“As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts ….” Hebrews 3:15 (NIV)
This passage is a reference from Psalm 95:7-8. Do we still harden our hearts today?
What does it even mean to “harden our hearts”?
What I understand it to mean is when we allow bitterness to enter into our lives and hearts. When we feel abandoned by God, even when He hasn’t left us, we might be inclined to become angry and bitter. Thus the hardening of our hearts occurs when we turn from anger to a scary emotion of hopelessness and apathy. Perhaps in this swing of emotion and temperament we simply give up. We give up trying, we give up believing and we give up hope.
Beware of the hardened heart!
All of us have feasted on the bitter roots of sorrow, disappointment and anger. Each one of us, if we were honest, have asked the question silently (maybe out loud) “why God?” In that moment of bitter feasting we must recognize a couple of things lest we fall into total despair and experience the totality of a hardened heart.
1. God has not abandoned you!
Your friends, colleagues, organization you work for, neighbors and family may not completely understand. They may not be there for you. In fact some might even let you down or watch you crash and burn (I know positive isn’t it?)…BUT God has not abandoned you! Envision Jesus on the cross. He hung there horrifically dying for the sins of humanity and He cried out “Oh God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus quotes a Psalm of David here (Ps 22:1), yet the human emotion evoked here is very real. Jesus’ humanity is evident, and even in the midst of this He still knows that God hasn’t truly abandoned Him…though it feels like it in His suffering. We may not be hanging on a cross, but we most likely know a thing or two about pain and suffering as well. The pain and suffering we might experience could be physical or emotional and in the midst of these “dark times” we might feel compelled to call out to God and ask Him why He has abandoned us.
Don’t let that emotion or thought cause you to give up hope! Do not allow despair and bitterness to creep in and destroy your faith. God does not abandon His own! He will never leave you or forsake you! (Hebrews 13:5-6) The world around you might try and convince you that He has left you all alone, but don’t buy the lie of the worldly influence. Don’t buy the lie for a moment. Also don’t feel guilty about considering this very human response to pain – Jesus even uttered those words. Pain is not something we wish to keep around us, yet in those moments of severe doubt, depression and pain remember God has NOT abandoned you!
2. SO WHAT?
Do you live with fear? Do you live with pain, discouragement, doubt, sorrow? In the grand scheme of things, these are all fragments of a broken and fallen world in which we live. I don’t mean to paint a picture here of a hopeless world because God created this world so that we could fellowship with Him…there is beauty here and remnants of His initial creation. Yet sin has marred that. Sin and the fallen nature in which we live has brought with it these broken, negative emotions. If we could step back from our problems and our pain for a moment and see Us how God sees us, I believe we could possibly grasp just a glimpse of the love and potential He has for us all. Secondly, God doesn’t want to leave us this way – hopeless and alone; fearful and bound by pain, bitterness and anger. God wants to do a mighty work within us.
We have to be willing to say to our fears and pain – “So what?” When the pain becomes intense, or the depression penetrates us deeply we can look at these blights and say “So what, do you worst, I know in whom I believe!”
The Apostle Paul (while in chains) puts this “So what” principle into perspective for us:
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” -Philippians 1:20-27 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul confronts his potential roots of bitterness, anger and despair by saying “whether I live or die I will conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
So what if I die. So what if I experience heart wrenching disappointment in life. So what if I have to go through this pain right now. So what if I am not accepted by others. So what if others don’t see the potential in me that I know is there…SO WHAT?
If I can keep my perspectives clear and understand that all that I do and all that I say should be for the glory of God despite outside influences, then I can avoid this hardening of my heart. This world can’t shake me. I won’t be defined by others who have no interest in helping me develop and further in my personal holiness. I won’t harbor bitterness towards the Savior because I live in a fallen world and often times it’s screwed up – not me.
I am reminded of the chorus “One thing remains, Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me!”
2 Principles and a pondering conclusion:
God has NOT abandoned you. He is the same today as yesterday and He will never leave us alone!
So what if the world doesn’t recognize you. So what if you face fears, pain and disappointment? God never fails you!
If Paul could say “so what” to death for the cause of Christ, we too can say “so what” to our troubles.
Some might say, “well that’s easier said then done”…of course it is. This will never be easy. This will be the hardest thing we ever have to do, yet if we can rise above these temporal issues we will find the strength to make it through!
Don’t harden your heart! Don’t allow the father of lies to convince you that no one cares. Don’t become consumed with apathy and despair. Don’t feast on those roots of bitterness any longer. Beware of its trappings, cling to these two important principles and wait on God to provide His salve to your life.
-Just a pondering for you today!