At different points over the years, I’ve felt my heart become hard.
I stop feeling what I should feel. I stop caring the way I should care. I stop experiencing the highs and lows the way I should.
That’s not a great way to live. And it’s not the way you were designed to live.
So if you find yourself with a flattened or faltering heart, what do you do to get it back?
Here are five ways I have learned to bring new life to a heart that’s grown hard:
1. Push past your feelings. Sure, there are seasons where what’s supposed to be meaningful feels mechanical. Do it anyway. Go to work. Kiss your spouse. Hang out with your kids. Read your bible. Pray (even if you feel you’re talking to the ceiling). Just because you don’t feel like it’s real doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Eventually, your emotions will catch up to your obedience.
2. Get some rest. Fatigue and overwork can combine to numb your heart. Sometimes I find my heart grows hard because I’m not resting. Get eight hours sleep for a week. Take a day off and do something you love – like going on a hike, exploring a city or reading a great book. Even God took a Sabbath. If you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.
3. Don’t over-personalize your failures and successes. My kids remind me all the time that I can take things too personally. They’re right. If you church or organization is in a season of incredible growth, it might not be because you’re so awesome. And if it’s sputtering, it might not be because your so incompetent. Actually, a lot of the issues in your church might not have much to do with your church anyway, as I outlined in this post.
4. Decide to trust – again. This one is huge. Because most of us are once-bitten, twice-shy, it’s so important to consciously re-engage your heart and trust people again. Someone may have hurt you, but not everyone will. Yes, you will be vulnerable, but trust again. God did. And still does. Jesus’ arms were wide open when he died, despite the pain of the wounds and the scars.
5. Fight isolation. Community is the problem for most of us (it’s hard to get hurt all by yourself). But community is also the solution. You will want to be alone. Don’t. Solitude is used by God. Isolation is used by the enemy. Talk to God. And talk to a friend. Find a mentor. Process privately while leading publicly. And yes, sometimes go see a counselor. My very first trip to a counselor over ten years ago happened because I realized my heart had gone hard. We were coming out of a very difficult time as a church (we were in transition). His help was providential. And it’s one of the reasons my heart still beats and can still leap and soar today.
That’s what I’ve found helpful. What about you? Please tell me, what’s one or two things you’ve done to bring new life to your heart when it’s become hardened?