Break-ups in the Church

In God’s sovereign plan for his children, not all relationships lead to marriage. Some end in a break-up and there are often painful emotions that follow. But even at this low point in one’s life, we take refuge in the one relationship we have that will never break. Resting in the comfort of the unbreakable Covenant God has established with us helps us find our way through sleepless nights. There is peace in our heart when we call to remembrance that Jesus Christ has washed us with his blood. The unconditional love of God that surrounds us helps us to do the humanly impossible—genuine praying and seeking the spiritual good of the one with whom we once had a relationship.

At first glance, it seems that Scripture does not have much to say about break-ups. It may also seem that solid Reformed literature does not speak specifically to one who has sunk deep into depression. However, Jesus, who is the Truth (John 14:6) and Wisdom (Proverbs 8) knows every sorrow and suffering that we go through (Hebrews 4:15), including all the pain involved in a break-up. Jesus knows every bit of that pain intimately.

The Facebook relationship status may have changed, the Friday date nights may have changed, dinner venues may have changed, but the Word of God still remains our light in the path of life, that at times are treacherous (Psalm 119:105). Contrary to what our sinful flesh cries out for—over-indulgence in food, deluded dramas, shopping sprees, pornography—to deal sinfully with the hurt, we must find all our comfort only in the Word of Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, our flesh does not even desire true comfort. Rather, we desire sinfully to remain hurt and justify our seeking comfort in the lusts of the flesh. We must cry out to God to give us a desire for true and lasting comfort and for a greater hatred against deceitful comforts that the world tempts us to. Contrary to what the world advises us to do—to entertain revengeful thoughts, backbiting, gossiping, slandering, rashly rushing into another relationship, we must find true and lasting joy only in God. This joy gives us a heart of forgiveness, love for the neighbour, and draws us yet closer to our God. This is not to say that going out for game of volleyball is wrong to help one cope with a break-up.


Rather, we must take to our hearts that the process of healing and growing will start and end with God’s word.

You may have lost a relationship with a person, but you will never lose your unbreakable Covenant relationship with God. You, with the church, have been married to the head of that Covenant, Jesus Christ. You may not have the one you have broken up with calling you out anymore, but Jesus Christ has always and still is calling to you, “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages” (Song of Solomon 7:11). That is the field of the adventure of faith. Because the focus of the call is to the whole church of Jesus Christ, therefore that call comes personally to you! He calls you to an adventure to continue digging deep into God’s word. It is an adventure because communion with God thrills our spiritual heart more than anything in this world. Taste and see that growing in the knowledge of God and in His doctrines is sweeter than anything our souls have tasted. That village Christ calls you to lodge in is the call to pour out your heart to Him in prayer during those sleepless nights. This call is irresistible, so that any child of God who is hurting, will be given spiritual strength from on high to answer that call to rest in our Lord Jesus Christ.

You may not feel desired like how you once were. Yet, know that you ought to say with the Shulamite woman, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (Song of Solomon 7:10). Christ covers all our sin with grace upon grace (John 1:16). There is absolutely nothing good in us, but because of the goodness of Jesus, He desires us to an extent that infinitely surpasses how anyone else will desire you. This desire of God for us is pure, eternal, and infinitely stronger than the pull of a million black holes stacked together.

Hear the words of Christ, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” (Song 4:9). Our eyes may be puffy from the nights of tears, but with one look at our puffy eyes, Christ says that you and I have ravished His heart. The doctrine of God’s Covenant is precious and is infinitely deep. In this, as the pain slowly begins to heal, we are assured that we are God’s. We are precious in His sight and God is ours. He is everything to us.

Jesus Christ calls you to come, not just physically, but to bring all of your heart to the gathering of the saints on the Lord’s Day. Come! Hear the comforting words of Christ in the preaching, the Bible studies, and fellowship with fellow saints. It is especially through the preaching of God’s Word that the gushing grace of God meets us. It is especially in the preaching of God’s Word that all the streams of Bible study and church activities are filled with living waters, from which we drink and are spiritual invigorated. This is Covenant love and sweet fellowship with God and His people. You will find God’s call to join with the saints in worship and the intimate congregation prayer sweet and irresistible to your soul.

And so, the troubled soul with a trembling voice sings,

“Thy thoughts, O God, how manifold,

More precious unto me than gold!

I muse on their infinity,

Awaking I am still with Thee.”

(This and following stanzas taken from Psalter 383, versification of Psalm 139.)

