In this verse, we are told to guard our heart above all else. The Hebrew word for guard here is Natsar which means to keep, guard, protect, maintain, observe, behold, inspect, or preserve. This is a picture of setting a guard over the heart to protect and tend from both external and internal threats. The problem for me, is I’m not a very good guard. I focus on the wrong things. I need help identifying and dealing with the threats my heart faces. Like David, I need God’s help with the inside of my heart…
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
I need God’s help to see the things growing in my heart. My heart, like all of creation is bent away from God, and sin is woven completely into the core of who I am. God has provided help in His Spirit, which indwells the hearts of believers and His Word which is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). Together the Spirit of God and the Word of God are my best defense against the sin in my own heart. It is the Spirit’s job to convict us of sin (John 16:8-11) and our job to confess our sin (1 John 1:9). I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent too much of my life trying to control the sin in my life and not enough time confessing and trusting God to cleanse me from all unrighteousness…
One of the biggest threats my heart faces is life itself. My heart is battered and bruised by both the everyday wear and tear of living in this world and intermittent trauma of death, sickness, and loss. Maybe, like me, you are anxious and afraid for the safety of those you love, worried about the instability of world events, and nervous about what often feels like threats from every side. It is our mortality and our vulnerability to pain and loss that threaten to overwhelm. I need His refuge when life is difficult and overwhelming…
In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your Righteousness deliver me.
Inline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
So, how do I diligently guard/keep my heart as the scripture commands? In my life, I have become better and better at guarding my heart. Mostly out of necessity. When I was younger, my heart was often battered by the opinions of others, I was open and exposed to anyone who passed my way. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to make my heart fit into a pattern I thought was presentable and acceptable. My heart was vulnerable to both the lashes of the world around me and to the my own fear and insecurity. I was a cruel guard to my own heart, pushing and prodding the parts that didn’t fit into my own idea of what I should look like and looking for the world around me to tell me that I was okay. It was God’s Word that provided a new way of seeing my heart.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit met together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so complex! Your workmanship is marvelous- how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had past. Psalm 139:13-16
My heart is difficult. I am complicated and contradictory. One minute I long to serve and spend my life generously and the next I am pouting in the corner because I didn’t get my way. My motives are conflicted and difficult to source… am I serving so that people love me? Out of obligation or tradition? Out of my desire to be seen as someone who gives? I get angry and vindictive one minute and petty and vain the next. My heart is a wild thing filled with a mixture of good and evil desires. And so is yours.
I wanted so bad for my heart to be good. Now, I simply want to be true. I am a mixture, and I bring that whole complicated mess to the Savior who loves me, and there in the security of that relationship I find a safe place for my wild heart. I don’t have to pretend to be something I am not. I can simply bring the wildness to the one who made me. He knows… He knows.
In some ways, keeping my heart has taken on new meaning for me. I will honor my own heart, as I would honor yours. I will not reject and deny the sin, the pain, the shame, and the vulnerability of my heart, instead I will acknowledge it and invite Jesus into the mess. I will also honor the truth of my heart’s experience. It has been brutalized by life (and others) and survived by grace. He has built resilience and brought healing to my heart. This gives me tenderness to those who are hurting. There is also strength there, born of difficulty and faith that can be offered to those who need some courage.
My heart is a wild thing, it is a complicated mixture that only my God can clearly see. His Word and His Spirit are at work in my inmost life, tending and keeping my hearts. He is the only one able to manage my heart… so I let Him in. I tell the truth about me. I let Him love me, just as I am. There is no safer place to be…
When my son Brian was about eight years old, I knelt on the floor to pray with him and tuck him in to bed. He said, “I wanted to punch Don today.” I touched his face and looked into his dark eyes and said, “no, that’s not nice. You don’t want to punch Don, he’s your friend.” The next night, Brian said, “I wanted to punch Don today.” I pushed the hair away from his face and said, “no, that’s not nice. You don’t want to punch Don, he’s your friend.” The third night, Brian said, “I wanted to punch Don today.” A lightbulb went on in my heart, “Do you mean that you were angry and wanted to punch Don today, but you didn’t?” “Yes, Momma,” he replied. “Good job, Brian! I’m so proud of you.”
As I walked away from that interaction, I realized that I too had feelings that needed to be expressed. Thoughts that weren’t nice. A heart that needed to be heard and tended by someone who loved me.
What is growing in your heart today that you need to acknowledge? What are you denying about your heart that you really need to confess and find help to manage?