Hope for the Broken

Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?

As a teenager whose heart was beaten and bruised through the pain of my parent’s divorce, I didn’t think so. To say I was bitter would be an understatement. My response to our broken home was a promise to ensure I would never relive such rejection. I built a wall around my heart with a resolve to never give anyone the chance to hurt me again. What was hiding behind the hardness wasn’t strength however, but fear.

Divorce leaves victims. I identified myself with my pain. I was rejected, alone and afraid. I was starving to be loved, but terrified to be vulnerable. I ached for someone to care for me, but was stripped of the ability to trust. I despised the present, but feared the future.

I couldn’t understand why my cries to the Lord seemed to be unheard and I often questioned His love and faithfulness to me as His child. However, I will never forget a pivotal night in prayer. A thought came to me with such clarity and conviction that I’ve never doubted that its source was the Lord. I knew in that moment that God had heard every agonizing prayer that poured from my heart. In fact, He was crying with me. He was hiding me within His Redeeming Wounds. He assured me that He hadn’t just given my father the grace that I had asked for; rather He overwhelmed him with a superabundance of it. I felt as though the Lord was showing me that my dad was holding an umbrella over his head in order to avoid contact with the grace and the mercy of the Lord.

I learned two things through this revelation. The first was a realization that I couldn’t cease in prayer. If at any moment there was an opening of vulnerability and that umbrella came down for an instant, I wanted the mercy to be there to consume him. The other was that I needed to start looking for the areas in my own life where I was rejecting God’s gift of Divine Life within me.

These two lessons became integral in my search for my own vocation. There was another man that I was holding on to hope for. I became motivated to pray for my Husband-To-Be wherever he may be. I wanted to remain pure for him, both in my body and in my heart.  The scars my family left motivated me to adhere closely to God’s plans for purity and chastity. I knew that it was likely that my future spouse was facing many threats to his purity, as all young people do. Statistics show that couples who are sexually active outside of marriage have a frighteningly higher rate of divorce than those who abstain… I wasn’t interested in being a statistic. I needed the Lord to shower that same superabundance of grace and mercy on the one he was preparing for me.

A few years later, the Lord unexpectedly brought an amazing man into my life. I had previously given up on the male gender, but something about this man challenged my hatred of romance. I will admit I was uncomfortable when I began to see that maybe I was wrong about my tainted view of love and marriage. The Lord was slowly showing me that He was writing my love story. I didn’t have to fear if I followed His ways… but the path would not be easy to accept.

Several months into a sincere and authentic friendship, Mark and I found ourselves in an intense conversation about the future of our relationship. It was clear that we had strong feelings for one another, however as we began to discuss them, my wounds were ripped open and exposed. I was terrified. How could I possibly be vulnerable enough to allow someone the possibility of breaking my heart? I was cold and emotionally unavailable. The cliché line, “it isn’t you, it’s me” encompassed my message. His response was surprising but true. “It is me. You say that, but I am the one that you won’t trust, I am the one that you won’t let into your heart. You say that it is you, but you can’t stay isolated when someone cares as much about you as I do. It is about me.”

I later understood that this was the same message that the Lord was speaking to me. My hardened heart was breaking His heart of mercy. My rejection and fear of healing and freedom was causing Christ great pain. In an attempt to internalize the burden, I placed the load on my own shoulders. I had forgotten that the only way to redemption was to watch that brokenness be lifted and placed on the one who could take it to Calvary. In that same moment, the Lord, my First Love, was saying, “Katie, it is me. I am the one that you won’t trust. I am the one that you won’t let into your heart. You say that it is you, but you can’t stay isolated when someone cares as much about you as I do. It is about me.”

However you are suffering, the Lord wants to meet you in your cavalry and resurrect your broken heart. To the child from a divorced family, remember, you are not your parents. You have the power to break the chain of dysfunction and reclaim the next generation. That power is Christ. Allow Him to cry with you, walk with you and teach you how to love.

