Last year, I enrolled in health insurance for the first time. Being the first time, I was struck (perhaps a little too much) by all the ways I could be physically inconvenienced. It was exhausting to imagine all the kinds of pain or debt I could accrue and decide which possibilities I wanted to alleviate with the insurance’s options.
Sometimes I wish there was insurance for broken hearts like there are for broken bodies. What if something guaranteed to mend our fractured lives and pay some of the cost?
To this question, an apt theologian might remind me of future glorification. One day, every broken thing will be refashioned in the new heavens and the new earth. That day will be “beyond comparison” with today’s disappointments (1 Cor. 4:17). This is true.
But to broken hearts, future glorification is just that—it’s in the future. And as the chasm between our desires and our reality widen, future glorification feels farther and farther away. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12).
The Prognosis of Despair
Disappointment threatens to inflict the disease of despair, whether it’s the kind that keeps us under the covers too long or the type that follows the advice of Job’s wife, deciding to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). If life has been a string of breakups, childlessness, adoptions that fell through, hospital visits, severed relationships, job switches, moves, or whatever has continually let you down, Job’s wife can appear to have the logical option. The prognosis of despair is, “Why go on?”
The Diagnosis as the Cure
For those of us interested in trusting God despite heartache, we may feel the prognosis of despair, but we don’t give in to its gloomy trajectory. We know the truth and trust God’s character.
Believing our circumstances come from a good God instead of random fate, we may try to explain the reason behind our disappointment. This happened so my pride could be revealed. This happened because I loved a particular thing or myself more than God. This happened so God could give me something different, something better. This helped me serve others experiencing the same suffering. Even though such explanations may be true or partially true, they pose the diagnosis as the cure for disappointment. If I only knew “why,” everything would be fine.
Would it be?
The Façade of Self-Insurance
To avoid the question altogether, we might calculate our time and resources to avoid the possibility of ever experiencing what could hurt or cost us. This is a kind of self-insurance. If I build enough walls between me, other people, and my expectations, I’ll be safe from disappointment. I’ll protect what I have and won’t lose anything.
MJ’s motto in Spiderman: No Way Home is: “Expect disappointment and you will never be disappointed.” I love Marvel’s rendition of MJ, but I think she’s lying to herself (and to us) with this idiom. No matter how hard we try to be invincible to disappointment and press on, our hearts will always be broken by a broken world, and we can only maintain the emotional stoicism for so long.
We can expect disappointment, but we will still be disappointed.
Human beings weren’t made to expect disappointment, but rather perfection, beauty, truth, and satisfaction in God. We were not made to be banished from his presence in Eden, and yet this is where we find ourselves.
In between the old and the new Eden, there’s no insurance for broken hearts.
Nothing in this life will save us or reward us for heartbreak.
Future glory will keep us from falling off the cliffs of despair, but it will not always assuage the things that drive us to the edge. Our logical deductions as to “why things are the way they are” won’t give us the answers we need, because we are not God (Ro. 11:34; Job 38). And as hard as we try, we cannot fake our way out of heartache. There is no stoic superglue strong enough to keep our heart in-tact after the fall.
The theologian is right—we are promised healing and compensation for our disappointment at the end of time. But for now, we can sit in the ruins of our heart without trying to exaggerate, explain away, or ignore the damage. We’re on God’s insurance policy, not ours, and it promises the rebuilding of our hearts one day, if not today.