Healing a hardened heart

Do you suffer from a hardened heart? Life throws messes at all of us. Some more than others. A hardened heart is a natural defense against the pain of life. We grow calluses and thick hides. I’ve heard it said that to work in ministry one must have the hide of a rhino and the heart of a child. How does that work? How do I even begin to peel back the pain that has formed a protective layer around my heart?

Every hurt brings with it a declaration that I won’t let it happen again, and slowly it becomes my heart that has the hide of a rhino. I sit in the same place as Glynnis Whitwer in her article for Proverbs 31 Ministries, “My Callused Heart Needs Softening.” That protective layer I’ve built up doesn’t just keep me from pain. It also shields me from love. A wall built to keep out the enemy has the unintended consequence of creating a barrier against all that is good, too. The risk of pain is worth the joy of love. 

Jesus commanded us to love. In order to do this, we must fill up our own heart with love. When we barricade against pain we inadvertently barricade against receiving love as well. So where do we begin in healing our hardened hearts?

No one is saying to blindly trust everyone. Once a person proves they can not be trusted, then you should guard your heart. But that doesn’t mean we should build walls that keep everyone out. I can’t prove to you that I am trustworthy unless you offer me the chance. And likewise, if I don’t give you the opportunity, you can never show me that you can be trusted with my heart.

Jesus didn’t ask if you and I were worthy. He loved us anyway, knowing we weren’t. 

It is not only what happens to me that hardens my heart; it is also what I do. Sin makes hearts hard. Overtime it desensitizes our heart, making it difficult to know right from wrong. Pride begins to deceive me into believing that I can protect myself. Pride led to the hardening of Pharaoh’s (Exodus 9:12) and King Nebuchadnezzar’s (Daniel 5:20-21) heart. It was King Solomon who pointed out the folly of pride, that what seems right to man can lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). 

When I feel my heart hardening, the first thing I must do is humbly turn to God. I remind myself that I can not know the intentions of humans and that a hardened heart leads only to more pain down the road. There are times my heart hardens because I don’t even know that I am harboring sin there. Left unattended, a hardened heart takes me down a path void of empathy, and lack of empathy leads to placing my own wants and desires above those of others. That attitude begins to break down relationships and destroy what God has intended for good.

Once I can humbly turn to God and confess that I am struggling, I need to ask for guidance and strength. The book of Psalms gives us a ready-to-go prayer. If you’ve never prayed Scripture, now’s the perfect time to start. When I lack the words, I go to this psalmist’s prayer and repeat it as my own:

“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; see for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong — then guide me on the road to eternal life” (Psalm 139:23-24 MSG).

I don’t stop at prayer. When I feel my walls going up, when I feel my heart hardening toward others, I seek out opportunities that will stretch and grow me. And make a commitment to get uncomfortable. 

Have you made God the God of your heart? No matter what you are facing, Jesus can help you find hope, healing and redemption. Take the next step and watch Shattered as Nicole Golden shares her story and how Jesus has given her hope.