In the NIV Bible, the word “heart” appears over 700 times. In the old King James version, “heart” appears over 800 times. And, according the Bible “hearts” perform an amazing array of functions, including…
· Hearts love, of course.
· Hearts also lust, change, turn away, and falter.
· Hearts sink, harden, melt, fear, despair, grow faint, and sometimes fall.
· You can lose heart. Hearts can be sad.
· We can take things to heart, and gather things into our hearts.
· Hearts know and discern, think and meditate.
· Hearts prompt, seek and search.
· Hearts return and hearts follow.
· Hearts rejoice and are glad.
· Hearts desire, yearn, and have a will. Hearts have motives.
· We make decisions with our hearts, we choose with our hearts.
· Hearts can be stolen and hearts can be won. Hearts can fall and hearts can be lifted up.
· Some hearts conceal and hide. Some hearts harbor resentment and malice. Some hearts hate and hold grudges. Some hearts rage and envy.
· Hearts pound, leap, and throb.
· God tests hearts, weighs hearts, searches hearts. Hearts can be examined and probed.
· Hearts can be filled. Hearts can be emptied.
· Hearts get sick, fall, become wounded, ache, get calloused, become broken and hardened. Hearts can be pierced.
· Some hearts are pure, upright, and have integrity. Some hearts yield and obey.
· God instructs our hearts, puts wisdom in our hearts and writes his law on our hearts. We can keep God’s word in our hearts, and our hearts can instruct others.
· Hearts can grow hot, like ovens. Hearts burn.
· Some hearts set traps. Some hearts are cunning, scheming, and plot evil. Some hearts are bent on evil. Some curse. Some hearts are just not right.
· Hearts live, but need rest and refreshment.
· Hearts should be undivided, steadfast, and blameless.
· Hearts can be proud and haughty. Some hearts boast. Some hearts are stubborn.
· Hearts extol, praise, delight, and revere.
· Some hearts are secure, but some hearts tremble.
· Some hearts “blurt out folly.”
· Hearts give and are given.
· You can lose heart, and be sick of heart. Hearts cry, lament, and are poured out.
· You can carry things in your heart, or close to your heart.
· Hearts can be washed and revived. God can remove our hearts of stone and give us new hearts of flesh.
· Some people set up idols in their hearts.
· Hearts become troubled and need to be encouraged. God strengthen hearts.
· Some hearts doubt and some hearts believe.
· Hearts can be united.
· God puts his Spirit in our hearts. God’s light can shine in our hearts.
· We can open the eyes of our hearts. We can make music with our hearts. Our hearts can be circumcised.
· Hearts should be grateful, cheerful, and peaceful.
· Hearts can be opened wide and we can make room in our hearts.
Yes – I read all 700+ verses!
Dallas Willard writes, “We live from our heart.”
We tend to think of the heart either as the organ that beats in our chests, pumping life-giving blood through our bodies. Or, we associate the heart with feelings – particularly love. But, biblically, the heart means much more. According to Dallas Willard, in his book, Renovation of the Heart, the Bible describes the heart as “The executive center of a human life… where decisions and choices are made for the whole person.” Willard says that the word “heart” is used synonymously with the human will, or spirit.
Thus, Jesus would say things like…
· Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
· For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
· The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
· A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
John Eldredge writes, “You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart.” Which, obviously, requires a heart to be healthy and whole.
The problem is that hearts that are meant to be pure, healthy, and whole, often get wounded and damaged. Being “broken-hearted” isn’t just about being a jilted lover. Life breaks our hearts. Let me say that again – life breaks our hearts.
If you have ever experienced criticism, abuse, rejection, unkindness, belittling, disrespect, injustice, embarrassment, humiliation, or shame, your heart has been wounded. If you’ve allowed your heart to be consumed with hate, anger, vengeance, or un-forgiveness your heart has been wounded. If you’ve allowed your heart to worship idols, to be consumed in sin and lust, your heart has been wounded. If you have not protected your heart, or neglected the condition of your heart, your heart has been wounded. If you have experienced sorrow and the grief of loss, your heart has been wounded.
And, repeated wounds form hard callouses – just like skin that has been repeatedly irritated becomes calloused. And, hearts that were made to be soft, pliable, and receptive, can become increasing hardened and closed.
Some of the wounds our hearts experience we inflict on ourselves. Some wounds are received either at the hands of another, or simply because life is hard. Just the challenges of everyday daily life can take a toll on the condition of our hearts.
So, let me ask you, “What has broken your heart? What’s your wound? What hurts?”
I think that is why there are so many prayers of lament in the Bible. A lament is an outward, verbalized, prayerful expression of pain and sorrow. It names the affliction, the wound, and cries out in pain. While many of us try to hide our pain, or medicate our pain, or deny our pain, lament brings the wound right to God – like going to the doctor when we are sick, or like a child goes to their parent when they have a boo boo.
John Eldredge writes, “A wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal.”
Wounded hearts need lament.
Psalm 13 is an excellent example of a prayer of lament…
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Often, the first step in the healing process is naming the brokenness – even when it’s a broken heart – even when part of the wounded-ness is feeling like God doesn’t care, and isn’t paying attention.
Please hear me. God cares deeply about the state of your heart. God always hears our laments. God is always paying attention.
Proverb’s 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” How do we do that? How do we guard our hearts from becoming wounded, calloused and hard?
Let me first say that guarding our hearts is NOT protecting them by closing them off. It’s not building walls around our hearts so that no one can get to them. We are meant to be open-hearted, and full of love and compassion.
Guarding our hearts, I think, requires three things:
1. Protecting our hearts from things that don’t belong in our hearts. Hearts are meant to be filled with God – not idols, greed, sin, anger, selfishness. We have to take caution and care about what we allow to go into our hearts, just like when doctors warn us about how too much salt, or cholesterol, or smoking can damage our hearts.
2. Instead, we need to fill our hearts with good and godly things. Worship. Friendship. God’s Word. Prayer. Beauty. Kindness. Service. Love. After all, as Jesus said it is the good or bad that goes into a heart, that ultimately comes out of the heart. Paul writes, in Philippians 4:8, “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
3. When you know that your heart has been wounded, seek healing. Maybe that’s lament – taking it to the God who cares. Maybe that’s confession – taking it to the God who forgives. Maybe that’s healing – taking it to the God who heals all brokenness. Maybe that’s coming to talk to someone like me or a counselor, who can help you name the pain and brokenness, and help you ask God to heal it. God can, and God will heal your broken heart!
After a time of deep brokenness, that came from both unfaithfulness on Israel’s part, and abuse from outside forces, God spoke these incredible words of promise… “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
He wants to do the same for you. Do you believe that?
In Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, we are told that the primary issue that made Grinch so awful, and hate Christmas and the Whos in Who-ville so much, was that his heart was 2 sizes too small. But, something wonderful happened on Christmas day, that made his old shriveled heart grow three whole sizes.
God didn’t make you or me to have broken, calloused, hurting, fearful or shrunken hearts. God does not want us to have hearts of stone. God wants you to have a heart full of him – full of life – full of health, and love and joy. He wants to restore your heart.
Think of a flower bud. When the bud first appears, it is wrapped tight – a hard knot of flower petals. Even though the individual petals are delicate, you can’t pull the bud apart without damaging it. You don’t have a choice. You have to leave the bud in the sunlight, and wait for it to open. When it does, it is beautiful. But, it is also delicate, and easily damaged. Some of our hearts are like the bud – twisted up tight and hard. But, if we will bring our hearts out into the light of God, and give him time, he will heal our broken hearts, and give us new hearts of flesh.