked to make all the sacrifices. It put pressure on me to be someone else.
It's tempting to neglect other areas of your life and let being in a relationship consume your energies. I spent so much time focusing on the relationship and my boyfriend's desires that I neglected my own. When we broke up, I felt lost. I had this vision in my head for a long time about my future with this man, and it was hard to picture life being single again. I was so invested in the relationship that I wasn't sure who I was apart from it anymore.
Toward the end of last year, I felt God tugging at my heart to increase the amount of time I spent with Him. Around the same time, I felt like I needed space from my boyfriend and started strengthening friendships I had let slowly slip away. I started reading through my One Year Bible in January, and it was perfect timing. As my dating relationship started to fall apart, my relationship with God started to grow. By the time my boyfriend and I broke up, I was relying on God more than I had since the beginning of our relationship. I also had a closer group of friends to run to for support.
My sister-in-law told me to pray for peace and God would give it to me, and it took me about two weeks to recover from the sting of heartbreak. After spending a lot of time with God in prayer, I started to feel like the person I was before I met my boyfriend. I felt renewed in Christ, and I rediscovered the passions God had given me. I finally felt like myself.
I started studying theology again and blogging about my faith. I dusted off my tennis racket and hit the courts with my high school doubles partner. I picked up where I left off, learning web design and programming. Most importantly, I started spending time with God and making Him my first priority again.
I discovered God wanted me to stop trying to be someone else and return to His will for me. Instead of putting my trust in man, He wanted me to trust Him with my future. Breakups can be incredibly painful, but my brother's advice helped shift my focus away from trying to be who someone else wanted me to be and toward God and who He wanted me to be and who I was in Christ. My focus was no longer on trying to restore a broken relationship that put pressure on me to be someone I wasn't. I was free to focus on blossoming into the woman God had in mind when He created me.
I know that next time around, I'm going to make sure Christ is the absolute center of the relationship. I'm going to make sure our interests work together for God's glory instead of feeling like I have to abandon mine for his sake. I learned to retain some independence and not let my passions and interests become lost.
Our God is a healer. He restores the broken. I didn't even realize I was broken until I found myself newly single, so I thank God for the breakup. There are many good things we can learn from being in relationships, but we can learn just as much from going through a breakup and being single again.
What are some things you've learned about yourself from being single after a breakup? What is the best breakup advice you ever received?
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C.S. Lewis once said: "God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It's His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
As Amy pointed out, breakups can be incredibly painful. After my last breakup, I learned a ton about myself as well as grew in my relationship with Christ. As with any painfu/crisis situation, I think a person has a choice to how he/she will respond to it, you know? You can trust God with it or not. I once read a book that addressed suffering, which stated that people can be quick to state that God's timing is perfect during a time of blessing & happiness, but quickly forget that His perfect timing is still perfect during suffering as well. What is hard for me.... may not be so hard for another person. My trials are tailored to me... to help me grow... to refine my character.
After being single, one thing (there's too many to actually list) I realized that this life is so much bigger than myself & my marital status. I am learning how to be content in whatever state I find myself in. It's so easy to want to feel like *less* or to succumb to bitterness & self-pity because marriage has not happened for me yet. However, in God's eyes, I am so much more than that status. It is not what makes me successful, though, sometimes, culture makes me feel contrary to that fact. "Charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Respect, reverence, & love for the Lord... is where true successfulness lies. It was from that state of mind that I began to start truly blossoming into the woman He would have me become.
Looking back over my circumstances, there was no excellent breakup advice given. Other than, just to give the other person space, grace, & forgiveness. If the other person was asking to dissolve our relationship, chances are, he probably didn't want to spend all of his time with me as like a best friend. In my opinion, if he did, 1) why did we break up? 2) it wasn't healthy for either of us or our future spouses to feed that connection any further. I'm not saying you absolutely cannot be friends with an ex, but I do think, depending on the circumstances of the relationship, that it may certainly take some time apart to heal to get to that point.
As Amy said, God is a healer & He restores. I can certainly attest to that. :)
It is so amazing what a difference our perspective makes! After my last break up- 3 months ago, i made two important decisions.
