Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for many of us, it can be brutal, particularly when we are dealing with broken relationships, including non-romantic relationships. As we mature in Christ, it is inevitable to have regrets over broken relationships. To wish that we could go back in time and take that narrow path rather than the way that led to destruction is inherent in being a member of the fallible human race.
Whether we keep it a secret or not, we all have made unwise decision that hurt ourselves or others that we wish we had not made. But is it ever too late to make amends? I would venture to guess that most of you would say, “Yes!” Too much time as gone by, too much has happened, too much hurt, and too much pain or disappointment. As the Lord tells Israel, “Your wound is incurable,” and there is “no balm in Gilead.”
I am not a romantic person who views the world through rose-colored glasses, but rather a dyed in the wool realist. That being said, I am a believer that true love never dies. Relationships may die, loved ones may die, but true love never dies.
I had a grandmother who I loved above all other humans who walked on this earth. She has been gone for more than 20 years, yet my love for her is the same as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. I have a mother who died recently, yet I continue to love her every single day. Does this love continue just because I had good relations with my mother and grandmother? I have to say, “No.” We fought, irritated one another, and hurt one another. I also have a father who walked away from a relationship with me as a small child, yet I still love him. I had a spouse who walked away from me, yet I still love him.
Relationships are messy, complicated, and almost always hurtful because we are all failed human beings born with a sin nature. Every single important relationship I ever had with someone I cared about hurt me deeply—and I them. “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (Rom 3:10) Genuine, true love makes a way for forgiveness, even for those people in our lives who we might believe do not “deserve” forgiveness or even desire our forgiveness.
“True love is not candles, chocolate, and red wine.”
But this is not God’s way. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) God didn’t wait for us to clean up our behavior and repent before He loved us. Most profound, He didn’t wait for us to ask for forgiveness. He made a way for us in the relationship before we even knew we needed it.
Throughout my Christian life, I have prayed for God to mend hearts and relationships, particularly for those people who never once thought of the pain they inflicted on me, hated me in their hearts, or spoke evil of me. Not because I am a good person, but because I believe in the restorative power of my God. Jesus came to restore the ultimate broken relationship, that between God and humanity. His ministry is love and restoration incarnate.
And I am only able to love and pray for those who have abused and hurt me because of the love Christ gave me. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) If you are praying for restoration in a particular situation, I want to encourage you to not give up. I have seen God mend hearts and relationships that were so broken you couldn’t use a vacuum to clean up the dust. Failing that, I know that God can mend a broken heart.
God is always at work even when we do not see it, especially in situations where only He can receive the glory. Remember the very real account of Gideon and the Midianites. “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” (Jud. 7:2)
Finally, consider the true meaning of love through God’s eyes: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7) Though we may fail to always love in our journey here on earth, God always loves us. He may discipline us as His child, but our actions never negate His grace and mercy.
Contrary to the romantic and commercialized Valentine’s Day type of love, true love is not candles, chocolate, and red wine, but an intangible real property that is eternal, that is outside of time and space, much like our God, who is love.
Many of you are hurting and dreading Valentine’s Day, just like those of us who have lost parents we love dread Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other family holidays. It only serves to remind of us of what we no longer have in our lives. It can also serve to make us feel unworthy of love, in lack, or just plain lonely. My advice? Don’t go there. Remember who you are in Christ—loved. God tells us in Isaiah 49:16: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” In this scripture we can take comfort that God is watching over us always.
Turn Valentine’s Day on its head by praying over the broken relationships in your life and asking for God’s love and faithfulness to restore and heal that which is broken. Just remember, you may never see the manifestation of these prayers in your lifetime, but God honors the prayers of a righteous man, and we are not righteous in and of ourselves, but because Jesus is our righteousness. So go boldly to God’s throne and ask for his healing—for others and for yourself.
And for the sad, the lonely, and the brokenhearted, on this Valentine’s Day, remember God’s promise to the lost. “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psalm 68:60). Reign well.