The Guarded Heart

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Our heart – an organ that pumps out blood and sustains our lives, yet we ascribe to the heart the ability to feel or to choose righteousness.  The word, “libbecha” (Hebrew for heart) in the Scripture above is translated as pertaining to that “inner man, mind, will or heart” (Strong’s).  Our soul cannot be found on any anatomical chart, though it is evident in our mind. Much like the phrase, “the very heart of a matter”, refers to the main point of something, so the very heart of a person is the inner core of that individual.  What defines the person is based on their actions or decisions which are in accordance with their convictions.

So what does it mean to guard our heart?  Ironically, guarding our heart, which is the embodiment of our emotions, includes taking captive emotions that are not biblical.  Protecting oneself from sinful tendencies or temptations is another practical application, but what is interesting to me is that what flows from the heart – issues of life.  What are these issues?

Jealousy, the poison of bitterness, hurt, pain, feelings of abandonment, insecurity, betrayal, and the list goes on and on. Drama is a fact of life, but guarding our heart is applying God’s word when drama happens.  Our feelings cannot go unchecked – even if they feel so authentic and accurate.  We cannot perfectly judge another person’s heart, either.  Actions can be an indicator, but people can also respond out of their hurt and we can presume falsely.

Recently, the LORD showed me another application of this verse.  Sometimes when we have been so wounded by others, we can shut down and build walls.  We just don’t want to be hurt again.  We can hide under the Scripture that says we are to guard our hearts, but ultimately this hiding is not safety at all when we use it to shut people out.  Locked up in our hurt, we begin to lose the capacity to show our feelings and emotions.

So how do we handle people who have harmed us?  Common sense wisdom dictates that some people have to have limited access or no access to you, but faith in the living God sets us free to trust Him that He will enable us to overcome any hurt that lies down the road.  Guarding our hearts does not have to equate to keeping our love from others. Boundaries can be applied in faith, and free us to reach out and love others with the love of Christ.  He’s got our back.

Lord, help us to guard our hearts from ungodly influences but to love the ungodly and recognize our need of You, too.

Thoughtful Thursday: Guarding our way

Proverbs 21:16, 23 – The one who wanders from the way of wisdom will end up in the company of the departed.  23  The one who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his life from troubles.

Proverbs 22:3,5 – A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself, but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.  5  Thorns and snares are in the path of the perverse, but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.”

Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.

 

Perhaps it is not so thoughtful to post a day late, but you were on my mind.  I could not let my favorite day of posting pass me by – I love the book of Proverbs!  So, despite a day busier than days oughta be, here is my post on Proverbs.

The spirit of every human being longs to be known – longs to find a safe haven of acceptance.  We long to rest from the need of having to prove ourselves yet again to anyone else, or having to be guarded . . . yet we dare not let our guard down and rest from this aspect of our walk with God in our relentless pursuit of being more like Him.

When I first came to know the LORD, so many things that fall short of the glory of God became evident in my character.  It was humbling and overwhelming, but exciting!  Grateful that I could now see these burdens in my life and submit to God to change me, walking with God was an adventure.  But time marches on and we forget what we were saved from.  We forget the need to separate ourselves from things in this world that can pull us away.  We take for granted the high price of our salvation and perhaps consider our new faith impenetrable.  Slowly we begin to entrust our walk to others to define our boundaries.

Guarding our way seems old fashioned, prudish even.  There is a mentality today that says we should not be guarded, for that might appear legalistic or judgmental.  Living a guarded life differs from a cookie cutter philosophy which mandates that everyone be the same so all are comfortable.  Is such a mentality biblical?  You decide.  What do the Scriptures above mean by guarding our way?  Assuredly, it is not having a personal bodyguard and living in a state of paranoia, but it is living carefully.  You risk-takers out there are shutting me off right now, but hang in there.  It means there is a filter I run my thoughts and my actions through.  I cannot rest from seeking diligently to know that God is pleased with my current course, or dare to pridefully assume that just because I have in the past walked rightly with God that I do not need to examine myself afresh each day.

It is not popular to guard ourselves.  Guarding means I do not seek to live in a way to please man.  It means I do not just blindly trust others because I do not want to create waves.  It also means in humility that I do not think my own opinion is more weighty than others, or my way is right because it has been in the past – but that I carefully submit all to God before trudging ahead.

