“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” Lamentations 3:41
This is a both a strong admonition and a lovely image from the prophet Jeremiah, an exhortation to the children of Israel to turn back to God and worship Him alone.
Heart in hands. An offering. A gift to God of intense awareness and concentration and dependence only on Him.
There is much focus these days on how to have a healthy heart. Doctors (and advertisers) admonish us to mend our ways, add and/or cast aside habits that will result in a strong, efficient heart.
These guidelines are equally effective in developing and maintaining a strong spiritual heart.
Don’t clog your arteries.
How often we restrict blood flow to our spiritual hearts (meaning our minds, of course) by clogging our arteries with damaging thoughts.
Perhaps the No. 1 culprit is bitterness. Rooted in unforgiveness and fostering a passion to “get even,” bitterness—a constant replaying and revisiting some offense against us, whether intentional or not—clogs our arteries and clouds our thinking.
That premiere passage on how to manage our minds, Philippians 4: 8, includes the cure. When the apostle Paul admonished the Philippians on how to think, he included: “Whatsoever things are lovely.”
How many thoughts have coursed through your mind, even over the last 24 hours, that could in no way be characterized as lovely?
Ephesians 4:31. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice.
Bitter can be defined as: sharp, harsh, unpleasant, or cutting, severe, cold, expressing grief, pain or misery.
Bitter is also: a turn of a cable around bitts. A bitt is a strong wooden or metal post on a ship’s deck to which ropes or cables are attached.
Consider that image: how many times have your dark thoughts turned and wrapped around and around an old sin or offense against you, tightening your soul, constricting your mind, as our grandparents used to say, “turning you every way but loose”?
This is why the book of Hebrews refers to the “root of bitterness” as springing up and troubling us. Hebrews 12: 15
If you are bitter today, consider those damaging thoughts, that constant reliving of some offense, is choking you, clogging your spiritual arteries.
Seek help from the Scriptures or from some trusted individual in your life. Commit that pain daily to the Lord and discipline your mind not to continue to relive past offenses.
Think on things that are lovely. That person who occupies all your thoughts—concentrate on what is good about him or her.
Tear down the throne you have erected in your heart where that person sits and reigns over the kingdom of your mind.
Keep your heart pumping.
This means, of course, that practice we sometimes shy away from—exercise.
These days exercise and all that accompanies that good habit—equipment, special clothes, shoes, protective gear—are a multi-million dollar industry.
The exercise for our spiritual heart is simple. A one word solution.
The hard work of love. To keep loving when your love is unwanted. To love the unlovely. To love the stranger you have never met. To love your neighbor you have.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,” Jesus said, “that ye have love one to another.” John 13:34-35
Keep in mind Jesus said this to His disciples, a scrappy bunch who were often at odds with one another.
Nothing will exercise your heart like a strong, persistent, often rebuffed, never conquered love.
Lack of stress.
Lower your blood pressure.
I Peter 5:7. Casting all your care on Him, for He careth for you.
Much of our stress is self-induced. And often, as Solomon said, “It is the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Song of Solomon 2:15
Those little nagging irritations, never ceasing responsibilities that face us every morning, piled one on top of another, can often keep us running on fumes.
Here are some reminders about that mountain of work and responsibility facing you:
Things take time. Life is daily. And its requirements will greet you every morning. Pay attention to one task at a time. Accomplish the hardest chore first. Set reasonable goals. Take care of one task today. Realize you are not going to accomplish all that is needed. Some things must wait till tomorrow.
Fix one little irritation. Often a “small thing,” ever-present can come to represent all that is “wrong.” Pay attention to that irritation.
If you need to lose weight and don’t know where to start, give up one food you know you should.
If there is something broken in your house—a loose drawer handle, a missing button—take time to stop and repair that one problem.
If you are surrounded with clutter, take time to clean out one drawer.
You will be surprised how conquering one challenge can empower you to feel accomplished and encourage you to do more.
Start fresh every day.
Do not meet each new dawn, convinced today will be “just like yesterday.”
The mercies of God are new every morning. Interestingly enough, this truth also comes from Lamentations 3. Verses 22-23. He gives you a clean slate every day. Do the same for yourself. And do the same for the people you love. Don’t bring yesterday’s misunderstandings, quarrels, offenses into this new day. Start over.
How to start over each day?
See Items 1 and 2. Lay aside bitterness and replace it with love.