My heart is troubled. Someone I love suffers and for months I have seen the train wreck coming and felt helpless to avert it. I have prayed and gently offered caution, but to no effect. My beloved still shot off in the direction of the human heart and has had it utterly broken… Again. The last thing my beloved needs is to hear “I told you so…” OR” I so saw this coming.” But, the warning in my heart was clear these last few weeks as my beloved spoke of the hope for the future being carried in the heart.
Woody Allen once said, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
He was justifying his affair with Mia Farrow at the time, but this morning it reminds me of a stern warning I drew from my four years of in-depth Bible study under the wisdom and teaching of Beth Moore.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?”
Jeremiah 17:9 (AMP)
In our fallen human condition… The heart may want what it wants, but that could be based on a lie. Deceptive above all things. Our heart will lie to us about what is Truth, but it will always tell us the truth about what we believe. (Bob Hamp, my spin.)
So what is the truth?
My fixer, rescuer heart wanted to immediately correct the error when I was asked, “Why didn’t God stop my heart from being broken again?”
Perhaps He tried.
My beloved will have to come to the Truth over her broken heart on her own terms. I can offer her no answers and truthfully this painful season is an appointment of wrestling with God as Jacob did when he insisted to God that he would not stop contending until the Lord blessed him. (See Genesis 32)
For me this raises a great issue regarding the human condition.
From our limited perspective everything is shaped by our experience, the suggestion of the media we expose ourselves to on a regular basis, and the influences that we surround ourselves with through relationships and ideology. So the question is: Can a human being ardently pursuing God completely misconstrue or misunderstand what it is He is trying to say to them or move them to discover?
Unequivocally the answer is YES.
The Fall. In Genesis 3 something happened that breaks the heart of God. Eve, deceived by the enemy, ignores God’s warning not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Do you remember where her husband, Adam, was when the enemy came to Eve? Let’s read it:
Genesis 3:1-7 (NLT)
1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
Adam stood and watched as Eve walked into the enemy’s trap and did nothing to stop her. As a matter of fact, he followed her into the lie and partook of it as well. You see, Adam and Eve’s original sin is not about what they ate – it is about what they believed in their heart.
The enemy planted doubt and Adam and Eve partook of that doubt. They made an agreement in their heart about it and pursued what was forbidden based on a lie. In her Bible study, “No Other Gods”, Kelly Minter writes “Satan will tell us the facts [all day long] but never tell us the truth.”
What we believe to be true and what is truth may very well be two different things. At this point, question becomes: How do we untangle the web of deceit woven throughout our broken condition?
1. It starts with our heart.
God admonishes many things about the heart in Scripture. Not only does He tell us it is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, but He also commends us to guard our heart.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
What does it mean to guard your heart?
The Hebrew word translated “guard” in Proverbs 4:23 is n’sar. It means to keep watch over. (Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “guard” this way: “one assigned to protect or oversee another.”
So how do we guard our hearts?
In the movie, “The Ghost and the Darkness,” a group of construction workers commissioned by the British government are attempting to build a train track in the African bush. The only problem is that there are lions out among them and they prowl around waiting for the opportunity to pounce and eat those who are building the African Ugandan-Mombasa railway. The leader of the group commissions part of the group to continue to work on the railroad while others in the group begin to gather sticks and cut down trees in order to erect a fence. Still, throughout the movie the lions hunt and kill those who are working on the railroad.
The workers use many tactics to stop the lions. They build their own fence for protection, but the lion jumps over it. A sharp shooter comes to stop the lion but ultimately fails. They set traps and miss the mark. Nothing keeps them safe from the lions.
Similarly, God’s Word promises us that our enemy, Satan, is like a roaring later seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
I believe guarding our heart is not just about keeping things that we don’t want there out, but it is also about allowing things in that make us more like God. One word: sanctification. Submitting our heart to God and allowing Him to cut away our flesh until only He remains.
Cutting away our flesh is how God works out sanctification in our lives. Our part is surrender or submission to God’s sanctification in our lives. Jesus called this pruning. Paul calls it dying to self and putting the “old man” or “old nature” to death. Whatever words you use to frame, sanctification is a necessary aspect of God renewing our minds, aligning our wills and healing our damaged emotions while breathing eternal life into our spirit and physical healing to our temporary, earthly bodies. God’s part is making us new.
So over and over again in the course of a season in our life we have to check what our heart wants against what God wants for us. Laying aside sin and things that easily entangle our human nature is not easy, but again – it is necessary.
A few additional verses on Sanctification or Heart Circumcision:
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.-Deuteronomy 30:6 NKJV
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew whois one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. Romans 2:28-29 NKJV
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, ~ Colossians 2;11-13 NKJV
It is the first work of the Holy Spirit unto Salvation that a man should be “cut to the heart” or spiritually circumcised.
“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’[b]
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Menand brethren, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:34-37 NKJV
2. Give God Your Angry and Hurt Feelings.
God is a “big boy.” He can handle what you are feeling, and any anger or hurt you feel He has allowed you to experience. Even more than that, He asks us to come before Him and lay ourselves bare. I remember the first time these words came out of my mouth in a group setting. All the women in the room got a hardy laugh out of it. I offered, “Sometimes you just have to forgive God.”
One person piped up. “How can we forgive God. He can’t be wrong.”
No, God cannot be or do anything that is evil, bad or wrong. But, often times we feel in our hearts that God set us up to get hurt or allowed us to suffer for no good reason. If you think of forgiving as “taking someone off of your hook for what happened and putting them on God’s hook” then what you have is really not “forgiving God” but instead, releasing Him from the judgment you’ve made against Him. When I pray to “forgive” God I always say, “Lord, I judged you…. (fill in the blanks)… as a result of what happened.”
I think God gets the wrap for a lot of things He does not do. I remember sitting with a newly bereaved parent not too terribly long ago. This parent had lost an adult child in an accident and felt angry with God because they had prayed for God to protect their child. The question on the table became “What if you are blaming the wrong person for what happened?”
There are lots of reasons that bad things happen: human will, fallen existence, or the enemy’s plans and attacks are a few of the ones that come to my mind. Like it or not, God’s sovereignty doe snot mean He will interfere with a person’s will or the choices they make. Because of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, we are subject the consequences and pain of sin which resulted in a curse on both Adam and Eve, plus the earth and all mankind after them. God sent Jesus to redeem us from the curse, but that does not mean we are instantaneously freed from the bounds and consequences of generational and personal sin, or that someone else’s sin might bring about pain in our lives. The enemy would like for us to think God did us in, and that He lied. After all, wasn’t it the serpent who asked Eve, “Did God really say?” (see Genesis 3)
Yes, I think it was. His twisting of the facts to cast God in a bad light is as old as the Garden and sin itself. There is truly nothing new under the sun.
Learning to hold fast to what you know about God to be true through His revealed Word will help you to find God blameless in your suffering. Job had plenty of reason to blame God, but if you read those long discourses in the antiquated pages of the book bearing his name you will find God saying what He said to Isaiah centuries later, “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts…” (Isaiah 55:8)
3. Trust God and not the outcome or circumstances about what you have prayed.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV says this much better than I:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
We must come to God on His terms, not with our finite and vain imaginations making His Gospel and His promises about us. We must follow Him with a surrendered heart and fully confident that whatever He offers us will ultimately bring us our good and His glory no matter how painful or long-suffered it may be.