As a therapist and substance use disorder specialist, I see firsthand the damage and pain of broken relationships in marriages, families, society, nature, and ourselves. For each person suffering through a broken relationship, holidays are at best bittersweet and bring out the hurt and loneliness we normally pack away in the bottom of our travel bag of life. Anger, anxiety, disgust, guilt, and loathing – both toward oneself and toward others – cover our life journey with dark clouds of despair and despondency. Where is God and where is hope in our relational brokenness?
The oft overlooked genealogy in Matthew’s gospel tells those familiar with the Old Testament that Jesus was born into a family and nation of strife and fracture. A cursory glance at the names in the genealogy reveals a family history rife with broken relationships. Matthew then makes the audacious claim that Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23) – concluding his gospel with Jesus’ words: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Where is God amidst broken relationships? He is with us, weeping with us, feeling every emotion with us, and offering hope that the darkness will pass.
Jesus’ presence with us in the middle of broken relationships carries not only hope that the darkness will pass, but also the possibility that He can heal what is broken; healing for both ourselves and our relationships. We know that healing a broken relationship does not depend on us alone, and even the enduring presence of Jesus does not guarantee healed relationships. The relationship may not be safe, or the one with whom we want to have a restored relationship may refuse or prove untrustworthy. However, God’s presence with us provides an enduring possibility.
The presence of God offers hope of personal healing. While this is a painful process, the hope of personal healing may begin to be realized in a loving community of fellow life travelers, in a recovery group, or in simple acceptance that God is indeed with you despite the pain.
While I have seen the damage and pain of broken relationships as a therapist, I have also witnessed the hope and healing Jesus – God with us – brings. This Advent, may our hearts turn to Him and may our hope rest in Him amidst even broken relationships.