___________________________

katieKatie Hartfiel is an author and speaker dedicated to sharing the intense love of God. She graduated Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she received a degree in Theology. She served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. In 2012, Katie released her first book, Woman in Love (available atwomaninlove.org). This work coaches young women as they strive for purity through praying for and journaling to their future spouse. She has been blessed to watch hearts come alive with the realization that our faithful God hungers to exceed our deepest desires.

26 Comments

  1. Great words_-_-_-_- keep ur self with God Grace_-_-_ him along we see u true_-_-_-

    By (moses) or (Jeffery) | 3 years ago Reply
  2. I’m still scarred and I don’t believe that God has someone out there for me. I don’t come from a divorced family, but I’ve seen my father lie, flirt, look at other women, and treat my mother the opposite of what she deserves. Everywhere I go, I see that every man is like this. All men are visual and are going to have a wandering eye. I don’t believe in marriage because of this. I think it’s unfair for a woman to stay committed, her eyes fixed on the man she loves, but a man because of the way he was made cannot do the same. I used to want to get married, but I see marriage for what it really is now and I just don’t believe in it, because men are horrible.

    By Alma | 3 years ago Reply
    • First of all you need to see there are many many men that successful (e.g.Bill Gates) and not horrible NOT all men are dogs!!! e.g. Most losers men are dogs they don’t know how to motivate and when the women motivate them they called gold digger? Don’t deal with these people 😀 You are what you attract… do not give into negativity!, changed your thinking God showed you your mom pick a wrong guy you learn from your family, pray & fast & baptism is necessary to clean-up. That is what I did, that is how to change also do not tell any guy in the future about your family! it might turns against you, use your wisdom. I am saying like this because I care for you!!! God bless you sister <3

      By hanny | 3 years ago Reply
    • Hi Alma,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Your post sounds exactly like I felt ten years ago. I was very anti-men and didn’t believe that there were men who authentically strove for purity and holiness. This was a LIE of the devil. I am so happy that I have since been proven wrong. I have known many many many amazing men who are madly in love with the Lord. This includes teenage boys, young adults and grown men. Many men struggle with a wandering eye, no doubt, but struggling doesn’t mean they have to give in to the temptation and many make it their mission to fight this battle well.
      A few tips:
      1. Decide if you want healing. For many years I chose to stay where I felt safe: in my bitterness. I discovered what it was costing me and eventually made the choice to take a chance toward healing
      2. If you do want to heal, resolve to battle against negative thoughts. The devil wants to whisper thoughts of distrust and fear into our minds. Don’t listen. Call upon your guardian angel and accept God’s Word instead.
      3. Stop looking for stand-up guys in all the wrong places. Are you involved in your Church community? Do you surround yourself with faith-filled people? Have you immersed yourself in a Catholic culture or in one that is filled with people who are living the ways of the world? If you want hope, expose yourself to genuine people striving for holiness, and challenge yourself to believe them when they say they want purity.
      I will pray for you Alma! God wants FREEDOM for you!

      Katie Hartfiel

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  3. I’m not scarred from a broken family, but my life’s broken. I’ve always wanted someone to be with me, hug me. I’m tired of searching for my soulmate. I’ve prayed , done novenas, etc but yet no sign of her. I wonder why this is happening .

    By shayne dsouza | 3 years ago Reply
    • In searching and praying for her you are growing, a deeper love for your future wife before you even meet or come to realize who she is. But more importantly you are growing your relationship with Christ! He is calling you by name to be a great man for his kingdom first, allowing you to later be a great husband for your wife, if that is your vocation. You must first truly to love the lord and TRUST in Gods divine providence (his plan for your life) before you will gain true peace and confidence or understanding of your vocation. If you are to marry, your future wife is out there in real life and needs you to be a warrior for her by first becoming the man God is calling you to be. Setting aside physical needs, the Most important duty for the husband is to lead his wife and family toward everyday sanctity through everyday actions of love (ie a hug, smile, kind deed, self restraint, small sacrifices, etc.) that speak most clearly of God’s love, will, and presence in your soul. If you develop this deep relationship with the lord, you will no longer fear, doubt or worry about meeting her. Simply because the closer you get to Christ her presence in you heart will become stronger and stronger because she is waiting for you in the heart of Jesus.
      Keep hanging in there! Remember that patience is a virtue and our faith is often tested by everyday struggles. Stay on the narrow path and let your future wife’s prayers for you work in your life! May God bless you! and also remember he’s got you in his hands 🙂

