I cannot count the number of soul-sick people I have spoken to who have allowed their heart to slide into numbness or death, and even in some cases tried to strangle their heart. And all this in the name of serving the God who put their heart in them in the first place. The trap comes easily when we read Scripture piecemeal, and or when we read through the lenses of certain religious dogma.
Jeremiah 17:9 declares firmly, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?" So we read and jump to the conclusion that our heart is an obstacle to be overcome and an enemy to be defeated.
This idea is fed by the commonly held and taught mantra that Christians often repeat. "Your emotions will lie to you!" we warn one another. And with these two ideas, we go into one of the most deadly places we can: We retreat into denial. We bury, swallow, repress our heart and all of its attendant responses and connections.
The problem is, what do we do then with the verse in Proverbs 4:23 that tells us, "Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life"? What if, in the name of serving God, we completely repress that part of us, which is designed to be the headwaters of the life of God Himself? Let me answer the "what if?" question. Stifle your heart, and one day it will lead to a collapse that Isaiah 30 describes as a breach in a wall, whose collapse comes suddenly and in an instant. Try to stifle the waters of a river, and one day the waters will overpower the very dam constructed to hold them back, and the waters intended to bring life can bring, instead, destruction.
The truth is, your emotions will not lie to you. Your emotions will, in fact, always tell you the truth about what you believe (Proverbs 23:7). It is the lies that cause negative emotions, not the other way around. If you ignore your emotions because you have been told it is a Godly thing to do, you will miss out on a God-given indicator to help you know what exactly is hidden in this mysterious heart of yours. Like the flashing light on your dashboard, your emotions are a signal to indicate to you a belief that exists somewhere under the hood.
Let's examine the setup, and then the solution.
The setup begins with the fall of man (as does every other human struggle). Adam and Eve discover their nakedness. Their newly engorged knowledge of evil informs them of their condition, and they look down and feel shame. The problem is compounded when their knowledge of good tells them what they should do about the "evil" their minds perceive. Their knowledge of good tells them to hide. Whether it is fig leaves, Eden's shrubbery or their outright blame of everyone but themselves, Adam and Eve begin a complex set of defenses to numb the pain of their shame and their knowledge of evil.
Hence, years later, after David in the Psalms has referred to "the inward parts" of our heart, or our "hidden places," Jeremiah can rightly tell us that the heart is deceitful and wicked. He then asks and answers the question, "Who can know it?" Who, indeed? God Himself searches and responds to what He finds in the hidden heart. But Jeremiah refers to the condition of the heart in the moment of his writing. What he does not do is write prophetically about God's intent to do something about that condition. That privilege comes later to Ezekiel, who tells us in Ezekiel 11:19 that a day is coming when God Himself will remove the heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart, a heart of flesh. In other words, Ezekiel tells of a day which is coming (and is now here) when God will replace the desperately sick with the new creation.
Salvation is God giving us a new nature, not a new set of expectations. When Jesus comes into your heart, it is a new and regenerate heart that He enters.
At this point, we have so often partnered with the "hiddenness" of our hearts that we turn our eyes away. We strangle our hearts with sin, and then after our salvation we often strangle our hearts with the guilt and shame of believing we are still desperately wicked. Now, whether it be fig leaves or religious dogma, we still run and hide, afraid that if we look at our hearts we will again be flooded with shame and fear.
The result? The heart is no longer wicked, but it remains a hidden thing. The heart is deceitful not in the sense that it is a wicked liar, but in the sense that we have been trained by life, fear and church life, to remain covered up. The key difference is that if we look now, and ask the One who knows it to begin to show us our new hearts, we would actually begin to discover the regenerating power of the resurrection has been at work in our own hearts. Sure, we might struggle a bit as we look at the layers of darkness we have wrapped around our heart, but the fundamental truth of our salvation is that God has put a new heart in us. If you are willing to look, He is willing to show you.
Here is the bottom line. It is in and through our hearts that we connect to, and receive from God. Hence we should tend to our hearts above all else, because when it is properly attached to its source it will be in us the headwaters of living water. When we bury it and choke it off because we have only read Jeremiah's description, we choke out the very life-giving, revelation-producing presence and voice of God. When we do that, all we are left with is our knowledge of good and evil.
Try this if you dare. Pray this simple, yet courageous prayer.
"God, if you show me, I will look."
Post written by author Bob Hamp for Good Women Project. You can follow Bob on Twitter at @bobhamp