Hardened Hearts Got You Down? Try Examen.
Are you carrying around worries and concerns that you have not entrusted to God? Have you suffered from setbacks or disappointments that you are wallowing in? Do you find yourself stuck in a pattern of sin – doing things that keep you far from God’s good plans for you? When was the last time you checked your heart for God?
It’s so easy to wallow, worry and stew over things that you could take to God. Sometimes it’s our pride that causes us to hold tight to those worries. We convince ourselves that we aren’t worthy of God’s grace and consideration. Instead, we choose to wallow. And what happens to our hearts, the hubs of our humanity, when we wallow and worry? Our hearts harden and we turn away from God.
Take a deep breath. Rewind your last few days. Name when you felt closest to God. Consider when you felt farthest from God. This is the time-proven practice of examen which helps us develop into better disciples. If you are a parent, ask your kids these questions; share your answers. Think about it, to follow well requires staying close.
You don’t have to re-read Moses’ encounters with Pharaoh to see what a hardened heart looks like-- but that’s a place to start. Pharaoh stood firm through multiple plagues. It wasn’t until he lost his first-born son that Pharaoh’s heart softened enough to let Moses and the Hebrews go. Maybe you have a Pharaoh in your life. I’ve run into a few and I bet you have, too.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a good description of those with hardened hearts- they keep on hearing but do not understand and they keep on seeing but do not perceive (Isaiah 6: 9-10). One of my co-workers in a non-denominational church years ago carried a bias against folks from the Midwest. He was on the committee that culled through the job applicants for the senior pastor position – potentially my future boss. He believed that nothing ever good ever came out of the Midwest. I was shocked at his bias and disturbed that he was in a position in which he could act on it. He didn’t see it and when confronted still didn’t see it. In fact, it became clear that he would never see it. He had a very hard heart. Only a great big God could melt a bias like that. We live in times where those with hardened hearts tend to be the ones news teams sensationalize.
What’s the cure for a hardened or hardening heart? First we have to admit that our hearts need a spiritual check-up. By turning back to God and admitting you need God’s help (repentance), talking to God in prayer (confession), and loving others as you love yourself (serving others first), we can put ourselves back on the pathway to good spiritual heart health. Maybe you identify more with James and John, the two disciples who presented themselves as candidates to sit at Jesus’ right hand in heaven and you believe that your heart is right with God. Jesus reminded them that whoever wants to become great must serve others and be a slave of all. Jesus tells us that He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for us. He gave everything for us. Least we can do is to do the heart check and make some course corrections to improve the spiritual health of our hearts.
MARCH 23 / FRIDAY