Recently a friend described these disturbing actions and statements made by many of the people he has in his life. He detailed abhorrent emotional abuses in the manner of “power and control” manipulation, deception, chronic belittlement, and verbal degradation. The severity of these seemed so disturbing to me that I prayed and meditated over how to respond; and searched the Scriptures for any and all truths and encouragement I could find. Here is one verse from among many that I shared:
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” –Matthew 12:34-35
But after sharing these, my friend responded: “Come on, you don’t really believe all that. Like just because someone says evil and wicked things, that their heart is wicked?” This very challenge to my beliefs overwhelmed me, and prompted an intense research of the Scripture to discover what God has to say about the heart. What I discovered was amazing.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” –Proverbs 4:23
“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart” –Proverbs 27:19
Is the heart just a physical organ that transfers clean and unclean blood throughout the human body, and when it stops the person dies? Is the heart that organ; and a little more, something symbolic about our feelings of love and hate? NO … Everything that defines us physically, mentally, and spiritually – the very essence of our being – is a condition of the heart. How we behave or act in any situation – who we “think” we are – is controlled first by our heart. Our thoughts and attitude come from the heart, and not our intellect.
“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” –Mark 7:21-22
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” –Luke 6:45
“He who plots evil with deceit in his heart— he always stirs up conflict.” -Proverbs 6:14
Sometimes we act out in ways that are not healthy for us or our relationships. Perhaps we unintentionally scream out hateful rhetoric or behave violently when we are provoked, and want this to change. Maybe we want to do more to help others, but remain selfish, indifferent, or feel uncharitable. Many struggle with addictions, resentments, and unforgiveness. What about us musicians that are somehow lacking inspiration; or other artists that cannot find motivation to start or finish a project. The question seems to be, then, have you considered the condition of your heart? It is critical we responsibly protect our hearts. We must “guard” our hearts holistically – meaning each physically, mentally, and spiritually. Other Biblical references state to do this “with all diligence,” and describe our hearts as the “well-spring of life.”
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” –Hebrews 4:12
There are over 700 references to the heart in the Bible. For both believers and non-believers – regardless what application the Scriptures have in your life – there are numerous parallels to what the Bible teaches about the heart, and what contemporary psychologists allude to in treatment. We know that our feelings – or something about our mental condition – have its source in our hearts. Many heartfelt feelings described in the Bible include: hate, love, lusts, fear, pain, pride, despair, terror, joy, hope, longings, desire, yearnings, sadness, thankfulness, sorrow, cravings, malice, trust, anguish, rebellion, enmity, greed, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, worrying, sincerity, lying, encouragement, anxiety … and more. The Bible plainly describes how our character and personalities are also a condition of the heart. Our stubbornness, knowledge (personal experience), morality, Faith, loyalty, commitment, integrity, wisdom, devotion, hard-work, understanding, beliefs, madness, evil, … all this is first determined in the heart, before the intellect. Our thoughts originate from what is within our hearts. Even our motivation, obedience, memories, discernment between right and wrong, the ability to seek GOD, our meditations, grievances, perversity, being drawn to evil, the rejection of truth, singing and making music — all this comes from the heart, first, and not intelligence!
While ludicrous amounts of money are spent on mental health professionals each year, so much of our own maladies could be healed or corrected if we only took the time to discover something about our hearts, and preventatively “guard” them. We do not imply that mental health professionals are a wasted effort, yet firmly believe the trained guidance of a professional is a necessary means for personal accountability and safety. Medications are useful in controlling errant behaviors; however like most, they only treat the symptoms and not the illness. Similarly what people spend on self-help literature and other remedies can be considered frivolous. The “power of positive thinking” and “envisioning our goals” just doesn’t work if one’s “heart is not in it” – and many people for many reasons are incapable of changing that about themselves. Even more tragic, we as humans cannot fully understand our own hearts — much less can any counselor or mentor genuinely understand yours.
