The Lord speaks to my heart as I keep still before Him, ever receptive of His voice. For days I wait for His leading on what I will write here, but just when I think I have caught His words in the gentle breeze that wafts through the open windows, it turns out it is only me. So, I wait again. Days turn to a week, but I don’t fret. I prefer to listen to the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper than try to dredge up my own well, looking for wisdom and inspiration like a hen scratching the earth looking for food. As I had alluded to in previous posts, things are changing in my faith walk and writing is one of them.
But when the inspiration finally comes, I realize that the Lord continues to lead me down the same path we had started many weeks back. He has opened for me a door through which I can examine my life closely and how it affects the people around me, including those who read what I write. It is not a painful process and I am ever open and yielded to His expanding my views and deepening my understanding.
This time He tells me, I want you to look at your heart.
I always try to examine my heart, what’s in there, and my motives. But if He tells me to look at my heart, I will gladly do it. If you are being tried for far too long like me, endlessly suffering from an illness that incapacitates you from doing myriad things, even the simplest ones, you tend to examine your heart frequently. You want to get to the bottom of what’s causing this seemingly interminable battering. And you almost always want to point the accusing finger toward yourself, why you continue to be sick and to suffer. You tend to be hard on yourself. For you can’t blatantly blame God, knowing He’s just and holy and good.
But the tide of misery sometimes swells, overflows, and finds its way to the surface where it is expressed in bitter lament accompanied by fat, scalding tears. Not complaint, but lament, much like the Prophet Jeremiah’s. Which precisely brings us to what the Lord wants us to do today: to take stock of our “heart life”. He says in Matthew 12:34-35:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
People are wired differently. For example, I believe there are those who do not automatically or easily think negatively of others. They do not unconsciously shift to criticical, judgmental, or condemning mode. They are safe, accepting, and simply really pure in heart. Maybe we can say that their default is love. These are probably the genuine born-again, Spirit-filled Christians. Then there are those who have to constantly guard their thoughts, or check themselves, or wrestle with their minds and hearts, bring them to subjection, and do their best to purge the negative response and repent of it. Still others let these dwell in their hearts and take root.
I think I belong to the second group. The people in this group tend to secretly compare, compete, and criticize. The result may bring them either satisfaction or dismay, pleasure or misery, depending on the subject and situation. They probably cannot prevent the thoughts from coming (they are as swift as the wind), but they can definitely shut their minds and bolt their hearts to block their advance. They should not let them gain ground or take up residence there.
Let’s examine our words. Are they mostly grievances, criticisms of others, worries and doubts? Incessant complaints spew out of an ungrateful, discontented heart; criticisms, judgments, and bad talk from a bitter one; and constant fretting a product of a faithless heart. (A faithless heart is a fearful heart).
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I hear the Lord’s words again.
If our heart is bitter, if we cannot appreciate one good thing in our life, nothing good or encouraging will come out of our mouth. But if we choose to be grateful whatever our circumstances are, however painful, however hard – praise and thanksgiving will still stream from our lips. If we do our best to store up good treasures in our hearts – love, peace, joy, gratitude, life lessons, God’s truth and teachings – we will speak for the edifying of others.
Other people’s lives may stir up feelings that are buried deep in our hearts (envy, jealousy, discontent, pride, etc.), things that we wouldn’t want a single soul to know, or are ashamed of. This is not a bad thing in itself if we see them as magnifying glasses on our hearts, pointing to the truth. They can be opportunities for self-examination which may lead to change, to striving harder in prayer and advancing in spiritual maturity. In the end, if we are wise and humble enough to yield to the Holy Spirit’s correction, these painful challenges and wrestlings will accomplish their sanctifying purpose.
If we intentionally make room for the Holy Spirit in our hearts, giving Him free reign to do His work, these negative dwellers will be gradually pushed out until they are finally dislodged. There is much work to be done (nobody said it was easy), but with the Holy Spirit’s power and assistance, we will emerge triumphant.
During those times when our minds are at rest, we are reminded to meditate on things that honor and bring God praise. It is good to exercise the mind with them. By gravity, they will fill up our hearts, too, and it will be hard not to feel grateful then. When the heart is full of them, gratitude is not far behind. And when gratitude graces our hearts, more praiseworthy things flow in abundance. It’s a beautiful, soul-enriching cycle.
…Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Phil. 4:8)
When we are tempted to do otherwise, pray David’s prayer:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable [pleasing] in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. (Ps. 19:14, annotation mine)
Let’s nurture our hearts to flourish like lush gardens where life and beauty thrive.
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Journey with Jesus,