What’s in your heart? You may respond literally and say ‘blood and valves’, or you may respond more romantically with ‘love.’ We often think of our hearts as the emotion center of our being – in this sense the heart is the headquarters of our desires and emotional need. A content heart, or one full of ‘love,’ has its desires met. I feel loved when I’m accepted without condition, liked freely, appreciated and respected by those closest to me.
But what happens when these people do not meet my needs? I’ll tell you what my first responses are… criticism, a tone of disappointment, withholding of affection – in essence, I punish those who do not fulfill my desires. My behavior creates a cycle of discontent in our home. Multiply this cycle by the number in your household and the picture isn’t pretty – hurt people hurting others.
So what can be said about my heart then? Is is truly full of love, or self-love?
Jesus speaks clearly about our hearts in Mark 7:20-23 when he says,
For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside…’
In this, our inherited natural state, we are enemies of God and our hearts are selfish and proud. We are stuck in a cycle of anger, frustration, and discontent crying out with our words and actions for love. What then is the solution? Can our hearts be filled with something else? Yes! That’s the good news.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates his own love toward us in this, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us…when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him (God) through the death of his Son (Jesus)… (Romans 5:6,8,10).
Upon receiving the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, we receive his goodness for our selfishness, he paid the cost to satisfy God’s rightful judgement toward us, and we have peace with God and access by faith into his grace (unmerited favor) in which we then stand (Romans 5:1-4). There is then hope for us in the present and a future hope of approval from God when we stand before him face to face. This kind of hope is not wishful thinking.
How can I be sure of this? Because I have experienced the difference in my life. Romans 5:5 says my hope will not be disappointed because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Evidence of what now fills my heart is demonstrated in my responses.
God’s love is patient and kind, generous and gentle, not envious, not boastful, but always trusts, and rejoices in the truth. It is not easily angered or rude, but considerate and gracious. (I Corinthians 13) This kind of love has been poured into my heart.
Before I received this love from God, I could not control my rage. I said hateful things to those who loved me most. Now, I am able (please note this word-choice) to respond differently. Because of the love I received, the mercy I have been shown, the patience of God toward me, I can respond to others with compassion, mercy and love.
A changed heart is the beginning of a changed life. In the process of trusting God to meet my needs, I can freely love others with God’s kind of love – the selfless kind. I cannot produce it on my own. It is the result of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me – the fruit of the Spirit. I still struggle with selfish desires, but the disappointment of them causes me to reflect on what I have received before I respond. From a grateful heart, I break the cycle of hurt with forgiveness.
So, what’s in your heart? If you can’t answer the question, consider what spills out of your mouth or fills your thoughts when your desires are frustrated or when people disappoint you.
From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks…Luke 6:45