Christians are supposed to be big-hearted, kind and loving—right?
I’ve been a Christian for many years and the truth is, the longer I serve in ministry, the more I realize I need to guard my heart against becoming hard.
Like a police officer who sees crime and tragedy on a regular basis, he develops a way of dealing with the pain. This is a healthy and natural by-product of the job. Hey, it might even be a by-product of life. But if we don’t monitor things carefully, our hearts can become hard.
A hard heart isn’t an attractive attribute. In the Bible, we read that Pharaoh had it and the Pharisees specialized in it. And we’re all familiar with the Grinch, who’s known for having a heart two sizes too small. Not exactly the greatest company!
SIX SIGNS OF A HARD HEART
- You no longer believe the best in people. Even when you first meet someone, you’re thinking what could go wrong rather than being open to learning about the person.
- You find it difficult to celebrate and you don’t really cry.
- Much of what’s supposed to be meaningful feels mechanical. This means work, personal relationships of family and friends.
- Passion is rare. For anything.
- You stop genuinely caring.
- Time in prayer is numb or nonexistent.
HOW A HARD HEART DEVELOPS
Your focus is on performance and patterns rather than people. People have certain predictable ways. Cynicism can develop when you only see symptoms and patterns rather than the people beneath them.
You stop looking for what’s good in people and situations. Life is full of trials and disappointments; and people are, well, people. It’s easy to slip into the trap of looking at the shortcomings and problems.
You over-protect a broken heart. People mess up. Trust is broken. Hopes are dashed. This is life. These things happen to us all. It’s easy to stop trusting and believing by building barriers that hurt cannot penetrate. The trouble is, not much else will penetrate either.
You accept a hardness of heart. Let’s face it, sometimes when we’re angry and/or hurt, we want to be that way. We don’t want to get over it.
It’s very simple, really. But what’s simple isn’t always easy. Give your hard heart to God.
I spend time in prayer, Bible reading and worship daily. You’d think this would prevent me from developing a hard heart. Well, that just isn’t the case. It wasn’t the case for Jonah, King David, or for many others, we read about in the Bible.
We’re human and we must guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23.)
I remember realizing there was a disconnect in my prayer life. God brought to my attention an area of hardness towards someone I love. Let me stop here and say this: God is a good God, and only brings things like this to our attention to help, not condemn. Even still, I didn’t like it!
The hardness was causing separation between myself and God and was bleeding out into many areas of my life. It always does. So, after wrestling with God a lot on this issue, I finally cried out for His help.
The conversation between the Lord and me went like this:
Me: God forgive me. I know this isn’t working. I need a new heart like in Ezekiel 36:26, a clean heart like David (Psalm 51:10).
God: What would a new heart look like?
Me: Since it’s new, it wouldn’t have grudges and things that make it hard.
God: You cannot have a new heart and hold onto old grudges and attitudes. The truth is, you want it both ways. A new heart and old ways. I cannot do that for you. I make beautiful things that play together like harmonious music. What you’re asking for is discordant.
Me: Lord, what then? What can I do?
God: Oh child, give me those things. The grudges, the hurts, the anger.
Me: But God, if I give them to You, it’s like they never happened. It’s like saying it’s okay that I was hurt. It let’s those who hurt me off the hook. Also, I don’t want to get stepped on again!
God: What good are those things really doing you?
Me: (long pause) Those things are making me sick, bitter and keeping me from moving closer to You, God.
God: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”(Ezekiel 36:26) Daughter, you must be willing to give me your old heart. It’s an exchange. Give me the old heart with its grudges, stains, and attitudes. Then I’ll give you a new, clean heart. You’ll never find a better bargain.
When you recall the old ways, (and you will) I want you to visualize whatever it is, but behind it, I want you to see with the cross. It will be an exchange: your old way of handling the situation with mine. My way is the cross.
It will take conscious effort, but every time you do this, your heart will grow deeper roots in Me.
So, how’s your heart? Is this something you struggle with too?
God knows I have been there! Very nice share Beckie!
You’re so very welcome!
I know a great deal about this. On our recent trip to Texas, everyone was extremely kind, friendly and hospitable and we were both thinking, “what do they want? Are they really this way or just being fake?” My brother-in-law assured us that people were just genuinely friendly. Our tough and painful years in the wilderness had made us both stronger and harder. We had unconsciously grown cynical in an effort to protect ourselves.
I like what you say about giving it over to God. He wants our hearts to be molded and shaped by him, not unyielding like stone.
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Elihu, thanks for taking time to share how your experience in the “wilderness” had caused cynicism to creep in. Blessings!
Great post! It’s so easy to let our hearts get hard, and often seen as a good thing!
This is exceptional, Beckie! I suspect the struggle is common to many in ministry.
I love this post! I’ve definitely been in the “over-protect a broken heart” category before. Yikes! I am so thankful I made the choice to open my heart to Jesus so He could start the healing process, allowing me to open it to others again.
Thanks, Shelly! I’m glad you opened your heart to Jesus again too. Now we must remain open to Him, Amen!
Great post! Very encouraging — thanks!
Thanks for the encouragement, Beth! Blessings!
Another great installment in your series! Keep them coming! Thanks for linking up with us at the #LMMLinkup.
It is possible to have a happy marriage and live a happy life, while keeping one’s hardened heart, protected. Cynicism runs through my veins and I speak fluent sarcasm… but I’m happy. I have little to no expectations about anything and don’t take life too seriously.. but Im happy and my wife says Im fun too. Guess I’m the outlier….. again.
Beckie, this is so good!! I struggle with self-protection, because of surviving an abusive childhood. When I feel threatened, I build walls to keep myself from getting heart-broken. But I need to remember that I am a child of God. I need to let Him protect me. We can soften our hearts by forgiving others in Jesus’ name, and letting him take our burdens! Thanks for this wonderful reminder! I will share this as soon as I can on The Silver Lining Facebook ministry page at http://www.facebook.com/ angelaslittleattic. My theme this month is COURAGE, and it really does take a lot of courage to trust God to soften a hardened heart. But Jesus is a healer! God can remove pain, bitterness, and and depression; when we allow Him to create in us a new heart! Super blog post, Beckie! 💙
Angela, I’d be honored for you to share this on your FB page. I’m so glad it was helpful. You are so right in saying God can remove, pain, bitterness, and depression. He is the Healer!
Hey! Thanks for this post. I am doing research for a sermon and I came across this post. I seem to have found the same article directly from Carey Neiwhoff website here https://careynieuwhof.com/the-early-warning-signs-of-a-hard-heart/. Good stuff but would be better if you cited your source. Thanks!
Jesse, As you can see, it’s been a few years since I wrote this post. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your recommendation about citing the source which I have done. Frankly, I’m a bit embarrassed I did not in the first place.
May the Lord bless you as you put together your sermon. I pray He uses it in mighty ways.
You don’t know how much I needed to read this. Thank you.