Written by Mackenzie King, Australia
I sat on the couch as tears dripped down my face. I had willed myself not to cry, but I felt as if a small tiny knife had lodged in my heart, and each breath drawn only served to push the metaphorical knife further into my heart.
I replayed the text message in my head: “It’s someone I have started seeing, but nothing official at the moment.” I cried in the shower and all throughout the night, treating my luxurious goose-down feather pillow like it was one giant tissue.
For a good half year, I had been actively trading messages with this friend, thinking if someone messaged you everyday, then surely there has to be an interest on their part, right? In turn, it led me to believe I could like him, as I found him to be a nice Christian bloke. But as it turns out, he’s seeing someone else, and didn’t think of telling me about it earlier (oh! The betrayal!).
The news couldn’t have come at a worse time either. At that point, Melbourne was in the throes of a strict lockdown, and I had already lost international travel and sporting activities to the pandemic. But somehow, I was convinced God wouldn’t take away this one important thing—a potential relationship—from me. I remember thinking, “So many things have already been taken from me, so surely God won’t also take this!” Translation: “If only I had a boyfriend, then I’d be able to survive COVID-19.”
But God didn’t answer my prayer (in hindsight, His “no” to the relationship was answered prayer, but I was too shortsighted to see it at that time), and the next few months was spent sitting in a mental fog that didn’t feel like it would ever lift. And soon, my “if only” turned to: “If only God had answered my prayers [the way I wanted Him to], then I wouldn’t be in this pain.”
As cliche as it sounds, time does heal all wounds, and the mental fog that hung heavy over my head slowly evaporated, with the help of a professional counsellor , friends, family and prayer.
Painful as those months were, I can also look back on that time and see how God was using it to peel back the idols I had created (the idols of a relationship and answered prayers), thinking I needed them to be happy. While I wouldn’t wish those awful months on anyone (and I definitely will not want to time travel back to the start of 2020), God had actually used my dark, desolate time to reveal more of His character to me:
1. God is my comforter (and He’s yours too!)
There were days when the mental fog in my head felt like a damp, woolen carpet that would never dry up. I wasn’t sure if things would ever be okay (do broken hearts heal?).
But I practised writing every toxic thought down and sticking it in a shoebox, and continued reading the Bible (“God, are you listening? I’m really sad here.”) While they definitely helped me to cope, nothing in my spirit really shifted.
Then one night, as I was mindlessly reading a book with a worship song playing on repeat on my phone, a gentle, quiet voice came in my head: “Just rest in your Father’s love.” Those gently whispered words were like a sliver of sunshine in my dark, misty world and I felt my burdens lighten.
I was so busy trying to heal myself in my own strength, trying to do everything by the book, and even giving myself a timeline to get better (“By next month, I’ll be laughing over this!”), but what I had to do was lay my broken self in His love, trusting that God will bring about healing and restoration in His own time.
That evening, I experienced God as the Father who comforts us in all our afflictions (2 Corinthians 1:3). I also came to understand that God is close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), lovingly binding up our wounds (Psalm 147:3) if we’d just let Him.
2. God sees everything (and cares about every injustice)
Part of the reason the hurt was so deep and intense was because I felt that no one else saw the injustice that was inflicted upon me as everything happened in lockdown and over text messages. And as much as I wanted to share about it with everyone around me, I also wanted at the same time, to rein my tongue in and prevent it from turning into gossip.
But I was reminded that God sees and watches everything when a friend sent me a devotion he was reading about Sarai’s mistreatment of her servant, Hagar. Sarai had asked Hagar to sleep with Abram in hopes it’ll speed up God’s promise of bringing them a much-longed for son, only to become jealous when it did happen. Genesis 16:6 tells us that Sarai “mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her”. But God found Hagar near a spring desert and comforted her, and the encounter ended with her declaring: “You’re the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13-14).
I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and pain Hagar must have felt, having first gone with Sarai’s schemes, only to be mistreated and sent away when it came to pass. My pain paled in comparison to the betrayal she must have felt, but yet I felt deeply comforted knowing the God who met her by the spring desert is the same one who saw me weeping into my pillow at night. It also showed me this is a God who shows no partiality (He could have easily sided with Abram and Sarai), and in a small, quiet way, it was assuring to know I can tell Him my hurts without fear of judgement.
3. God loves me (and He will provide everything I need)
Losing a potential relationship, the ability to go overseas, and take part in my favourite activities, within a short few months had been overwhelming. But in a sense, I could see God slowly prising my fingers open, asking me to let go of these things that I thought I needed for “the good life” as sold to me by society.
Even though I felt like almost everything I valued had been taken away from me, God continued to provide for me in different ways. In hindsight, I realised I longed so much for a relationship because I wanted to be loved, and fell into the trap of thinking that meant I need a “significant other” to experience that love.
But God showed me that love also comes in the form of friendship and in family. And more importantly, God Himself is love, and Scripture speaks of the great love the Father has lavished on us, in calling us His very own children (1 John 3:1). Sure, I wasn’t so-and-so’s girlfriend, but I am a child of God, and that means I get to experience His unconditional love through the thick and thins of life. And I saw that love in action when He provided me with a nice cosy flat when I was desperate for a place to rent after moving to a new city, and by providing me with friends and acquaintances to help me through the moving process.
While it’s not wrong to desire for a boyfriend or a nice holiday, and these things are not bad in and of themselves, I now see that what I truly needed for a “good life” was God Himself. And when I think back on all the times I needed help, God has never disappointed me, and I know I can continue to rely on His steadfast love time and time again.