Relationships are the building blocks of our humanity. They can elicit overwhelming joy, such as the special bond between parent and child or the enduring love between a husband and wife. However, the breakdown of relationships—seen across the ages and across the world—can cause unbearable devastation. Couples divorce. Family members become estranged. Longtime friendships dissolve bitterly.
Yet, God has created within every man and woman the desire to form lasting, loving, and meaningful relationships with those around them. So, in order to nurture healthy relationships in the future, how does one find healing for a heart that has been broken by hurts from the past? The answer is found in the book of James, which has been called the most practical book of the Bible.
Let's put this in contemporary terms. If you were to imagine that the book of James were a smartphone app, there would be four important steps to downloading God's app to restore a broken heart:
1. Surrender to the proper authority. God is the Creator of the universe. The Bible tells us that God heals, restores, and gives life—even to relationships that seem dead and hopeless. The devil, on the other hand, aims to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). In every decision you make, you are either submitting to God or to the devil. James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." How do you submit to God? By obeying His word, the Bible. Make a commitment to read the Bible—even if it's only a single chapter—every single day. Pray and ask God to help you to obey Him.
2. Confess and let go. James 4:8 says, "Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." Take an honest assessment of your heart and what role you may have had in the demise of a certain relationship. As 1 John 1:8-9 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." When you confess your sin to God and ask Him for forgiveness, you are able to forgive others and let go of any resentment and bitterness you are harboring within your heart.
3. Don't slander. Whenever we are hurt, it is very tempting to complain to anyone who will listen about the person we feel has wronged us. James 4:11 admonishes us not to engage in this kind of slanderous speech. Jesus Christ suffered the cruelest injustice in all of history—his undeserved death on a Roman cross—but he did not protest or slander His accusers. Instead, he said, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). Let us follow Jesus' humble example.
4. Give grace instead of judgment. When others fall short of your expectations, choose to show them grace, which is defined as mercy, favor, and pardon. Jesus showed you and I grace rather than judgment when He died to pay the penalty for our sins.He says in Matthew 7:1-2: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with measure you use, it will be measured to you." Trust the Lord to examine the heart and motives of those who may have hurt you, and leave all judgment to Him. You will find that letting go of this responsibility is tremendously liberating, and it will allow God to fully heal and restore your heart.
The American artist Barbara Bloom once noted, "When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful." What a beautiful analogy for what God does with our brokenness! Bring all your cares and worries to the One who has the power to heal your broken heart.