There was a very difficult season in my life in which Proverbs 22:3 was driven home.  I had trusted someone so implicitly that when I saw evidence that their character was not what they had put forth as an image, I could not believe it and for a moment thought I did not have a right to discern whether that person should hold the same place in my life.  They were sorry for their grievous sin that had crushed my world.  It was not popular by some to walk in wisdom and guard my way, which might appear judgmental and unforgiving.  But in that moment of revelation, God in His mercy helped me to see that forgiveness did not mean allowing someone to wield control in my life who had abused me and loved ones.  They had proven by their actions that they were not trustworthy – in fact, I would suffer if I continued to trust their intentions rather than their actions.  Just because someone claims with their mouth that they are godly in a moment of self righteousness, does not mean I should blindly accept it.

In this moment you might feel like ultimately we would all not be able to have any relationships if we guard ourselves from anyone who causes us pain.  That would be a wrong extreme response and I confess I have been there. We need to be vulnerable to one another but strike a balance of also guarding our way.  It is healthy to do so and unhealthy to be codependent and allow someone power to go unchecked in your life.  It is, in fact, loving one another to help us see our blind spots, versus flattery which placates the weaknesses we see in one another.  Guarding our way and having convictions from the LORD is far different from legalism which imposes its personal convictions on others.  We must guard the way God has set before us and be flexible enough to believe He might have a completely different plan for someone else, not to be judged by us.

Christ made himself vulnerable to humans by being born as a helpless babe, yet in John 2:23 it says “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.”  No one is without the need to be examined.  We are weak and cannot put confidence in our own flesh.  This does not mean we have to by hyper-analytical, rather open and teachable to correction and also discerning of all that is around us.  Like the Bereans, we should test the word shared with us, not to judge and condemn, but to guard and ensure our path is still the narrow one, still headed due north.  The stakes are too high to naively believe someone else is guarding our way and in a moment of fatigue put down our responsibility to do so.  It is not wrong or mean to place boundaries for yourself that keep you safe and mentally healthy.  Your very life and walk with God depend on it.

Lord, we are not capable of seeing all the dangers to our soul.  Help us to guard our way and to do so in humility.  May we not judge others or consider ourselves better, but only be filled with gratitude that you reveal these things to us.

Talk About It

talk about it

Psalm 19:14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Proverbs 13:3 The one who guards his words guards his life, but whoever is talkative will come to ruin

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Psalm 34:13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lip

James 3:2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

Proverbs 15:23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

I awoke this morning with a strong sense – I need Him! Before I speak, before I move, I need Him to form my thoughts and words. Sometimes I forget what it was like to be unsaved and can get lulled into religiosity or the Christian culture. I can forget how important living every day, every moment, every breath in subjection to His will is. Even something as seemingly small as words.

We live in the information age and social media is booming. The written word has become increasingly more significant, but the word from our mouths in everyday life is still important.

The Bible has a lot to say about words. We are to be His mouthpiece . . . now that is humbling. I marvel at God’s patience with me and all mankind at how futile our thoughts, words and ways can be. Everything good that we have – wisdom, knowledge and possessions – He gave to us, but we can begin to think they are ours. This is further complicated by the evil that lingers and infiltrates our thoughts. If we do not recognize and reject haughty, selfish or envious thoughts as being evil, we become apathetic at guarding the gate over our mouth. We become blind to the significance of our words and can become a tool of the enemy, wielding words harmfully.

Words and thoughts fly out so fast it can be difficult to retrain them. But there is hope if I put no confidence in the flesh and cling to His words more than my own.
If I cry out to God and recognize my need for God to help me, therein lies victory. Not perfection, but something better – a life yielded to God in word and deed that will bear lasting fruit. How amazing to speak what God would have us to speak rather than words which penetrate the air for a moment with no lasting value?

Speak words that bring life today. Someone you encounter might really need to hear them.

Lord, as we go about this precious gift of life you have given, may we not utter idle words or words that could harm you or others around us. Help us to be aware of thoughts and words that displease you and to be gentle and kind, reflecting your glory in a world filled with so many words destroying hope.