Every Reformed Christian knows and believes that God is sovereign over all. God is sovereign over the terrorist who blows up bombs in brutal murder. He is sovereign over the cancer that has made a father a widower. He is sovereign over every married couple that He has united together as one flesh. And He is surely sovereign over all our relationships. God’s sovereignty is absolute. As the Almighty One and the Lord of Lords, he does whatsoever He pleases. In His might, the sovereign Potter makes one lump of clay to demonstrate His mercy, and another to demonstrate His justice and wrath against sin. If not a hair can fall from my head without God willing it, then all the events in my relationship—every date, every mistake, every devotion, every laughter shared, and finally its eventual end, are surely ordained by God’s eternal decree. As impossible as it seems now, all these things that have unfolded in one’s life are now serving our salvation perfectly.

“Ere into being I was brought, Thy eye did see, and in Thy thought

My life in all its perfect plan

Was ordered ere my days began.”

But when one’s heart continues to weigh a ton and you feel like you are being crushed to the ground, we might be tempted to ask, “How does a break- up bring glory to God’s name?” We may very well be tempted to think that somehow, God must have made a mistake! Oh, we can tell others that we are trusting in God and continue to keep a straight face in church. However, in the inner recesses of our hearts, a part of us can, as it were, grab God out of heaven and put Him in an interrogation chair, demanding God to explain to us why it feels like there is a knife in our gut. Yet, God lovingly rebukes us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We humbly submit to the infinitely wise counsel of God. And we repent of our doubts in the God of heaven and earth. We quietly recall the saints of old, of Joseph and of Job, we recall our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, at the mount of transfiguration before facing the ultimate suffering on the cross, and we ask God for strength to keep our minds on the bigger picture: God is God. Man is nothing.

Because we still have the old man of sin, we can be far more prone to jealousy and anger especially after a break-up. A wise king quickly fortifies a breached wall in the face of an opportunistic enemy approaching. God tell us that we are by nature, children of wrath. Scripture reveals to us that we are totally depraved. In a break-up, we may feel that our sinful emotions may be far more powerful than our will. It seems that hate will devour our love. Yet, God knows our weaknesses. He reminds us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” This is the truth of the perseverance of the saints that every Reformed believer holds dearly to. God will preserve you by giving you the strength of heart to persevere in love for God and your neighbour. Rule your heart wisely by tripling your defences with the Word and love of God.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy (depression) falls;…” (Canons of Dort, Article 6).

We may feel as though we do not have any spiritual strength to go on, but the Holy Spirit is always with us, never leaving us. We may feel that a temptation is impossible to resist, but know that God gives us the Spirit that moves our spirit to cry out, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” In this trial of losing a relationship, there will surely come a way of escape that you will be able to bear. That way is through the cross. Through praying for mercy for yourself and the one that you have broken up with, God guides us in the right way forward. When we fail to forgive the sins of others, we fail to experience God’s forgiveness of our sins. When we stubbornly hold on to the hurt, we often go astray from God and the church. Rather, by God’s grace, we love the one whom our flesh calls us to hate because we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit of God and the Spirit dwells in our hearts.

So we pray…

“Search me, O God, my heart discern,

Try me, my inmost thought to learn; And lead me, if in sin I stray,

To choose the everlasting way.”

That everlasting way is not the way of looking to marry those who are not in the Lord or to date someone whom we are not in full agreement with in doctrine and life. That everlasting way is to wait upon the Lord and to run in the path of obedience and ardent desire for God. Think of the dreadful consequences of Samson’s sin when he set his heart on wicked Delilah.

To the readers who know of someone who has gone through a break up, or have gone through a break-up themselves, remember: Christ prayed for His sheep who crucified him. Stephen prayed for the salvation of those who stoned him to death. If you know the person who broke up with your friend is to be “blamed”, know that that person is a precious child of God too. There may be untold hurt. Yet, Christ never gave us a limit for forgiveness. Even if in your own judgment, your friend was sinfully dumped, we are to love that brother or sister who appears to have caused the hurt. Pray for his or her spiritual welfare. The church on this earth is made up of sinners at all times, but God will not take it lightly when someone speaks evil of a lost sheep. It is especially the foolish and dumb sheep that God loves, and there will be great rejoicing when it returns—just as the father killed the fatted calf upon the Prodigal Son’s return. Smite that lost sheep with your gossip and words, and God will lovingly but painfully chasten you too. We are called to love mercy (Micah 6:8). We are called to defend and promote the honour and reputation of both parties involved in the break-up (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s day 43). Hence, all parties must ask themselves, “In the light of the Truth of God’s word, what is God teaching us in this painful circumstance that He has sovereignly brought to pass?”

Written by: Josiah Tan | Issue 39