The first one was that: for once, i'm doing away with the "oh well, he's an idiot for leaving me" or "something must be wrong with him" or "his loss, he'll regret it" kind of thoughts commets. I had a great guy and it certainly could not be all his fault that things didn't work out. Doing some introspection helped me to grow up and take some responsibility for the situation. In a weird way, that was very liberating.
Secondly, I decided that i was going get as much good from the experience as i could. It was a concious and intentional decision and God has honored (and He's still honoring) it in such an amazing way. I've learned that I should not expect a man to give me that which I can and should only get from having a intimate relationship with God. I've realised how easy it is for me not to necessarily forget about God, but to forget about me and lose myself in a relationship.
I'm so much more aware of God's grace and favor on my life, cos I see how He really does work everything out for my good.
Great perspective change. Thanks for sharing your story. Favorite quote: "I realized I'd let dating distract me from God's purpose for me. I'd spent so much time focusing on the relationship and not enough time focusing on God." Will definitely be sharing at www.facebook.com/FMUniversity.
Wow, Amy. I felt like I was reading about my own experience. I can definitely relate--in the length of dating, long distance, not focusing on God as much, and trying to be someone I'm not.
I guess the two biggest lessons I learned were to 1) throw yourself into something and 2) don't throw out the baby with the bath water.
1) I had been spending so much time traveling and talking to my boyfriend that when we broke up, I had hours of free time to dwell on the break-up. Not good. So, because of my friend's encouragement, I did things like joined a young adults group and joined a P90X group. I also had more time to focus on my Master's degree and other things. Being busy kept me from going into pity party mode.
2) It's so tempting to look at a "failed" relationship and say it was a waste of time, but it really wasn't. Through relationships, we learn about ourselves. My friends and family encouraged me to reflect on our relationship and identify the good aspects of the relationship as well as the things that maybe weren't as good. My ex wasn't this monster of a person, but was honest when it came to deciding we weren't right for each other. I respected him and I learned a lot from him--about dating, guy/girl differences, theology, you name it. So though it didn't lead to marriage, it wasn't a waste of time.
Over two years after my break-up, I can clearly see how God was at work in it. It was difficult, but I grew a lot through it, learned more of who I am and what I like, and I am currently pursuing my dream to serve overseas. These things probably wouldn't have happened had we gotten married.
" My trials are tailored to me... to help me grow... to refine my character."
I find it interesting when people say this because I don't know where in the Bible people get the idea that everything happens for a reason. Are bad things in a person's life tailored to them, or is it sometimes just a case of someone else doing something to hurt you?
Even the advice Amy's brother gave her in the original post seems a bit strange because it was her boyfriend who broke up with her, so to say that God may have ended their relationship for a reason seems to me like trying to ascribe a larger purpose to something that may also very well have just been a bad thing that happened instead of some piece of a larger plan for her life.
I know that is not as comforting to hear when you're going through a tough time, but I'm not sure the "this is happening for a God-ordained reason" is not always helpful either.
Having been through the end of several relationships, I can truly say that I thank God I didn't marry any of those guys. I can also see where the pain helped me grow and guided me towards God's will. However, there are so many things which don't get wrapped up tidily. I last dated a guy who I now know was a player and a pathological liar. I still don't see there being a purpose in that relationship. While I do believe all things work for good in our lives, it does not always tie up in a neat, tidy package. Also, the promise of resultant good does not obliterate the pain and heartache of a breakup or any other difficult circumstance.
I am happy for the author that God took away her pain so quickly. However, I don't believe that is something we can all expect. God never promised us freedom from pain, and more often than not in my life he's given me the "my strength is made perfect in weakness" answer rather than removing the pain.
I think the only truly good breakup advice is to tell God everything. Are you angry? tell him. Are you doubting his goodness? be honest with him. Are you just aching with pain? cry to him. One thing I have learned in the last year is that God grieves for our pain.He is the Father and he is good, even when he doesn't give answers.
I think people often get that idea that God has a reason for everything from Scriptures, such as Philippians 1:6 that say God will work all things out for our good, and others. I guess I've always looked at those Scriptures as saying that God can take the good the bad that happens in our lives and use it for His good and for our good. It doesn't necessarily mean He caused the hard/bad thing we're going through. But that He can redeem it. I know that's how it has often worked in my life.
@Corwin: Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose."
