How to keep your heart right in the midst of trouble?

Sandstone Heart in the wall - Top of Grange Road West KirbyIn a recent sermon I posed this question and made some suggestions about things we might do to keep our hearts healthy. I also promised to write a blog to put on the web page summarising what was said in the sermon but also to include an invitation for others to contribute their own suggestions so that we might engage in an on-going and hopefully a helpful dialogue. So here it is!

I thought that this might be good to do because there are all sorts of trouble which can affect us … trouble in family relationships, health troubles, uncertainties about the future, trouble at work – with colleagues, bosses or with excessive workloads, trouble at home, trouble at church … all sorts of troubles. So it’s likely that there are many people among us who know something about troubles and have discovered nuggets of godly truth which they may contribute to help us all.

The Bible says that keeping our hearts right is incredibly important for our overall wellbeing. Proverbs 4:23 says

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

If our hearts are not right Jesus said all sorts of bad things can be produced – see Mark 7:20-23. The existence of trouble can put big pressure on us so what should we do to guard our hearts so that we produce good things when ‘squeezed’ or under stress?

Troubles can loom so large that they can dominate life, obscure our view or deceive us. So how do you keep your heart right in the midst of trouble? Here are four suggestions to start us off …

Expect trouble!
Jesus said in John 16:33,

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Be wary of comfort or coasting which can lull us into a false sense of security. Expect trouble but take heart that Jesus has overcome the world and is bigger than whatever trouble can befall us.

Watch out for unforgiveness, sin or unbelief in your life.
It may be hidden but nevertheless can affect you. Here are some ways that can help detect unresolved issues deep inside you;

1 Level 10 reaction to a Grade 1 problem. Does a relatively mild problem produce a disproportionate response in you – say for example an explosion of anger? This can be an indicator of a reservoir of unresolved hurt or issues that needs tackling.

2 Is there repetitive ‘bitter fruit’ in your relationship with others? In your life and experience is there a history of similar issues and problems with other people. Rather than continually blaming others, as a working assumption, act as though the problem is with you and not with other people and see what comes up.

If there are such issues ask God to search your heart and mind through and reveal what’s true so that you can deal with it before Him through Repentance and Forgiveness. You might find it helpful to get some help from a trusted Christian friend to do this. A really powerful prayer which will help shine God’s light into our hearts and minds comes from Psalm 139 …

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Our hearts are springloaded.
We need to recognise that our hearts are spring loaded to doing things our own way and thereby may lead us into big trouble or wrong perceptions. Jeremiah 17:9 says,

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

A common problem in the face of relationship troubles is to assume that God is on your side and not the other persons and even to use God language to put the other person down!

There’s an encounter between Joshua and an angel recorded in Joshua 5:13-15 which is instructive.

Joshua asks the angel ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither’, the angel replies ‘but as commander of the Lord’s army I have now come.’

The message here is don’t trust your heart on its own. Find out what God’s perspective is and join in with that. (You can use the Psalm 139 prayer for that too).

Priorities.
In my understanding though, by far the most important thing we can do to keep our hearts right is to put a high priority on our private and intimate life with Jesus. It’s in that secret place that you connect with Him, learn the patterns of His grace and receive His particular instructions and affirmations. Have a look at what Jesus said about this in John 15 because apart from Him we cannot produce good fruit.

Well there you are … there’s a start. What would you add from your experience to help us keep our hearts right in the midst of trouble?

2 Thoughts.

  1. I have found that in the midst of troubles it is good to find something to give thanks for: today it was the bright sunshine on the autumn leaves; another day it has been the kindness of a friend; when ill in hospital the smile of the member of staff who just walked past.
    Count the number of times in the Psalms that we are told to give thanks – often in the most dire of circumstance
    e.g. Psalm 118:29
    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

  2. When things happen, mind and emotions can distract from intimacy with God as things perhaps get out of proportion. I find it useful to draw in a friend. Someone I trust, who can receive the pain I feel without trying to `make things right`. Like Job`s friends who came and sat with him saying nothing. (They made their mistakes when they opened their mouths!) Community support shows love in action – we are called to `love one another` and `weep with those who weep`

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