Keep your heart with all diligence!
From the moment I got saved I’ve been obsessed with the heart. I continuously think about what it means to have a clean and pure heart and I’m always trying to find ways to ensure that my heart is protected from festering filth. My understanding that God searches the heart of men has increased my awareness of my own heart and instilled in me a genuine desire to keep the source of my actions as pure as possible.
With that being said, you’d understand why I appreciate the advise given in Proverbs 4:23
Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
I have not begun to unravel the depths and mysteries of this verse but I suspect God will continue to reveal it’s true meaning to me over time. For now though, I’d like to share some ways I’ve learned to keep my heart guarded when dealing with painful or disappointing situations.
The more I interact with people who disappoint me is the more I realise that their actions not only affect my mood and my view of them, but it affects my heart. The more upset I become when I’m hurt by the words or actions of others is the easier it is to infect my heart. In fact if I were to be blatantly honest with myself, I’d admit that when I’m not careful, I allow things to fester unnecessarily, causing an ugly bitterness to develop that wasn’t there before and then I have to take deliberate measures to get back to a place where I can genuinely love that person again.
The danger I’ve found in my own behaviour is my ability to tell myself that I’ve let things go and believe those words without truly examining the truth of my statement. In the past I’d simply say to myself that I’m fine and never go through the process of feeling hurt and angry and then finding practical ways to forgive and move on. Recently though, I’ve found that praying for people whom I feel have wronged me and blessing God for creating them has helped me to keep my heart pure. When I acknowledge that the person who’s done me wrong is also a child of God, whom he loves and cares for then my perspective shifts. I begin to honour God for who they are to Him, and for what He is doing in their lives and so I shift my thinking. That prayer impacts my heart and helps me to forgive and love people in spite of our misunderstandings and disagreements.
Another way I’ve learned to keep my heart is by being deliberate in having meaningful conversation with them even while I’m hurting. This one is a bit tough to do at first but once I let go of my ego and start speaking I find it becomes easier to carry the conversation forward. The key, I believe, to being successful in this, is to remember that our lives should please God. That having this conversation is not about me feeling good or better, but it’s about honouring God and being a good example so His name would be glorified. Most times I find that having a lighter conversation that isn’t directly related to the problem I’m facing with the person helps with my frame of mind and makes it easier to raise the issue I’m having in a way that facilitates healing conversations. This also helps in changing my perception of people in my mind. Once my mind is changed, then my actions change and my heart is void of all malice against that person.
Sometimes though, in spite of having these methods I still find myself holding on to negative words and situations much longer than I intend to. I sometimes refuse to forgive others because I feel a justified sense of satisfaction when I can look at them and say they’ve done me wrong and highlight the flaws of their character. Sometimes when I think about some people I still only see the wrong they did to me, I still get annoyed or hurt when I think of words they said or things they did to me and I’m still not open to genuinely connecting with those people on any level – all because I choose not to be honest about the negative feelings I’m harbouring against them in my heart.
Recently though, I’ve started examining my flaws and I’ve begun to truly appreciate that we all have things in us that God is working on. I’m not perfect by any stretch and if God can forgive me for the many times I’ve messed up and the many times I’m going to mess up, then I can forgive people that have done wrong against me. Holding a grudge feeds a desire to be right and righteous, but the bible uses the analogy that our righteousness are like filthy rags before God.
I’ve come to realise that one of the main keys to keeping my heart in diligence is to always aim to please God. Not just in my ways but in my thoughts as well. A heart that is set on pleasing God will remain guarded and will not be easily affected by the poison of this world. I know that there is a lot more to be understood and applied from Proverbs 4:23 but this is what I have to offer on the subject for now.
What other insights did you get from this verse?