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Release the Pain, Embrace the Joy

By Michelle McKinney Hammond
(Regal Books)

About the Author

Relationship expert and author of more than 15 books, Michelle McKinney Hammond shares her insights on Scripture principles for relationships with sparkling humor, heartfelt conviction, and abounding empathy. She is the cohost of the Emmy-nominated show "Aspiring Women."

Visit Singles' section each day this week for more from Michelle McKinney Hammond.

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Shattered Dreams

Michelle McKinney Hammond – The relationship and the dream has ended. You have had your cry, vented to anyone who will listen, and gone to embarrassingly, desperate measures like calling your ex and then hanging up... so WHAT is a girl to do? How do you end the drama and move on? As a Christian, where is God in the midst of your grief?

Relationship expert and author Michelle McKinney Hammond walks readers through the pain of lost relationships to a place of wholeness in her new book, Release the Pain, Embrace the Joy: Help for the Hurting Heart. For anyone trying to find healing for their broken heart Hammond says, "Today's the day to pick up the pieces." The following is an excerpt from her book.

The Promise

We’ve all been disappointed at some time in our lives. We’ve been misled, purposely or unconsciously. We have all stood staring in disbelief at the remains of discarded promises that were made but never kept. The struggle to begin again is a real one when you don’t know where to drop your anchor.

The heart has a million questions, each one defying your desire to continue on. Love again? Forget it! Why try again? Why believe again when it’s been proven you have no guarantees? Why risk your heart’s safety once more? Yet it is in daring to leap out in faith that the things we desire are gained.

Where to put our trust becomes the great question. How do we know that we will heal? Live? Love again? Finally be loved in return, the way we’ve always wanted to be loved? Should the promises of a man be taken to heart? How can they be when the record of failure has been so devastating?

Perhaps this is where the adjustment should be made. The focus of faith has everything to do with where we go from here. Will man be our focus, or God? It always comes down to the same sobering bottom line.

The only place our heart is safe is in the hand of God. The only One we can really believe in is the only One who cannot lie. His promises are yea and amen. He doesn’t change His mind. He stands in the gap, making up for all the promises that men have broken. He exchanges those discarded vows with His own assurances. And when He speaks, what He says He will surely do. Believe it.

Shattered Dreams

They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.
Genesis 34:26

Dinah made her way hastily through the streets of Shechem to meet her friends. It was a day like every other. After facing the uncertainty of her family’s city of destination, it was refreshing to settle into her new surroundings and establish a routine of sameness. The only girl among a household of male siblings, Dinah longed for the company of women her age. Though she enjoyed her brothers’ banter and steadfast protection, her heart always lifted when she could escape their watch and exercise some independence. Perhaps she should not have wandered off alone, but aren’t these thoughts always clearer in hindsight?

She felt his eyes long before she met them. From the time her family had moved to Shechem settling on land purchased from Hamor, his son, Shechem, had watched her silently. Dinah had kept her distance, knowing he was not a consideration for her future. These people, though friendly, were different from her family, having different customs and serving different gods. Although she longed to be married, she knew that he would be an unacceptable candidate.

But there was no avoiding him today as he stood boldly before her. Usually quite comfortable in the presence of males, she now found herself at a loss for words, feeling quite discomfited by his intense gaze. In his eyes was reflected not the loving consideration of a brother, but a deeper, darker passion with which she was not familiar.

Her emotions ran the gamut, from anguish as he raped her to unbelief at his attempt to comfort her afterward with words of love. She wept bitterly as she thought of her future, which was now hopelessly ruined forever. All that was ahead of her now were years of living alone and in disgrace. She was now unworthy of marriage, having been robbed of the most precious part of her dowry—her virginity. She fought off the waves of despair that threatened to consume her. But Shechem claimed he loved her, and sought to redeem what could have been construed as a tragic event.

His father in tow, Shechem asked Dinah’s father, Jacob, for her hand in marriage. She marveled at the calm reaction of her brothers as they set about creating the terms of agreement for their union. All the men of the region would be circumcised, making them acceptable for intermarrying with Jacob’s people. Later, as Dinah made the journey to Shechem’s house, she wondered why she felt so unsettled. The looks in her brothers’ eyes did not match their smiles as they shook hands with Shechem and his father. What could they be up to? She soon found out.

As all the men of the city of Shechem recuperated from the agreed-upon circumcision, chaos broke out. Her brothers arrived, killing, pillaging and looting those now unable to defend themselves. Her cries of protest were ignored as with deadly vengeance they killed her new husband and father-in-law and carried her away, back to her father’s house. Dinah numbly moved through the flurry of activity that ensued as they hastily packed and fled to avoid certain retaliation.

How could things have gone so wrong? This was not the life Dinah had planned for herself. She pinched herself to awake from this horrid dream, but as her tears blurred the road before her, she realized she was indeed awake. Her life would become as endlessly dry and desolate as the scenery that stretched like a long yawn before her. Her brothers seemed self-satisfied that their honor was now intact, won by their act of revenge. But honor meant nothing to her. Honor could not repair an innocent girl’s shattered dreams of fulfilled womanhood ....

Sometimes life doesn’t happen the way that we have imagined it. Things reel out of control. Surprise twists and turns in the journey of life cause us to feel violated, robbed of our own good intentions. Our chance at love is snatched prematurely from our hands, due either to our own choices—or someone else’s.

Regret can leave us despairing, stripped of our joy and our peace, feeling unending despondency. Hopes for a better tomorrow are wrenched from our hearts as others rationalize why we should be able to move on. Those responsible for our paralysis continue on without a backward glance, never realizing the depths of the pain they’ve caused.

Matters of the heart cannot be compartmentalized or tucked into neat little theories. The heart, shaped in the image of the One who loves us most, feels what it feels in spite of itself and forces us to reconcile our longings by placing them in the hands of the only One who can redeem them.

Dear heavenly Father, somehow my life has gotten beyond my reach, and my dreams have been scattered to the wind. I despair over the lost pieces of my heart. I struggle to repair my shattered spirit. There are so many fragments, some too small to find. It seems impossible to put it all back together.

I need your help. I am confused by the voices of others. I struggle to hear You as I am being pulled between the opposing counsel of my own heart and the well-meaning advice of the loved ones who surround me. My pain overwhelms me.

Who could really know the extent of my suffering? Who can read between the lines of my tears and answer me? Only You. And so with heavy hands I bring all the broken pieces of my heart to You and lay them at your feet, awaiting Your restoration. Grant me Your peace, restore my joy and make me whole again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Excerpted from Release the Pain, Embrace the Joy by Michelle McKinney Hammond, © Regal Books. Used by permission.


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