The whole passage of Romans 8 is amazing and addresses a lot of ideas about suffering and God's work behind the scenes.
I think I understand what you mean. There is not a verse in the Bible that says "everything happens for a reason" verbatim. Actually, saying the phrase to someone in pain does become a little cliche sometimes. A Psychology professor of mine once described the usage of such cliches as "only making the one saying it feel good but does little to help the other person." I can see that. There have been times that I was hurting & a person toss me a quick cliche to "help"... that doesn't change my pain (though little does since it is still a grief process, but you see the point)... or make me truly feel like I matter to him/her. I think the difference would be if they showed me mercy & empathy while speaking truths from the heart in love (not in a mandated cliche).
With that being said, to try to answer your question, there are verses in the Bible (as others have pointed out) that do imply the notion that things do happen for God-ordained reasons... though, we may not always know what those reasons are at the time.
*The Book of Job shows that God allows Satan to have power over Job within limits. It says that Job lived a blameless life. By definition, he did not deserve the affliction, but God was testing his faith. It's easy to trust & praise God when things are going well. It's also easy to blame & forget God when things go awry. So, from this, we see that God is in control & may allow bad things to test our faith alone.
*Psalm 139 shows that God cares about every detail of our lives & knows everything that happens within it.
*Romans 5:1-5 tells us that our sufferings are for our glory because they produce perseverance, character, & hope.
*Romans 8:28 (as pointed out already) shows that God does indeed work everything out for the good of those who love him. He uses everything in the believer's life to make him/her more like Christ.
*The sufferings Jesus faced shows us that God allowed what was considered bad & unwanted for everyone's good. It also came at the right moment (Romans 5:6-8).
*Hebrews 12:9-11 shows us that sometimes the reason is for disciplinary purposes, which is a blessing (Job 5:17).
*There are also countless stories in the Bible that show God's plan of redemption & restoration with His people.
In my most recent breakup experience, I can say that discipline had a lot to do with it. God used that specific relationship to restore me back to Himself & grow my character. As in Scripture, God has different ways with different people. With me, it was through the dissolution of a specific relationship. With someone else, it could be something totally different. God may allow whatever it is that has the opportunity to get you there, but, at the end of the day, there is still a person's choice in the matter. Unfortunately, I can also say that, in the past, there were plenty of times I had the opportunity but, like Peter (Matthew 14:22-34), I took my focus off of Jesus &, because of my weak faith, placed it upon everything happening around me & started to "sink".
Just my two cents. :) I hope that helps clarify a little bit. Thank you for the good question!
Laying the whole "everything that happens for a reason" concept aside, I think it is important to remember that God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and He will heal their wounds (Psalm 147:3).
@Tamara, Kim and MissJess:
I might be splitting hairs but many of those verses say that God can use bad things that happen for good, they don't mean he caused the bad thing or allowed it in order to accomplish something as part of a plan. And using Job and Jesus as examples works to show that there are times God causes suffering to accomplish greater things, but that is far from a universal rule for all the bad things that happen.
I think the distinction is important. God working bad things for good is a redemptive work (I.e. it wasn't what he hoped would happen, but it did happen and so he will make the best of it) versus being something that God wanted to happen to you in the first place.
God has given us free will and the reality is we sometimes use that free will to hurt each other. If we believe that everything happens for a reason (or worse, believe that God is responsible for what happens), then we can drive ourselves crazy looking for the deeper meaning and "God's plan in this" when the explanation for what happened could be as simple as another person sinned against us and that caused pain.
I think a better question to ask during suffering is "what can God teach me through this" instead of "why did God do this." I know it was asking that latter question during a tough time that completely unravelled my faith, because there was no answer to the question the made sense and that lead to anger and distrust of God.
I get that & agree with you for the most part. :)
I'll point out... there is a complete difference between the word *cause* & the word *allow*. To say that God caused something, it would mean that He personally did something to you. Like you mentioned, it can cause a lot of distrust & anger towards God when trying to understand the "why" of it. On the other hand, to say that God allows something, it means that he lets it happen. He is still sovereign & in control, but free will has it's play there. As you pointed out, people do have a tendency to hurt each other with that free will, and that is far from the ideal. God has the power to prevent those things, but He lets it happen anyway. He also lets them happen within *His* limits (as shown in Job-- & I do realize we disagree on the universalness here).
