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How to Handle Heartbreak and Disappointment

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People and heartbreaks go together way too often. People and joy go together also. How do we handle the heartbreaks? This is a life and death question. The part of our hearts that loves life and loves people is the same part that screams when broken. The part of our hearts that dreams big dreams and pursues imaginative goals is the part that we have to take care of and nurture when our hearts have been shattered.

What breaks our hearts? Loss. Separation, abandonment, death, transi­tions, lies, hidden agendas, and a myriad of other potential dream crushers. We can’t let them keep us from believing deeply that we were created to have and pursue dreams, from believing that God has placed specific dreams within us that work out of our specific talents. In the midst of heartbreak, grasping on to faith helps us find a place after loss and grief where we can say, “It is well with my soul.” Where we can retrieve our dreams from this thief’s hands.

I drove with a friend one afternoon to hear a guest speaker at a church. My energy was low and my faith wavering from a recent disappointment. It was a rainy day, and my brain was telling me what my heart struggled to believe: Everything will be okay.

The speaker told a familiar story that I’d heard before, but it still inspired me, because I needed to find a faith greater than my circumstances. The story was about Horatio Spafford, a wealthy and thriving Chicago lawyer who owned a beautiful home and had a loving wife and family. He was also a dedicated Christian.

At the peak of his success, however, he suffered a great loss when his only son died. And then another tragedy hit when the Great Chicago Fire de­stroyed almost every real-estate investment he had. Later, he planned a trip to Europe with his family. Some last-minute business arose, so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead, with the intent to follow them once he handled his affairs. But tragedy struck again when he received word that the ship his fam­ily had been on sank, killing more than two hundred people on board, in­cluding all of his daughters. He received a telegram from his wife, which stated, “Alone survived. What shall I do?”

Spafford boarded a ship right away that would take him to his wife in England. He was heartbroken and in anguish. As his ship passed the area where his daughters had drowned, he penned the words that would become a reminder to millions of Christians of what unshakable faith really is.

"When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

'It is well, it is well with my soul.'"

Horatio Spafford had great successes, but clearly he was not unfamiliar with pain, tears, and tragedy. Yet his faith seems to come from somewhere unfamiliar to many dreamers. He was ruled by a faith that was bigger than the circumstances he endured. In the face of heartbreaking experiences, you and I must cling to that kind of faith, a faith that allows our ability to dream to remain intact.

Our faith grows strong against the thieves of heartbreak when we live in the reality of Paul’s revelation: “The peace of God, which surpasses all under­standing, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” ( NKJV)

Excerpted with permission from Unlock Your Dream: Discover the Adventure You Were Created For by Philip Wagner. Copyright © 12/20/16 WaterBrook & Multnomah. 

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About The Author


Philip Wagner is the author of Unlock Your Dream: Discover the Adventure You Were Created For and the lead pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles. Oasis LA is a vibrant, innovative, and culturally diverse church with a strong focus on humanitarian efforts. He’s also the founder and CEO of, an organization dedicated to ending the clean-water crisis in developing countries, one community at a time. He and his wife, Holly, have been married for more than 30 years. Visit him at