      By Sofia | 3 years ago Reply
    • Shayne,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I can totally relate… but the Lord answered me in His time, not mine. I know many girls who are looking for the type of guy who is praying novenas to find his future spouse 🙂 The OT is full of people waiting on God and He never fails to fulfill His promise. Sofia’s advice in her comment is spot on! You aren’t waiting for your life to start: this is your love story, right now. The person you are becoming now through your trial and waiting will form you into the person God wants to give to the daughter He loves recklessly.

      This sums it up: GOD CARES AS MUCH ABOUT THE JOURNEY AS HE DOES ABOUT THE DESTINATION. Let Him form you, He won’t disappoint.

      God bless you Shayne,

      Katie Hartfiel

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  4. I’ve come from a broken family, my parents divorced when I was in my early teens and they have split 6 children between them. I was sent to Canada with my older siblings to live with my Father and his spouse. At that time I was confused and felt unloved by the parents who really loved their children. I am now a grown woman and have my own family, I tell you that from my parents experience…I serve and love my husband and follow him with his dreams. I have been married now for almost 25 years and I tell you, everyday is a honeymoon at our house….he is my HOSEA!

    By Yolanda Chao | 3 years ago Reply
  5. Amazing story Katie! It helped me tremendously!!! My name is Samar please pray for me! God loves you and so do I!!! Thank you and God Bless you always!

    By Samar Gona | 3 years ago Reply
  6. May God Bless your family always!!!

    By Samar Gona | 3 years ago Reply
  7. Absolutely wow! I’m soooo deeply touched by your story Katie. Thank you for shareing with all of us.

    By Finia | 3 years ago Reply
  8. What an eye-opening story. I believe that the Lord is always with us… working in mysterious ways, shedding light into our lives. As human beings, we want instant answers to our prayers, but the Lord is there at the moment when we need him most. God bless you and your family.

    By Sofia | 3 years ago Reply
  9. I had one boyfriend that broke my heart, and now I ‘m simply not able to trust anyone…not even myself. Plus, my parents are breaking apart after 33 years of marriage. How do you recover from that?
    I’m praying for my vocation, but I’m pretty sure I want to get married. I don’t know no one that would be willing to stay pure for marriage. Now tell me, can you see any message from God here?? I only see despair…
    Sorry for the bad English

    By Célia | 3 years ago Reply
    • Celia,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I am so moved to read about your broken heart, but know that the Lord is crying with you. He knows rejection better than anyone- this is what we will celebrate one week from now on Good Friday. His death lead to Resurrection, and He desires to Resurrect your heart if you let Him.

      I know there is hope for your healing, and don’t let the devil tell you otherwise. At the risk of sounding like this is a plug, I spend much of my book, Woman In Love, sharing my pathway from brokenness to healing. If you are interested in reading you can find it at http://www.womaninlove.org/ I hope the Lord will show you how He is walking with you and how He wants to be your first love so He can one day deliver you to your second.

      God Bless Celia,

      Katie Hartfiel

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  10. Hi Katie,
    Thank you for sharing your story. My parents never got divorced, but I used to say “I’m never getting married.” because I did not (and do not) want to be hurt like my family is hurting. The wounds from watching one’s parents act like they hate each other seem to be so deep that we become numb sometimes. Can anyone relate?

