When I look back over my life I often wonder why God overlooked my issues for so long. Yes, I loved the Lord. However, the self-importance, pride and preoccupation with the opinions of others were awful.
Recently, I understood something of a redeeming feature that kept the favour of God shining down. Somehow, through the pains and pressures of a difficult life, my heart stayed soft.
What’s a hard heart?
To explain what something is, it can help if we understand what it is not. We will do this by looking at God’s people in the wilderness. After a plethora of extraordinary wonders that led to their escape from Egypt, God parted the Red Sea for them to cross on dry land. He provided mana for food and manifested His presence in thunder, lightning, smoke and fire.
Despite this marvellous array of mighty miracles, when their water ran out, the Israelites complained bitterly and questioned God’s goodness. They threw His gifts back in His face and launched an attack on their leader. They disregarded the testimonies of yesterday when they faced the trials of today. They were quick to complain, quick to criticise and quick to forget their blessings. God said that they were hard-hearted.
You might be thinking that a hard heart is a good thing. It keeps you free from unnecessary emotionalism and guards you against vulnerability. It protects you from feeling the effects of the normal wears and tears of life. It helps you stay strong.
The problem with hardness
God has a different take. He says in Matthew 13:14-15 that hardness of heart prevents us from hearing the voice of The Lord, it stops us from seeing what God has in store for us and it hinders our ability to understand.
And that is not all, it keeps us from becoming whole. Hardness of heart is yet another trap of the devil to keep us small. For us to be ready for everything God wants to do in us and through us, we need a soft heart.
Although I mentioned that I have always had a pretty pliable heart, that does not mean that there have not been times when I have been cold and hard.
I can think about specific people that I have hardened my heart towards. I might have appeared courteous and kind but inside I would keep them at a distance. Communication would feel a little strained and I would try to avoid being too close for too long.
Of course these actions can also be the patterns of a wounded soul desperately trying to avoid further pain. All too often, though, it is the behaviour of someone with a hard heart: “Do not harden your hearts… in the day of trial…” Psalms 95:8-9
Sometimes we forgive those who have robbed us but retain a mild attitude of antagonism towards them. The Hebrew word for hard is qasa and it means tough or severe, grieved or sore.
So when our heart is hard towards a brother or sister, we have a slightly more severe view of their affairs. We don’t make allowances for their issues or mistakes in the same way that we would for others. We are quick to feel cross and slow to show mercy. We keep ourselves emotionally detached.
When your muscles are tense, it hurts if someone prods you. When your muscles are soft, a poke is painless. It is the same way with our hearts. If my heart is hard then I’m more likely to react in irritation when I am let down. When there is softness, I will be gentler and kinder towards those who once wound me up. I will be more like Jesus.
How do we develop a tender heart?
The beginning is realising that your heart is hard. It might be an isolated issue towards one or two people or perhaps you realise that your emotions are like a well-trodden path. Sometimes we have been trained to shut down. Often, it is unhealed hurts that harden us.
Open your heart afresh to God, apologise for any hardness and ask Him to tenderise your soul. If you’re aware what caused you to harden, tell the Lord. If you don’t know, as Him to show you. Tenderness is a hallmark of some of the greatest men and women of God in history. Not only that, a tender heart is far more likely to be a happy heart.
If you want to be free from inner issues that hold you back so that you can fulfil your purpose, I encourage you to order my book: 30 Day Detox for your Soul from Amazon. There are several days dedicated to cleansing us within. Also, come to Healed for Life, our transformational event that helps get you ready for your destiny. See jonaughton.com for details