So yesterday I wrote this post about the Four States of Our Heart – and I realized that I forgot one. I put it in as #3 below, and included the rest of yesterday’s post to put it in context. Sorry about that!
1. A Worried Heart
We forget to take our troubles to God, and instead allow our thoughts to spiral downward into despair, wondering how we are going to get ourselves out of the mess we are in. The truth is that we often can’t – but God can – and we frequently get in His way by ignoring Him or doing something outside His will just because we don’t take time to give our concerns to Him and be honest about how we are feeling.
Worry is sin – it’s a reflection of our lack of trust in God. I used to be excellent at worrying, as in “lie awake all night-style worrying,” letting my thoughts run wild, but then someone wiser than me taught me how to “take every thought captive” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 and to not be worriedabout literally anything. If you haven’t checked out those verses, do so – there’s power in the Word to the level of our belief, so ask Him to help you believe!
2. A Fearful Heart
This is the worried heart on steroids.
We’ve moved past worry, and morphed into fear. When we’ve reached this place, we know that the enemy has achieved his goal of isolating us and separating us from God. We often have no idea what we’re going to do, and are focused on the worst possible outcomes, which a quick internet search of the research will reveal that studies show only 8-10% of the things we fear happening actually occur.
That means MOST of the time we spend concerned at this level is a complete waste of time. I have wasted too many hours in fear. The outcome of that activity has left my neck and back in knots, my faith in shambles, and my stomach twisted. Thankfully there are verses to combat this, too. I’m thankful I have learned that “take courage” and “trust” are active things I can DO to combat fear in the midst of a moment. Not easy for me, and I still struggle with it, but worth doing as we diminish our fears over time.
3. A Closed Heart
As a follower of Christ, we are told we are to submit to God’s authority, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit’s leading. This can come at the most basic level by reading the Bible and choosing to obey it. Deciding we do not want to study the Word is choosing to close our heart at the very foundational level of our faith. As Christians, we have to receive influence in all of our relationships – true, we need to be discerning about what we will be influenced by, but choosing to not be influenced, to guard our heart with fortress-style walls that prevent any influence outside of our own self is not what God had in mind. He wants us to be influenced by His Word, His Spirit, and His Son (all of which are Himself – or inspired by Himself, as is the case with the Word). When we are closed to God and to others, it shows up as arrogance, pride, defensiveness, anger, contempt, mockery, judgment, etc.
In healthy relationships with God and others, we are able to give and receive as friends – to influence each other. But before we get to that place, we need to choose to be influenced by God. We need to recognize the blackness of our hearts, acknowledge our sinful nature, and the depravity of our spirit without Jesus Christ. 1 John 5-10 addresses this:
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Having a closed heart prevents fellowship between us. The healthy aspects of relationship, those of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, apology, forgiveness, grace, thankfulness…they’re missing when our hearts are closed. Gottman’s research addresses how the failure to receive influence seriously damages relationship, also. So if you are interested in learning more about how a closed heart destroys marriage, check it out. 🙂
4. An Open Heart
Did you notice in the story from Dare 34 that both the husband and wife chose in the moment to have an “open” heart to each other? This is what the Bible refers to as “mutual submission” which in no way negates the submission of a wife to her husband, nor the children to their parents, as it is all to be done as “is of the Lord” meaning, we submit to authority as it is in His perfect will. (Pastor Tim Keller has an awesome book on this topic, btw) My kids should NOT submit to me if I’m asking them to do something sinful. The thing is, however, is that all of us need to study the Bible daily so we can know more about when to be open to what another suggests.
Instead, we often fill our minds with the world’s values by drowning ourselves in secular television shows, music, books, internet, etc., instead of having the majority of our “inputs” be the Bible and biblical teachings. We cannot have an open heart to others and become the opposite (defensive and closed) when we don’t know Him and aren’t continually learning more about His infinite being by daily study, reflection, and resting in Him.
When we have an open heart, we give the gift of God’s love to each other in marriage – gone is the judgment, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling, and accusations, which according to research, destroy marriage (if you read anything extra today, read this link on Gottman’s research – it literally could save your marriage!). Shaunti Feldhahn’s latest bookshows that couples in happy marriages give each other the benefit of the doubt – they assume the best about each other’s motives, are quick to forgive, and the marriages (even second marriages!!) succeed because the couple is more open with each other.
5. A Trusting, God-fearing Heart
Our lack of reverence for God shows up in the degree to which we worry and are closed-hearted toward other people. In our story today, however, both husband and wife made active choices to trust God and be open to each other. They avoided Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in marriage. Last week, I blogged about the three people we all carry inside of us – the wise man, the fool, and the evil man. I’d learned this recently from a pastor friend of mine whom I went to seeking advice about how to help my team deal with the challenges of ministry, the great pruning and suffering that comes to those who actively choose to serve Him and His purposes in ministry (please pray for us – all of us are suffering greatly at the moment – please pray we learn quickly and walk through these trials well). I talk to my team members and my heart aches with the depth of the pain they are going through. It’s literally the hardest thing I deal with as a leader and I shed many tears over what they are going through as I pray for them and ask our Lord for mercy.
Anyway, what I didn’t realize is that the info he shared that I found relevant to marriage in that other post on the three people is actually in the book he recommended to me, “Necessary Endings,” by Dr. Henry Cloud. If you are looking for a book that will help you deal with suffering and trust God more, it’s a great read. I’m not quite halfway through it yet, but I already highly recommend it! It will also help you parent better, as you’ll see greater purpose in your kids’ suffering, and you’ll stop being an enabler in your relationships by seeing things differently. It’s written for a secular audience, but Dr. Cloud is a Christian and if you are also, you’ll recognize the Truth in the midst of how he reaches a mixed audience.
The bottom line is that the Bible tells us that the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). I confess I don’t fear Him enough. I have a closed heart sometimes. And yes, sometimes I still worry, and sometimes I even fear.
I’m thankful for His mercy, however, and am continuing to grow in these areas. I realize I’ve barely touched on this deep topic. I was surprised that I deal with the suffering element in a similar way in the 12 Truths book – what I thought was my own experience is actually not. There really isn’t anything new under the sun, is there? We also cover these things in Daughters of Sarah. Just more stuff we haven’t realized! LOL!
Bottom line? THIS:
Obviously, as a result of trusting and fearing God first, last, and always. Now it’s your turn! So glad we’re on this journey together!
What about you?
What state is your heart in? Where are you struggling? What verses have really impacted your heart? Would love to hear from you today on this really important topic.
And please know you are invited to join us this fall:
- The fall eCourse is filling up, starting SOON (September 15) but if you want a spot, there are just a few left. We’re trying something new this time, running two, smaller classes, to see if the groups are more intimate.
- If you are doing The Respect Dare in a small group this fall, we have some very casual videos (no where near the production of Daughters of Sarah, but the content is good) for you now.
- Also, Daughters is just ONE more week away from being available for you!! We’ll have Part 1 (sessions 1-7) access for you then, and Part 2 available 7 weeks after that. Be sure to sign up for the TIPS! and subscribe on the side to the blog – we’ll let you know when it’s available.
Love to you!
I do so very much hope you will join us this fall!