    My understanding of authentic love, femininity and marriage have been constantly challenged in school lately. I know what I want, true love, chastity, a husband that takes up his cross to love me, and vice-versa. But, to me it seems that from certain perspectives the desire to be a wife is a lie from the patriarchy. However, that claim is never explicitly expressed it seems to underpin everything I am learning about feminism and the female sex. It bothers me, because if I could respond to most of these claims, I would. Women are not made complete in marriage, but in Christ alone. In other words, a man cannot confirm a woman’s worth or identity. Only God can. But, not everyone knows this is what we believe. In addition, not everyone believes that sacrifice in marriage reflects God’s sacrifice for all his children. Jesus never said “Carry your cross as long as it’s comfortable!” I should clarify that carrying a cross does not mean to stay in an abusive or dangerous situation/marriage.

    I think that there is misunderstanding in secular culture about what exactly Christians mean when they talk about marriage and love. This confusion, misunderstanding and assumption breaks my heart and makes me feel confused.

    So please pray to God for me that He will use these conflicting ideas and teachings to help me own my faith! Thank you!

    By Michelle | 3 years ago Reply
    • Michelle,
      I was linking this post to another and just saw your comments. I am not sure if you will even see this response but I wanted to assure you of my prayers for you. I can totally relate to your feelings, in fact my car in high school was called the “man-killer.” I was so bitter and so skeptical of the ideal of what marriage could be. I didn’t have many examples of good marriages, and plenty of examples of miserable ones.

      I do want to offer you confidence from someone who made it out to the other side. God has an incredible plan in store for you. None of these other institutions or agendas that you speak of have died to give you hope. None of them have taken your suffers upon themselves, crucified them and rose from them. God has Resurrection in His plans for you… let Him mold you and bring great goods out of your suffering! He will not be outdone.

      God bless you Michelle. Hold fast to the cross and let Him hide you in His wounds.

      Katie

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  11. Hi Katie,

    I feel like my situation is so unique. Unlike many of the young people out there I am in my forties and was widowed six year’s ago. I grew up with faith filled parents but they were not there for me. My parents were deaf and I had 7 siblings. As a result, I only felt valued when I looked pretty or was doing something for them, like interpreting or listening to my father tell me about all of his problems which he did a lot. Then when I was in 7th grade my brother, one year older than me, who I was very close to and who protected me my whole life was diagnosed with cancer. We went to 8th and part of 9th grade together then he died. Two weeks before he died, my best friend died in a car accident. After this, I turned to alcohol, drugs and other people living unhealthy lifestyles. Before I got married I wasn’t living a chaste life but I was free from drugs. Although I thought I was being a faithful Catholic because I wasn’t hurting anyone else.

    During my married years I grew strongly in my faith and fully accepted the teachings of the Catholic Church. My marriage wasn’t always easy. Shortly after I got married I discovered that my husband had an addiction to pornography. I believe through prayers he was healed of this but the healing didn’t come till about a year before he died. It was a great suffering in my marriage but I didn’t know to think about these things before I got married.

    When my children were ages 9, 10, 12 and 14 my husband died of a sudden heart attack at 41 years old. I was so wounded and scared that I
    immediately reverted back to my single days. I desperately wanted someone in my life again. I was so mad at God and so confused. I felt that I didn’t know God at all. I was doing all the right things so why did he let this happen? Why did he take another person from me? I started dating about a year and half later. I dated many people and was somewhat chaste but not completely and didn’t date practicing Catholics because there were not any out there. I have remained chaste for the most part, and seem like an alien from another planet to most people my age for practicing chastity but to this day when I begin to date someone I become so fearful and afraid of being in a relationship that I end it. Leaving me heart broken, sad and alone. I didn’t even realize that the problem was me, I just thought I dated the wrong person everytime and although that may be the case, I know for certain that I am deathly afraid of getting into a relationship and allowing myself to take the chance of being hurt or left. I have tried to be involved in Catholic circles so that I could meet a practicing Catholic man. I am involved in my Church but I do not see many practicing single Catholic men my age.

