The World’s Heartbreak Anthem

Not long ago, few people knew the name Olivia Rodrigo. Now, her song “drivers license” has been the number one song in the world for an entire month straight. Echoing in the caverns of broken hearts across the globe, the song set the record for most Spotify streams ever in a week. First known for her roles in Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark and Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Rodrigo’s success does not come from previous fame. Rather, the song’s emotional draw resonates deeply within the hearts of its listeners, making it the world’s heartbreak anthem.

(Warning: Song contains strong language.)

“Drivers license” speaks to the aching soul as it tells a story of heartbreak—a story of losing a boyfriend to another girl after saying he would be together with the singer forever. Still in love with him, the singer cannot imagine how she will ever love someone else. She was told “forever” and is left to wonder what happened, which is driving her into isolation. The lyrics vulnerably address the complexities of love, the human heart, processing a breakup, and making sense of one’s own story.

The Demon of “Love”
Clearly, the singer’s heart is aching, and listeners resonate. To experience a breakup is to experience grief. Although every story is different, losing anyone is multifaceted, leading to many different layers of grief and loss. This cannot be dismissed. The Christian worldview reveals that people are intrinsically valuable, making the loss of someone extremely significant. Losing someone can be devastating, especially if that person was elevated too highly in one’s heart.

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis states, “‘Love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god’; which of course can be re-stated in the form ‘begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.’”1 Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. However, when human love claims divine supremacy, it demands unconditional allegiance that is owed only to God. Listening to Rodrigo’s agony in this song hints at this type of allegiance—making an idol of a relationship. It does not mean that she doesn’t truly care about her boyfriend or that what they shared was not real; we don’t know enough to assess that. We simply see that idolization makes the already difficult process of a breakup excruciating. When a relationship, although designed to be good, has utmost importance placed on it, the fracturing of that relationship can lead to a very dark place.

The Dark Place
A breakup can drive someone into a place often marked by insecurity, broken expectations, and isolation—the dark place. Oliva Rodrigo’s song reveals just that.

You’re probably with that blonde girl
Who always made me doubt
She’s so much older than me
She’s everything I’m insecure about

Her heart is raw and her insecurity is exposed as she compares herself to another girl. In every moment and season, we need to keep our true identity in perspective. A person’s value and identity comes from God; every person is a complex wonder– fearfully and beautifully made (Psalm 139:13-14, 1 John 3:1). Without knowledge of this truth, one can be crushed by the insecurity exposed in a circumstance like a breakup, making it important to “define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.”2

Because the singer was told “forever,” she is now left in the disorienting place of broken expectations—she’s left to make sense of her story alone. The lyrics pull the listener in:

Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me
‘Cause you said forever now I drive alone past your street

Words matter. She’s trying to make sense of the words that have been spoken—words communicating a future, allowing trust to be built. Now, not knowing what happened, she’s left to wonder. Rodridgo’s broken heart resonates with many others, revealing that shattered commitment fractures a person. This is often the narrative in a breakup. In a situation like this, it is important to acknowledge broken expectations and fight for a truth-filled narrative. If you are in a disorienting situation requiring you to make sense of your own story, pray for the lens to see God as the Good Author again. We must cling to hope in the midst of a chapter wrecked by broken expectations.

With a new driver’s license, Rodrigo is driving herself into isolation. She is alone in her car and allowing a false narrative to consume her. Her experience is raw and real. But we can never do life alone. When we experience heartbreak like Rodrigo, there is the temptation to isolate ourselves, either because sharing our story makes us vulnerable or because we are afraid our story will be dismissed. We need people in processing breakups—people with empathy, good theology, and wisdom. We need people who will hear our story and help to guide us by speaking the truth. Find these people and hold them dear because we need to talk through the pain for however long it takes to arrive at healing.

Stewarding Your Pain
Suffering eventually touches all of us. Whether it is breakup or death, an illness or some other suffering, we are responsible for the stewardship of our pain. The human heart has great capacity to heal, but healing doesn’t just come with time; it comes with time and intentionally addressing the pain. The journey may be long, but we are never alone (Isaiah 41:10, 43:1-3, Romans 8:35-39). Within a breakup there is a deep need to process. This can’t be done by pointing out every flaw in the other person and listening to breakup songs on repeat. We often turn to breakup songs, which (although not inherently wrong) can allow bitterness to take root by being an alternative, temporary “fix” to actually addressing our hurt and getting the healing we seek. The song “drivers license” going viral reveals a world that knows pain but does not know how to cope with it, much less how to steward it well.

We must tell ourselves what is true. This includes the true story of the worth of the other person in the breakup. It is important to acknowledge the hurt they’ve caused, but acknowledging that hurt demands that we fight for forgiveness. The Christian worldview clearly acknowledges pain. “Because we are fallen, we live with the dissonance between the way things are and the way they ought to be. Fortunately, though, this is not the end of the story.”3 Stewarding our pain helps us cling to hope, because this is not the end of the story. When stewarded well, the ache we feel now can lead to empathy, maturity, wisdom, and understanding true joy; it becomes an expansion of the capacity of our hearts. It can soften our hearts and necessarily humble us. When beginning a season of heartbreak, one is asking, “How do I survive it?” Lean on God’s grace, knowing that God is real, he is near, and he is always, always good. Press in and know that God never wastes anything.

In contrast to a shattered commitment from another person, we can celebrate that God’s love is steadfast. May his steadfast love bring rest for our broken hearts.

A prayer from St. Anthony of Padua puts it well:

“Know that I love you utterly. I AM God.
Believe it and be satisfied.”4

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Article by Katie McTavish