heart

My Heart is a Big Fat Liar

I suspect my heart is a culprit in the theft of my joy.

shattered heart

A week ago I wrote in my journal that I feel like God’s next lesson for me (in addition to recent lessons on trust) is about joy. More specifically, how to have more of it.

Yesterday morning I woke up after a restful sleep-in; it was the first morning of two days off work. I’d had great fun the night before, yelling at the TV with my housemates (it was a really dramatic episode of Chicago Fire!). But I woke up with guilt weighing me down. It wasn’t sumo wrestler-sized guilt; more like those exercise weights you strap to your ankles. It just made everything a bit harder.

Why? I wasn’t sure. But I felt unproductive, like I’d wasted chances given to me and God was frowning.

It’s not the first time and I know I’m not the only one. About eighteen months ago, I was sitting on a hotel rooftop in Warangal, India, having a devotion time with my seven mission trip teammates. We were all listening as one of us confessed that he’d been feeling distant from God and cynical about his faith for months. The feeling was eating at him, and he didn’t know how to fix it. He was torn apart by fear that this feeling meant something was fundamentally wrong with his relationship with God.

The view from our hotel rooftop in Warangal.

The view from our hotel rooftop in Warangal.

As I listened, I remembered something my Mum once told me during a difficult period of my teenage years: We all have our logic, spirit and emotion. And sometimes Logic and Spirit have to grab Emotion by the arms and drag him along, kicking and screaming. Sometimes, we have to ignore our feelings—our hearts—and go with what we know is the truth.

I’ve also heard of a pastor, who, when someone tells him, “I feel far away from God,” immediately asks, “Are you sleeping, eating and exercising right?” He believes that these are the most common causes for a feeling that God is distant or unhappy.

I don’t want to minimize emotions relating to a tragedy, clinical depression or a spiritual distance caused by sin. Those are real issues, and they need dealing with. What I’m talking about is that vague feeling that God’s looking at me, frowning—and I can’t figure out why.

So today, I’m proposing a new theory: Just because you feel something, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Even the Bible says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 NIV)

I think a lot of people—including myself and my teammate—freak out when our emotions tell us that we’ve moved a long way from God. We assume that we are a long way from God and immediately take action to rectify the situation, despairing when nothing changes.

Then one day, the problem is magically gone. Why? It was never there to start with. You probably just had messed-up hormones that week.

Yesterday I woke up and prayed for a while, trying to relieve my heavy feeling. Then I looked back over my week and realized that I’d been working pretty hard. I hadn’t been unproductive. And the feeling that I’d displeased God with my laziness was just…wrong. And with that realization, the feeling evaporated.

Advertisements

Swap my Heart for Yours

0381-seasonal

I realised on Wednesday that I had to let go of something.

I can’t go into the specifics here, but suffice to say it’s something that I’d been hanging onto for a while. And I felt pretty sad about it. But I knew that it was time.

I talked to my housemates about the issue late Wednesday night, and finally went to bed about 11.30pm.

I often pray while I’m lying in bed. And this may sound strange, but I often meet with God on a dance floor in my mind. I wear a gorgeous dress. He wears a tux. We waltz and talk.

There was no dance floor on Wednesday night. Too tired and disappointed for that. But let me share what I wrote in my journal the next morning:

“Last night as I went to sleep, I lay in bed and held my bleeding heart in my hands. No dance floor now.

“But suddenly You were there too, laying there facing me. You pulled out Your own heart. It was bleeding too.

“You shed tears over my pain, and held my heart carefully in Your hand. You stroked it and kissed it.

“Then You put Your own heart in my chest, and placed mine in Yours.

“I knew my heart would heal there – in fact, it felt more at home with You than with me. And Your heart – which understood my pain – would sustain me, far better than my own ever could.”

And God is faithful. I’m healing; He’s sustaining.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

Does Anybody See Me?

Does God take any notice of me?

It’s a very good question.

With seven billion people scurrying around on this planet, it’s easy to feel like we’re flying under God’s radar. With so many people to deal with, how much time could He really have left for me? Is He even interested?

Image

I think that Jesus’ words, as recorded in the Book of Matthew, answer that question with a big fat YES!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matt 6:25-34 NIV (emphasis mine)

Jesus used a lot of words to hammer home this one basic point: do not worry.

God promised that if we put him first, He will supply what we need.

So what does that imply?

Number one: God knows if you’re seeking him first. So He must be paying attention to you.

Did you hear me?

HE IS PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU.

Not just Australia as a whole (though He is watching that too). Not even just your church as a whole. YOU. He is profoundly interested in the state of your heart.

And that leads us to point number two.

God wants you to seek Him first.

Him, and Him alone. Similar to how a husband wants to be the only man for his wife, multiplied by about a hundred million billion squillion.

God loves you enough to get jealous over you.

And that’s a pretty personal, intimate kind of love.