    I have prayed very, very much to be healed of this fear as it is not conscious, it just happens every time. But the one thing that Our Lord has made me realize this Lenten season is that I do not trust fully in HIm. I was chaste for the most part (meaning I didn’t have sex but was too close for comfort). I see now that I need to fully trust in Him not partially. I’m trying to do this daily, the loneliness is very difficult especially when I have to attend my children’s events where there are mostly married couples. Even though I’m in my forties I too desire to finally be in a relationship where true love and a mutual sharing of our faith exist. I want to finally do it right.

    Coupled with this is the fact that there are many, many single people around my age due mostly to divorce who are desperately hurting and jump at the chance to have anyone in their life even if it’s for sex alone. I grieve when I see this because I understand their pain and understand that they do not know God but more so because their children are the ones who really suffer. They are so hurt from their parents divorcing or losing a parent then they are abandoned by their parents because the parents desperately need someone to love them. I desire to allow the Lord to heal me and I would like to then help these other single women who are hurting so much. Please pray for me and for this desire to help these other women as well.
    God Bless and Happy Easter,
    Sophia

    By Sophia | 3 years ago Reply
    • Hello Sophia,

      I wish I would have seen this post earlier, and I am so sorry I didn’t! I hope that you see this reply, if only for you to know of my prayers for you. Your story is heart wrenching. You are truly a hero. I mean that. Truly. So many who are in your shoes chose to only care about filling that void. Praise God that you recognize the void, but want to fill it with the right things… not just for yourself but for your children. What a beautiful gift, and exhausting gift of suffering I am sure, but a beautiful one.

      I want to assure you, the Lord will never be outdone in generosity. Your gifts to him will not go unrewarded. This may not be in this life, or they may partially be fulfilled in this life… but whenever, however, God is faithful and will not leave you!

      Remember, the greatest suffering in all of human history, brought about the greatest redemption for us all. God is crying with you Sophia and He wants to hide you in His wounds. He wants to bring you to Resurrection. I know exactly what you mean about being fearful of healing and of joy and sabotaging relationships to protect myself. I remember feeling as if I was in a cage, and realizing that the door was open. In response I felt like I crawled into a deeper part of the cage where it was familiar and comfortable. I didn’t want freedom because I didn’t understand it and I didn’t know what it was like. I promise you, freedom is better than you can ever imagine. The Lord will be gentle and if you allow Him, He wants to walk out of that cage with you and never leave your side.

      I will pray for you and your family Sophia. I will pray for blessings and peace that surpassing all understanding!

      Katie

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  12. Hello Katie,

    When reading this article I could have sworn that you walked beside me these past three years through my parents separation and divorce. It’s such an ugly thing, divorce, as you mentioned it forces you to put up walls. I’m a freshman in college now still learning how to trust and open up to the possibility that there is a man out there who is not like my father.

    I found much encouragement as my faith life has been shaken a little. But know now that for a long time I chose not to heal and instead chose bitterness. It’s amazing how God can take a broken heart and make it new. I am now constantly in awe of the beauty of the Lord’s majesty. All of these changes came about because I read this article. It’s amazing what God places in our lives in order for us to follow His path. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story and letting your faith shine through.

    Happy Easter,
    Kayla

    By Kayla Herold | 3 years ago Reply
    • WOW

      Kayla, thank you so much for sharing this. God has incredible plans in store for you, and that isn’t just a cliche line. It is straight up true. He will always be faithful and He is the Father who keeps His promises. Cling to Him girl and He will come through! God bless you Kayla! Be a light!

