When Your Heart Refuses to Let Him Go

“Let him go. Move on, already,” your friends tell you. “Like, yesterday. You should be over him by now!” After all, it has been months. Years.

But still, he haunts your thoughts—dropping by frequently, oblivious to the fact that he’s not welcome—threatening to sabotage not only your past but your present. Like a shackle attached to your ankle, you drag this dead hope of a relationship with you wherever you go.

Meet Someone Else Who Couldn’t Stop Looking Back

You’re not the only one who can’t seem to stop looking back with longing. Over and over in the book of Numbers, God’s people, the Israelites, rebel against Him. They get hung up on their cravings, (“What I wouldn’t do right now for a leek!”) and wish for their past as slaves to Pharaoh. Here’s just one example of them looking wistfully over their shoulders:

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:1–4).

“Let us go back to Egypt”?! The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for 420 years. It had not been a vacation. There were bricks to be made and backs to be whipped and no relief in sight . . . until God intervened. He sent Moses to perform mighty acts and deliver His people from their hard labor and heavy burdens.

So Close . . .

He then began to lead them to the Promised Land, the land He had promised their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this particular passage above, they were poised to enter the Promised Land. Twelve spies had been sent to spy it out, and ten came back with a fearful report:

“The land . . . is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” (13:32–33).

Two of the twelve spies, however, reported:

“The land . . . is an exceedingly good land. . . . Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them” (14:7–9).

Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on.

But instead of believing the two spies—and ultimately believing God—the people of Israel chose fear over faith. They cried out with longing for the “good ol’ days” in slavery.

As a result of their unbelief, God destined them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness (one year for each day the spies spied out the Promised Land), and ensured their fears would become reality:

“What you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness . . . not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except [the two spies who gave the good report]. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in” (14:28–31).

Let Him Go, and Move On

This is more than just a Bible story. Did you know that 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that these accounts were written for us, for our instruction? I know your circumstances are different, but like the Israelites, do you believe God made a mistake? That God held out on you? Do you believe life would be better if only this guy had pursued you?

Are you obeying God’s command to avoid idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7)? My guess is that if you’re still living under the shadow of this relationship that didn’t materialize, you have most likely idolized this guy. Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.

Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.

Repent of making the hope of this relationship your ultimate hope. Believe God and move forward under His leadership. He wants to bless you, if you will only trust His heart. He is drawing you away from the slavery of idolatry and covetousness and into the Promised Land of contentment as His treasured possession, living under His rule.

Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on. Move forward, and watch God bring you out into a broad, spacious place.

About Author

Paula Hendricks Marsteller

Paula no longer tries to catch guys' attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. Instead, she blogs for teen girls and women by day and journals her adventures by night. Her first book, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, released September 2013, and she lives with her hubby (yes, hubby!) in Syracuse, New York.

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  • Rose

    So good, this blessed me a lot. I did struggle with letting go of my feelings a few years ago, but God called me to love him above everything else including my human desires. I am so glad he did because I would be as close to my Lord as I am today!

    • Sarah, with Revive Our Hearts

      That’s beautiful, Rose! Bless you for your obedience…because now you can taste the sweetness of it! You know Him more! Rejoicing in the Lord over you! “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8)

  • Tiana

    I’ve never been in a girl-guy relationship, but this is still a great post for when i do get in a relationship. Thanks so much.

  • Deena Maga

    I felt like your message was put directly for me, like you couldn’t been ever so clear thank you for that Paula, cause God knows.

  • Sofia Altamura

    This blog was meant for me. It couldn’t have come at a better time! I truly can’t emphasize how much I needed to read this. It’s going to be really hard to let go of that hope of ever being with him again, even though it clearly is not going to happen at this point, but I do need to realize that it is much better to hope in God and put Him first instead! I will keep praying and asking the Lord to help me make this change.

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder. It’s about time I let go of him after six years, and let God work!

    • Praying for you now, Sofia!

    • Michelle

      Paula, I am so thankful for the honesty and truth in the Lord you shared in this message. It’s so needed! Sofia, I thought I was reading about my life when I read your post as it described me because I think it’s been that long too. I have struggled and this confirmed the Lord and what He has been teaching me throughout the years. Even with the exact message about the Promised Land as that is what He gave me to read shortly after and since then. Y’all are a blessing sisters. I’ve almost feared letting Him go and as the Lord showed me the very thing I struggled with was idolatry you reminded me that again and to trust Him as I let go for real and with faith and trust this time. So thankful for this message and God’s grace and truth in love. Blessings to you all in Christ Jesus! And glory to God always! 💜😊💕

  • Daniela Coimbra

    God bless you, Paula! I really needed to read this message tonight! It really blessed me!

  • Abigail

    Wow. What day for this post. I needed to read this truth at this exact season and days of my life. It’s one think knowing truth and another thing living it out.

  • Strawberry Socks

    Thank you so much Paula! You are such a blessing. I’m so thankful that God has used you to minister to me (and all of your other readers). This is exactly what I needed to read today.

  • Me

    I literally feel like God placed this on your heart with me in mind! Not so much about a relationship that did not happen but is not happening. Thanks!

