A Theology of Broken Hearts

WE CELEBRATE RELATIONSHIPS that bring us joy on Valentine’s Day. Throughout the 20th Century, this has become almost exclusively focused on romantic relationships, but historically this was not always the case. The very first valentine was sent by a pastor named Valentine to his friend on the eve of his martyrdom. And for large parts of church history Christians sent notes and gifts to friends.

But what about those of us who are grieving the loss of love? A broken heart is a language that everyone can understand. It's verbs are tears, its nouns are pain, and its adjectives are angry words that we throw around like smelly socks that somehow never manage to land in the basket.

Our hearts break when they lose something they love. Having a ‘broken heart’ is a term most used to in conjunction with romance, that malicious fairy. But it can also be the loss of a family relationship or a friend-vorce. 

What should we do if we find ourselves more wounded by love than inspired by love?

Three things…


1. First, it’s okay to mourn. The Bible is full of laments – there’s even a book that’s nothing but lamenting. In Job and the Psalms, we also see righteous people shedding real tears over real losses. You’re not spiritually immature for feeling hurt, so take time to express your pain and not just bury it. You'll revisit again this place as memories return. There will be moments when you feel insane and other, more lucid moments, when you grieve your stupidity for ever talking to the person in the first place. You will be such a wreck that your future self will one day look back at you now and be half tempted to die of laughter or irritation. That's okay. Be a wreck. Just don't stay that way.


2. Second, find someone to share your burden with. That’s not always easy. Sometimes we’re embarrassed by the nostalgia-spasms we go through when recovering. Or, we may not be in the mood to share our wounded guts to another human since it was just a human that hurt us. But Scripture says ‘mourn with those who mourn’ and to ‘strengthen the weak’. We need reliable people who will listen – and to be that person to them when others are hurt.

In your head, the pain and injustice seem so large. It also seems conflicting. You can want to strangle the person one moment and then find yourself missing them like a Parisian misses bloody revolution the next. 

Verbalise it to someone and get them to pray with you. ‘Pray with one another and you will be healed.’ (James 5)


3. Lastly, Jesus said in his first sermon (Luke 4) that he's come to bind up the brokenhearted. This claim of Christ’s means more than just helping with the loss of relationships (or potential relationships) – but it certainly includes that as well. He cares about sparrows that fall to the ground – and he cares about our tears when life has wounded us.

God gives us a faithful, greater love. It's one that surpasses the lesser love we lose. Paul prays that we would ‘have the power to understand, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Christ’s love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

It’s not quite accurate to say that Jesus fills or removes the void. No, the loss is still real, and we must carry it. But God’s love gives us emotional and spiritual resources to carry that loss in ways we otherwise wouldn’t.

Imagine someone cheated you out of £500 ($700). You’d probably be angry. Next, imagine that someone approaches you with a suitcase full of money: £10,000. He gives it to you. No strings attached. Not only that, he plans to visit you on a regular basis to drop off new suitcases. Not because he’s a smuggler or criminal. For no apparent reason, he just likes you.

The loss of the £500 doesn’t go away. That person really did cheat you. But someone else has given you so much, that coping with – and even forgiving – the other debt becomes a real possibility. The wrong you suffered is no longer so big in light of the great goodness that you’ve been smothered with.

Christ’s love doesn’t fill the loss or wrong that broke your heart. But if you know Christ’s love for you, then you will have a strength to walk throw whatever valleys of sorrow the world may send your way. We need to pray, meditate on Scripture, and do whatever we need to help us grow in our understanding of this love. Theology of the purely intellectual variety cannot do this alone. We need to let the love of Christ get into our broken souls. And that means making time and space to open to him,

He shows us love, not by giving poems, chocolates, flowers, kisses, or encouraging words, but by taking our sin in the form of nails and thorns. On the cross, his heart experienced ultimate brokenness both literally and spiritually. He did this so that our broken hearts might be completely healed and whole. 

And though we may rightfully try, he will be more faithfully loving to us than we will ever be to Him. And that's a love we can never lose. 

For more, check out our book Elijah Men Eat Meat: Readings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform 


  1. Such important reminders. Thank you for writing this!


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