I am SO glad you mentioned this:
"I think a better question to ask during suffering is "what can God teach me through this" instead of 'why did God do this.'"
Yes! This! Absolutely! I'll also add in: "How can I give God the glory through this?" & "What does it look like to trust God in this situation?"
"I'll point out... there is a complete difference between the word *cause* & the word *allow*."
I'm not sure I agree with you on that one, though I know that I now am splitting hairs since we mostly agree on the main point and I am now veering onto a little bit of a non-breakup related rabbit trail. :)
When it comes to a person's responsibility for something that happend, I think most of us don't really make a distinction between causing and allowing, yet we do when it comes to God for some reason.
For example, imagine me standing at the top of a long, steep staircase when I see my little nephew slowly stumbling towards the stairs and an imminent tumble down them. If I am fully capible of grabbing him and preventing the fall but instead chose to just stand there with my hands in my pockets and watch the calamity unfold, do you think my brother (his father) would say "It's okay Corwin, I know you didn't cause him to fall down the stairs, you just allowed it -- which is completely different and acceptable?"
I think the distinction between cause and allow is just not helpful when people are angry at God, because whether God did it himself or just stood by and allowed something he could've prevented to happen, he still bears responsibility for it happening...
I read your post and just HAD to say something.... I'd asked that question for a REALLY long time after having a long drawn out personal struggle. Something I realized is that sometimes God's blessings are disguised as "bad things." One of my favorite songs EVER says this, "And what if trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise?" That hit me really hard. Sometimes God allows things in our lives that are really hard, like a breakup, but when He allows things to hurt us, it's never in vain.
Ah, rabbit trails. Thanks for the challenging discussions. :)
You make a valid point- one that, I have been thinking about myself since the last post. Cause = direct responsibility; allow = indirect responsibility. The common denominator is still responsibility either way you toss it.
"I think the distinction between cause and allow is just not helpful when people are angry at God, because whether God did it himself or just stood by and allowed something he could've prevented to happen, he still bears responsibility for it happening..."
I definitely see what you're saying. IE: Back to Job, though he did not sin or blame God, he did seem pretty frustrated with all of it, especially with the advice & judgment from his friends. He obviously knew that God bore the responsibility (Job 1:21). At that moment, Job didn't have the promise of eternal life or anything, you know? It was like, "Hey, look, why did you bring me into this world just to give me grief & take me out of it so quickly? I have nothing to look forward to... no hope... just darkness in Sheol. It would have been better if I had never been born." Fortunately, for Christians, we have a hope in Christ Jesus- despite whatever bad goes on in this fallen world, there will come a day that things will be made right (Romans 8:17-18, Rev. 21:4-5).
Considering you had personal experience with the distrust & anger in God, can you add what may be helpful to someone in that same place? I know you mentioned asking questions like "what can God teach me through this situation" (awesome!). Is there more you are comfortable sharing here? Also, you mentioned that the precepts we went over are of little help to people angry at God. What responsibility is there, in your opinion, in putting those truths out there to help point a person to God?
...Unfortunately the situation I described is my current one, so not a lot of insight on how to come through it (in fact I'm pretty sure I'm the opposite of a good example on that front). My comments here are some of the things I am thinking about to try piece it all back together.
As for a person's responsibility when putting those truths out there, I'd say one needs to make sure that they are providing a balanced scriptural view of suffering in this lifetime. To say that bad things happen for a reason or that God caused or allowed something to happen to teach a person something may be true, but I don't think there is a scriptural case to be made for it always being true. We live in a fallen world and that means there are things happening everyday that are outside of God's ideal plan (I doubt any sin is part of God's plan) and he describes himself as hating a lot of things that are commonplace in this lifetime -- things that cause a ton of pain.
Sometimes, I think it is more helpful for people to hear that the thing that happened to them broke God's heart too and was not the way he wanted things to go either. In a hard time where there is no reason or lesson in sight to explain "God's plan," that truth is a lot easier to swallow for me than the truth that God actually caused or allowed something painful to happen because I needed to learn a lesson, which is then usually followed up with "oh and just because you see no reason doesn't mean it isn't there." Again, possibly true, but not always.
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