  • Rachel

    There’s this guy that I liked, then learned to love. We never have had a relationship, but that’s okay. I think I’ll always love him, even if I don’t have a crush on him. I think it’s possible to love a guy without “liking” him. After all, we are called to love everyone.

    • Damilola

      Rachel — I love that you said “learned to love.” I totally agree that overtime we train our minds to love guys. Anyways, I am glad that you have learned to love him as your brother in the Lord.

    • Rachel, I talk about that in chapter 11 of my book. Agree. 🙂

  • Ginger

    Thank you so much for this post! This was just the post I’ve been waiting for! There’s this guy who I really like, but I just can’t seem to give him up. I’m almost afraid that he’s the only “perfect guy” out there for me. Thank you so much for this post Paula, this really inspired me to grow closer to God and to move on!

    • Something I learned the hard way, Ginger, was that even if a guy seemed perfect for me, if he didn’t pursue me, he wasn’t perfect for me. I needed–as do you–someone who will delight in and cherish you.

  • Amanda

    I love how you put it in perspective…it’s easy to justify yourself holding onto a relationship but the truth is only Jesus will ever satisfy. Seems like we all learn this one the hard way! And for me, I’ve learned it’s less about that actual guy…more about what is inside of us:).
    I am SO THANKFUL that God is bigger than me!

  • Lindsay

    Thank you so much for this . I was just praying last night that I would be released from attatchments to relationships I had even years ago.. And I needed a reminder of how truly miserable I was being in those relationships. Us girls have a way of sugar coating the guy and our circumstance . Especially after it ends . Like the Israelites, why would I want to go back to something that made me so miserable? I knew God didn’t want me with him. I ignored His voice for so long. There’s a reason God doesn’t want you with the guy. And it’s probobly a good one. He knows what’s best. And now I am determined to WAIT for the person God wants me to be with.

  • Mirren McGuire

    Thank you so much for this post Paula! So very relevant to me at the moment. For way too long I’ve been stuck with the feeling that a particular guy was meant for me and despite me knowing that that’s not the case, I’ve been unable to shake it. Relating those feelings with the attitudes of the Israelites has honestly shocked me and caused me to look at my own trust in God in a completely different way. God has something so much better in store – so why on earth should I cling to something that will never turn out the way I want it to in the first place? This was just so fantastically helpful, thank you!

    https://thenotsoperfectchristianblog.wordpress.com/

  • hannahb

    Thank you again for writing this!!! I think one of the most powerful things about this post was scrolling through the comments, and seeing how other girls were facing the same thing and all can find freedom in Christ from it. Praise Jesus for His unconditional grace and love.

  • Maggie Fipps

    Wow! I really needed this post! There is a guy at school that I like, and I am really good friends with him, but I know he’s not a Christian, and he is starting to like me so….It is so hard to let go of the flirting back and forth and getting attention. It’s like I love the attention, but at the same time it makes me miserable because I know the relationship would never work out. I am exactly the same as the Israelites! Thank you so much!

  • Em

    There was a guy I was with for a few months. We had gotten along really well and I liked him a lot. But when I found out he left me for another girl, I was crushed. I knew I needed to move on, so I took my troubles to my friends before God, and I realized what a mistake that was. God knows what he’s doing and this article really helped bring that out. Thank you!!

  • ChristianGirl

    Amazing posts. I tell myself to let go of my crush, that I don’t really see him that much and we don’t talk. Every time I see him in the halls he still has an effect on me. I’ve been praying about it but still. My head wants to move on but my heart doesn’t want to.

  • ChristianGirl

    There’s a Christian guy at my school I rather like. He’s so nice and gentle! I see him in the halls between classes and sometimes at lunch. We’re both high school seniors. My head wants to let him go but my heart doesn’t want to even though we don’t even really talk. I’ve been praying about this and praying for him.

    • Glad you’re praying about it! If you get a chance to pick up my book, “Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl,” check out chapter 12, “When You Get What You Want But It’s All Wrong.” I learned the hard way how true Proverbs 19:2 is: “Desire without knowledge is not good . . .” Even when a guy looks like our dream guy, God alone knows his heart, and HE gives the best gifts. Trust Him to send just the right man you’re way in His perfect time. No one does it better!

  • Rhiannon

    I’m 23. I recently came out of a relationship, about three months ago almost. We’d been in a long distance relationship for 9 months until it fell apart because of our individual issues, mostly on my side. I didn’t think I would, but I ended up revolving my world around him when we were together. We even entertained thoughts of a future that may never be (marriage, kids etc.). We even confessed we felt sexually attracted to each other. My only regrets are that I gave away my heart when it wasn’t ready and our conversations were sometimes less than pure. We often spoke in innuendos and discussed sexual subjects, but we were never crass about it.

    We’re still talking to each other and are very good friends, pretty much like brother and sister, but when I imagine the idea of him being with someone else, and possibly marrying her… my mind screams out “That’s wrong! It should be me!! We get along so well, of course we’re meant to be together!!” I know this is not healthy thinking, and I’m glad I came across this article, but does anyone have any other ideas on how I can move on? I really don’t want this to be a part of my life anymore. Thank you.