The Heart: Part 2

Yesterday, I told you that from our heart, our emotions escape us (most often out of our mouths, but in other ways too).

In the same way that we can follow emotions from the heart to our outward expressions, we can trace every behavior and expression back to the heart. In this way, every sin or foolish act is a heart issue. If we want to deal with that sin or folly, we have to examine the heart.

A murderer first sins in the heart, usually by allowing anger to dwell there. An adulterer first sins in the heart, by not repenting of jealousy or lust. A thief first sins in the heart, coveting; a glutton, maybe by allowing sadness to take up residence in the heart. By not evicting negative emotions, we sin.

In fact, Jesus said that anger in the heart is akin to murder (Matt. 5:21-24); that lust in the heart is equivalent to adultery in the flesh (Matt. 5:27-28). By allowing negative emotions to reside in our hearts, we pollute our bodies and minds, and our lives become tainted with them.

However, it is not sufficient to address the behavior or sinful action (as many behavioral counselors attempt to do)–we must consider the heart. To rehabilitate a murderer, it is not enough to say “don’t murder again.” That sinner needs to know Jesus because only God can cure the rage in the heart. For the adulterer to have any hope at all, that sinner needs to know Jesus, as only God can reorient the heart back home. You cannot simply tell the glutton to stop eating so much; the glutton needs Jesus to change the heart, so that the sinner seeks God instead of food, for comfort!

I struggle with sin in my life, but I know that I cannot help myself. I need Jesus in order to have a change of heart (a phrase used too loosely today). Without God, I can do nothing to save myself. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s grace covered me and gave me a new heart. Amen!

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The Heart: Part 1

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Proverbs 4:23

I have begun a new journey of discovering who God is and how I am supposed to live my life. My textbooks? Psalms and Proverbs. The palms teach us about God, His miracles and His character. The proverbs teach us about the Christian, his nature, his sin and his purpose. I have set a new goal of reading Psalms and Proverbs daily, finishing both every month, which requires that I read 5 chapters of Psalms and 1 chapter of Proverbs each day. Some months, I will have to read more than that to finish (30-day months and February).

Today, the above proverb resounded with me and, amazingly, many verses in the psalms I read coordinated with this “heart” theme.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Psalms 19:14

Jesus echoed the proverb many times over in His teaching. “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34); “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’ ” (Matt. 15:18); “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks” (Luke 6.45). And those are probably only a few examples.

Therefore, we can follow every sinful thought/feeling up and out of the heart. Every thought and feeling is expressed in some way: speech, tone of voice, facial expression, body language, conduct and behavior. When your husband angers you, maybe you don’t yell at him, but you withhold your affection for a while, or slam doors and cabinets, or punish him with silence. When he saddens you, maybe you don’t approach him in tears, but you mope around the house or comfort yourself with food.

I am a cabinet-slamming, comfort-food-eating, pout-er. That is how I usually express anger and sadness, unfortunately. But it is not healthy to allow these negative emotions to dwell in my heart. The proverb says my heart is “the wellspring” of my life! An angry or sad heart yields an angry or sad life. Surely you’ve met women like this… you wonder how their heart even beats, it seems so calloused and rough. I do not want to be that woman, that complaining woman whose face is void of laugh lines, but filled with valleys from constantly crinkling her nose and eyebrows!

Where is my hope, then? In God! He can redeem my negative emotions! If I open my heart to His teaching and discipline, I can learn to be filled with joy, instead. I have seen this miracle at work in my life, when God has convicted me of pride and taught me humility. He illuminates my sin and folly and brings me to repentance.

Are you asking how this happens? The answer is prayer. When I get angry, I pray. After a few minutes of ranting to God about whatever my husband has “done to anger me,” the inevitable happens: my sin and folly is exposed before me. Oh. So it’s not his fault, but mine? So it doesn’t matter what he did–it’s my reaction that is the problem? I repent to God and ask for the strength to humble myself before my husband and ask his forgiveness, too. And when I do that, another miraculous thing happens. Usually, my husband is encouraged by my humble heart to also repent of his sin and folly!

Whether we want to admit it or not, our actions are usually the outbursts of our hearts. Every emotion can be followed out of the heart, and most often, out of the mouth. We can cut off this highway by erecting a barricade of prayer, and God will redirect traffic appropriately. Blessed is He!

Tomorrow: tracing actions and speech back to the heart.

Wives

“I’m slowly training him.”

I’ve heard this statement, in some form or other, in reference to husbands about various things: giving gifts,  recycling properly, approving of a hobby that has taken over the house, complaining too much about a dirty home, etc. It seems a common trend now to “train” one’s husband to do as one likes. Women want to train their husbands to be romantic on special occasions, even if their hearts are not in it. Better yet, women want to train their husbands to force their hearts to be in it! Women want to train their husbands to do housework so that they don’t have to; or train their husbands to be accepting of any and all flaws present in them.

Is this the attitude a Christian wife should have? Perhaps personal reproach and diligence to alter faults is more conducive to a happy marriage than simply changing one’s spouse. Instead of throwing tantrums when we are not given a gift on our birthday or anniversary, maybe we should consider what gifts we have recently given. Instead of complaining about our husbands not helping with the household chores, maybe we should go about our own work cheerfully. Instead of saying “me, me, me,” maybe we should be saying “Him, Him, Him and him, him, him,” focusing our attention on our Father above and our husband at home.

The most beautiful thing is that when we stop criticizing and grieving and “training” our husbands, we heap blessings upon ourselves! When we do our housework diligently and with a merry  attitude and happiness that we have something to clean, our husbands desire to help us. When we give freely and openly to all, our husbands bountifully give.

Ephesians 5:33
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Is slyly “training” someone an act of respect or of dissatisfaction, dishonor, and disdain? If your husband knew that you were “training” him to do things your way, would he be grateful or grieved?

I have not been married long, but I have found in that short time that a cheerful countenance, happy attitude, and joyful giving is the best way to love and respect my husband. He appreciates my diligence and blesses me continually with love, mercy, and reward. When I don’t ask, I receive. When I patiently endure, he apologizes. When I forgive, he seeks to change. When I work hard, he gladly assists. When I conquer my will for a time, he rejoices with me. When I experience hardship outside the home, he encourages and steadies me.

When I focus on Him, He blesses me.

Stuff to Do

One of the top searches that brings people to my blog is “stuff to do with your husband.” I can envision many different scenarios. Perhaps this person is newly married and just looking for some fun ideas to bring her and her husband together. Maybe she is an older woman who has exhausted all her own ideas to win some of her husband’s time. Or maybe she is a combination of these women.

I don’t know who she is, but I wonder if she’s tried any of my ideas… and I wonder if any have worked to return (or introduce) some cohesion and love to her marriage.

I’ve posted a handful of ideas for things to do with your husband and am adding to the list. I like cooking with him, getting greasy under the hood, planning and executing a fun camping or canoe trip.

But I must say this: my favorite activity to do with my husband is to just be alone together. I adore those minutes after a long, tiring day when we lay in bed, nose to nose, laughing over a funny joke he heard or tearing up over a bruised heart. Sometimes the conversation turns into a 30-minute tickle fight and other times, we drift to sleep quickly, content just being near each other. His voice and presence comfort me and prepare me for a restful night.

I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know why you are searching for activities to do with your husband. I just pray that maybe I have helped you, whoever you are.