“What breaks your heart?” Our pastor asks this many times when encouraging the congregation to change our part of the world. “What breaks your heart? Then go do that“ he suggests. He’s right. We all have a tender spot, a place that we feel called to, drawn to, a place where we are compelled to give a little extra time, pray a little harder, and invest ourselves.
What breaks my heart? Well, I think it’s broken hearts. Broken hearts break my heart. As a counselor, I spend time with broken hearts several days a week. What compels me is helping my clients figure out what broke their hearts in the first place. Somewhere at some point, some thing, some person, some event broke their hearts and they haven’t been the same since.
How is it that something from our past can cause us so much pain today? We can pick ourselves up and move on, but deep down there is something holding us back. I have been sitting with this for a while, feeling like something was just holding me back, keeping me from freedom. There are places I just haven’t been able to find victory in: That temper that rears it head, that envy that creeps in, the unholy thoughts that stick around, the greedy hand that stays closed.
Broken people have broken hearts, and aren’t we all a little broken? We try to mend or even soothe our broken hearts by sticking on bandaids: by budgeting or overspending, by exercise or overeating, by counseling or denial, by hustle or apathy. We focus on our thoughts, try to renew our minds but then, at least for me it seems, I can’t push through. Anyone else? I think we are missing it, I am missing it. I have been so distracted with trying to behave and think well, that I’ve been side swiped. I’ve missed the starting point for all change – my broken heart.
I’ve been praying and praying to find freedom in some places, for some victory, for a renewed mind and then this verse lit up the page:
1 John 3:20, “…even if our hearts condemn us…”
What? Our hearts can condemn us? I am really good at condemning myself, no need for help there, but that’s all in my head right? My mind and negative thought life? Or maybe it’s the devil? Well, scripture says my heart is doing this.
To condemn means “to express complete disapproval of, to sentence someone to death or punishment, to declare to be wrong, to express unfavorable judgement, to criticize strongly for moral reasons.”
Has your heart ever done this to you? Have you heard voices that say you are unacceptable, deserving of punishment, judged, wrong or the most condemning words, that you are not worth being here anymore? With full transparency, I confess that I have heard all of this. And the voices can be very loud.
Our hearts are not all about love and good feelings and cupid. They are very powerful, emotional and physical organs. No wonder God warned us to guard our hearts, to “keep it with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23)
Life flows from it, or the absence of life. Death can actually flow from your heart. Many of my clients are wishing for death, mostly because of broken hearts. Disagree?
Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it.”
Mark 7:21-23 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”
So what are we to do with these loud, accusatory hearts? Where does the battle begin? John tells us. Even if our hearts condemn us, even if our hearts express complete disapproval of us, even if our hearts declare us wrong or unfavorable or morally unacceptable or deserving of death…even if…then what? Even if our hearts do all these things to us… 1 John 3:20 tells us we will be confident when we stand before God. Read the whole verse, it’s there! It says even if our hearts accuse and berate us, push us and condemn us, even if, we can be confident as we stand before the Lord. Why?
“Because God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything.” Hallelujah.
He is greater than our condemning hearts and we can trust him with them. He searches our hearts and creates clean hearts within us. I know sometimes it feels like He has broken our hearts. I can relate. When my dad died a most tragic death, it felt like God had broken my heart. He and I are still working through that one, but I’m choosing to trust him with my heart. Trust in the Lord…with what? With all your heart…and then what?Lean not on your own understandings. Even when hurts don’t make sense, I can trust him with my broken heart.
So, the question I want to ask you is “What did break your heart?” Was it a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a best friend? A husband or wife? Was it a mom or a dad or a brother or sister? Was it something you lost?
Whatever it was, whatever hard thing broke your heart, if it’s left untended, it will inform your heart.
The voices of our losses are loud. The voices of our losses can be louder than God’s.
These voices linger way too long and impact the way we see ourselves, our world and others. These voices want to penetrate our hearts and guess what? Our hearts can condemn us.
Matt 5:8 “For with the heart one believes.”
So what are we to do? All of us, walking around with broken hearts? Please remember what John tells us: God is greater than our hearts. Thank goodness. Let that one sink in to those broken heart places. He is greater than those sore spots. The spots no one sees, the spots we keep hidden. Or the spots that are oozing on everyone because we can’t keep the hurt underwraps anymore. He is greater than all that.
He is the redeemer of our hearts. He promises to give us new hearts and new spirits, (Eze. 36:26). He makes trades all the time: ashes for beauty, mourning for joy, death for eternity and hearts of stone for hearts of flesh.
So let’s do the heart work. Let’s bring whatever it is that has broken us to the Creator of our hearts, to the one who knit us in our mother’s womb, who knows our inmost being. He’s the only one who can do it.
“For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God!” (1 John 3:20-24 MSG)