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” – Proverbs 14:10
“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart“ – 1 Samuel 16:17
Being Christian, means we have absolute confidence that what we do not understand, God does. What we cannot control or change, God could. The Scriptures are not just some words of wisdom, or “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” (B-I-B-L-E); but that they are God-breathed (alive), inspired, and taught to us spiritually by an indwelling Holy Spirit. They are a reliable source for what God is saying to us about our situations and who we are, when we earnestly seek Him for understanding, control, or change. Per the complexities of our heart, Psalms 33:15 tells us God “formed the hearts of all” and “considers everything we do.” There are countless more Scriptures detailing that only God can probe the hearts of men, and understand them – after all, He intelligently designed us with them. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God “set eternity in the human heart,” creating us with a predisposition to knowing there is some “eternal” afterlife (with or without Him). Something shocking to learn is that God can – if He chooses – control our own heart.
How God “controls” the hearts of men is described in Scripture in various ways. When Moses was urging the Egyptian Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave, God told Moses repeatedly that He would harden the hearts of the Egyptians, the Pharaoh, and his advisors! When dealing with the obstinate idolatries of the Israelis, the Bible describes God’s judgment and how He makes the “heart of this people calloused; their ears dull and closes their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”-Isaiah 6:10. Other references describe God placing a “veil over their hearts.” God also moves men’s hearts to action, including Cyrus the king of Persia, who allowed the exiled Israelis to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Several times God “moved the hearts” of men in battle. For us as individuals, we discover our Creator controlling (or recapturing) us to seek Him, to understand Him, to gain strength or wisdom or joy, to believe, and to experience LOVE – all specifically because of His care over our hearts and its design. Whew … totally awesome.
It is humanly impossible to judge the heart, though in many ways we make reasonable assessments from outward behavior – whether the “not so empirical” science of psychology is accurate (or not). Our life’s experiences greatly define how our heart is conditioned. We learn to filter some of what influences our heart. We can “accept” love and give human definitions to how we feel it. Likewise we experience hatred or anger, and choose whether or not to “take them to heart.” Heartaches, grief, fear, anxiety, worrying, and many other such indications can be treated by counseling and/or medication. However, treatment does not “cure the heart,” and has minimal impact on changing the individual.
That being said, the Bible clearly describes how “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” God even expresses regret from having created man because of “how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6-8). Jeremiah further states “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” SAY WHAT? This is what Christians commonly refer to as a spiritual condition, or depravity, called the “sinful nature” that is inherent in all of humanity. We are a creation physically separated from God and created to act out or own “free will” – yet incapable of healing our own heart.
So is the metaphysical heart really beyond cure? None can truly understand everything about it. Sure, we completely understand the physical function of the heart. Through imperfect human psychology, we can generalize much about the emotional and mental health of our “heart condition.” Yet what do we understand about the heart, spiritually; without some guidance of He who made it? Scriptures show us that while the human heart is incurable, it can spiritually be made “new.” Without connection to some spiritual entity, then, we remain “on our own” with our struggles. So we MUST take caution “who we choose” when seeking spiritual healing for issues with the heart. It has become worldly cliché to trust that Love is the answer. 1 Peter 4:8 says “… love covers over a multitude of sins.” Yet I (Micheal) will boldly state, from personal experience, that Love in a humanly existence – to love and be loved – is only superficial unless one has experienced a new heart with the Love of God, the God who IS love.
What’s in your heart … and how far will that get you?
Hopefully you’ve gained insight into your own condition and have discovered some simple truths about an urgency to “guard our hearts.” They are the most significant controller of who we are and what our life is like. We list several other passages that we pray you will glean more insight – dig deeper – and find the help you could need for your heart.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me … a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” –Psalm 41
“Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself … and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the LORD” -2 Kings 22
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” –James 3:14
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, …” -Luke 21:34
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:20
“… for he purified their hearts by faith.” -Acts 15:9
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.” –Jeremiah 24:7
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” –Ezekiel 11:19
“… God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, …” -Galatians 4:6
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” -2 Chronicles 16:9