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  13. My parents divorced when I was in my late teens. It was devastating and I KNEW I didn’t want that for myself. I sought and found a devote Catholic, intelligent and funny – my soul mate. We had 2 daughters and when our third came along we experienced a pain like I’d never known – she died after 20 days. After the autopsy, we were told she had Cystic Fibrosis. We found our oldest had it as well – a one-two gut punch. We went on to have 2 more children, a boy and another girl – she was also diagnosed with CF. We homeschooled, took part in rosary plays and were involved in Teams of Our Lady. My husband had a dear Aunt that he doated on. She died and left him quite a bit of money. And after 20 years of marriage, he left me and our children.
    So you could say that I was – and continue to be – stunned. I worked so hard for all the years of our marriage and for God to allow this blows my mind. We weren’t perfect by any means but there was nothing to warrant – and no indication from him during our marriage – his off-the-deep-end actions. He is a daily communicant and has said he feels he did God’s will. My children and I continue to hurt even after 4 years. I still feel lost and can’t understand what happened, much less why. I have very little hope and continue to go further into debt every month trying to care for my kids and finish my degree so I can hopefully get a job at my advanced age despite some health issues of my own. It is VERY difficult for me to trust… I don’t see any hope on the horizon. I need a God with “skin on”. I need some concrete help. But every time I pray, even though it is for something good (i.e. please save my baby, our marriage), the answer is no…
    So I will ask for your prayers, I seriously doubt the efficacy of mine. I am worn out and fearful for my children’s marriage prospects as well. One thing I STRONGLY urge for those seeking a spouse, is to look at his/her actions – beyond what is considered holy. If he/she goes to mass, prays the Office, does spiritual reading – do those practices translate into a life of service? Does he/she become MORE willing to serve and be more connected? If they desire more and more “spiritual” time, they may not be marriage material. We need to connect with God through prayer AND service – through just plain living. Yes – Eucharist is a sacrament but the sacrament of marriage is lived. You can actually put your vows in jepardy if you are so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good…

    By Clare | 3 years ago Reply
    • Clare,

      I am not sure if you will see this response or not, but my heart is so heavy reading of your suffering. WOW. Prayers are guaranteed. I know what you mean about feeling like your prayers go unanswered. I felt the same way at many points of my life. Your suffering sounds immeasurable, and I can’t begin to imagine your heartache. I will share with you something that someone told me that has always stuck with me when I doubt that God is listening to my prayers. God is crying with you Clare. This clearly was not His intention or His doing. Death and suffering feels so unnatural because it is. It isn’t the way He wanted things, but the result of things gone bad in the garden. The suffering you bear is His suffering as well. He shares it. He understands it and His heart breaks with yours. I have no doubt that God is answering your prayers for your husband… in excess and abundance. Your husband has free will to be open to the grace God is giving Him. God will not force it upon Him.
      You are a hero Clare. Thank you for your yes to faithfulness to your children. I will be offering many prayers for you and your family. May God bless you and bring you peace!

      Katie

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  14. Thank you for sharing your story Katie. I really needed to hear this right now. My parents are divorced and I’ve been dealing with a lot of family conflict currently because of it. I know that I’ve put up these walls about men because of decisions my parents made that I’ve tried to avoid. Consequently though, I feel like I’ve pushed myself away from others to avoid being hurt the same way again. So thank you for the reminder to follow God and his plan for me, I really needed to hear that right now. 🙂

    By Rebecca | 3 years ago Reply
    • Rebecca,

      Thank you for your note- it is sometimes so good to hear that our feelings are valid and justified and that others have been there— but the idea isn’t to stay there. I know it is hard to let your heart love… but I know God will animate your broken heart if you allow Him! Trust, be faithful. Our God is a God who keeps His promises.

      Katie

      By Katie Hartfiel | 3 years ago Reply
  15. I hope you also have spanish version in all your entries here. It would be really wonderful if all will be translated. Thanks!

    By Tim | 3 years ago Reply
  16. My break up was a week before my birthday-he broke up with me over skype with his entire family in the room watching. It was a 14 month relationship. I wrote this in another post, but I’ll say it again since i’m now 100% certain

    1. I’m not called to religious life
    2. God doesn’t have anyone out there for me.

    So honestly, i’ve just given up. Men are jerks-period. They only use, hurt and scar women.

    By Jupie | 3 years ago Reply

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