Life can be hard. The bumps and bruises we get as a toddler are nothing compared to the emotional distress of rejection in middle school. And the painful episodes in middle school don’t compare to the true heartbreak we often encounter as young adults. The ancient Hebrews knew that our heart is more than a pump to distribute oxygen- it is the center of our emotions, perceptions, and self-worth. In a fallen world, we say it can be hurt and even broken. We experience self-doubt, insecurity, rejection and loss. And it ain’t easy.
The brunt of human experience often wounds us, piercing our hearts and causing us to cover them with scar tissue that develops into hardened armor. As Paul Simon once put it, “I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island… And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.” His plaintive song in the 60’s was a generational cry against pain and rejection.
Hard hearts turn us into the Spiritual Flintstones, blocking not only pain but empathy as well. Not only do we become less sensitive to others, but we become desensitized to God and what He’s about. It even reaches the point where we strut about being proud of our emotional toughness. Apparently this dynamic existed all the way back in Zechariah’s day, and the Lord called him to preach about it.
“And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint…” (Zechariah 7:8-12, NIV)
The Lord tells us through Zechariah to “Show mercy and compassion to one another…” These verses outline some universal values that God seems to think are important. And just from driving around in Dallas traffic, I’d have to say that mercy and compassion are in pretty short supply. (And that’s just in MY car; from the way many others drive, I don’t think there’s much mercy or compassion radiating from THEIR cars, either! Hard hearts are everywhere!)
The Lord encourages us to be just, to drive considerately, to help those who are less fortunate, and to refrain from plotting evil against each other. These seem like pretty simple things to do, but how well do we do them? Encountering justice and consideration in our culture is an exception rather than the rule.
What Happens When Hearts are Hardened?
Besides encouraging us to pay attention to the Lord’s values, Zechariah also says there are results that come from NOT paying attention, from stubbornly turning our backs on God, and for refusing to listen to Him: our hearts can become as hard as flint. What do you suppose he meant by that? Hardened hearts become shielded from intimacy and they block themselves off from being vulnerable or open. Hard hearts have no mercy or compassion, no love, and no life. It makes sense that if God is love, and we shield ourselves from Him, then it follows that our hearts will not reflect His attributes and character.
But stop for a minute and look at that another way: if you want to have a strong, vibrant, living heart, then pay attention to God; get face to face with Him; be teachable; and listen for His truth. Discover what His values are and try to live by them. The fastest and surest way to change the culture around you is to change the one within you. Change your heart, and change the world…
Ain’t no Feeling in Those Hard Hearts
Administer true justice, and show mercy to your brother;
Treat others with respect, and have compassion towards each other.
If you persist with selfish pride to make it on your own,
Don’t be surprised to find your hardened heart has turned to stone.
A hardened heart, the Bible says, is something you can CHOOSE:
Just don’t forget it may be more than feelings that you lose.
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