This is part three of a three part trilogy on the kind of "trash" known as inner conflict or unresolved heart issues. Part One (Taking Out the Trash) discussed some of the ways inner pain can create unhealthy patterns of thinking and tolerating destructive behaviors. In Part Two (Trash Leads to Crash) I show how these patterns develop into diseases that destroy our quality of life, and if not dealt with, can lead to disastrous cancer and death. This article shows how to overcome and live in freedom as a Christian.
We looked at the example of the ancient King David in the Bible. This godly man became a victim of trash thoughts and actions to the point of also victimizing others around him. Psalm 51 records some of his response when he finally came to his senses so-to-speak. Here is what David remembered about God, "Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6). His heart of repentance allowed for redemption, even though some consequences had a high cost. Instead of only feeling sorry for himself (remorse), he demonstrated sorrow for the grief he had caused his victims and God himself (repentance). His offenses were great, but he recognized and trusted in the greater grace of God to execute mercy and justice to deal with the trash. The way this occurred in David's life warrants a closer look than this article can provide.
It seems somewhat ironic that the same inner person David allowed to become twisted toward evil, is the same inner person who became vulnerable to correction and straight living. To experience the glad center of our being (peace, joy, satisfaction), we must learn to manage the risks and vulnerability of the sad center of our being (shame, guilt, and dissatisfaction). Correcting "heart issues" cannot be done by denying they exist, minimizing their magnitude, or placing the blame somewhere else. Shutting down your heart to the potential for "sad," will also shut down any possibilities of "glad." Another way to see this is to recognize that life brings both sad and glad experiences. There is no either/ or option, but both/ and is guaranteed.
Therefore, moving forward in our journey of life, whether a past experience becomes trash or treasure, is (in large measure), governed by how we decide to respond to it. We become what we focus on. What we think, is who we become. Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted to say, "The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be." This is true, at least in part, because each person, individually, is the ONLY person who can take complete charge of his thoughts to forge positive change.
The vulnerability of our human condition requires us to make an important distinction between guilt and shame. Brene Brown, researcher at University of Texas, writes and speaks extensively on the topic of shame. She points out that guilt involves feelings about what people DO, while shame involves feelings about who people ARE. Guilt convicts a person of their conduct, while shame condemns the person. When we confuse guilt and shame, we are unable to maintain our self-worth in the face of admitting guilt for wrong actions. If we think shamefully of ourselves as a worthless, irreparable, unredeemable person, as noted above, we will surely set ourselves up to become that kind of person. If we think unashamedly of ourselves as a worthy person capable of repairable and redeemable actions, we can position ourselves for success. Since our natural human tendency is to think negatively (shamefully) of ourselves, it requires effort to transform our thinking patterns away from shame-based responses. Brene Brown also points out the error of equating vulnerability with weakness. Making your heart vulnerable to things outside your comfort zone, is a sign of maturity, not weakness. When you can acknowledge and face your personal susceptibility to shame-based thinking, you become a stronger person. I recommend Dr. Brown's books on the topic of shame to gain more insight as to how this works.
The heart of mankind can be the source of mischievous desires and bad judgment, but at the same time, it is also the source of genuine satisfaction and fulfillment. King David's example showed us how to overcome shame (feelings of worthlessness) to find the strength to face his guilt (sinful behavior). Although anxiety and rest come from the same inner center of being, David fought through his fear and anxiety, so that the treasure of rest and peace of mind could be attained. Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). A Christian perspective of treasure begins with a desire to honor God with our thoughts and actions. The more obstacles (trash) we can remove from our hearts the more healed and Christ-like we can become, and thus the more fulfilled and purposeful we can live.
A book that greatly helped me early in my personal healing journey is called The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You by James Friesen, PhD, et.al. The authors write the following about how the heart, soul, and mind work together,
"When the Word of the Lord tells us to love God with our ”heart, soul, and mind” (Matthew 22:37), that includes our whole self. The heart is your eyes for seeing spiritual reality (Ecclesiastes 11:9); literally, the heart is the ”eyes and ears that know God.” The heart is where understanding resides, and is the origin of spiritual discernment. It is particularly influential in shaping a person’s sense of spiritual identity. ”Living from the heart Jesus gave you” is a term that brings identity together with the spiritual reality of who we are. It is a term that says God designed each of us to be a particular kind of person, with characteristics uniquely our own. When we are living from the heart Jesus gave us, we are being the persons He specifically designed. Living this way integrates the soul, where the feelings are, and the mind, where the thinking takes place.
In talking about our hearts, we need to be careful to note that the heart is not the emotions. Living from our hearts is not simply doing what our feelings tell us. That would be folly. Living from our hearts means that there is an inner directive that, if governed by the Spirit of God, keeps us on a path that is spiritually attuned to who we are and how God is leading. When our hearts are focused on God, we see who we are and know what we are to be doing. The Word of God reminds us that we all had desperately sick hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and we all need God to heal them. The heart from Jesus is a reborn heart, a heart where He resides. There are many references to a transformed heart throughout scripture. One passage is in the book of Ephesians, where the apostle Paul prays for the new believers in the Ephesian church. ”I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). God wants to live in our hearts. When He is there we experience the freedom and power to be the persons He created us to be" (Friesen, et.al. 1999).
Tolerating trash in our lives creates a divided heart, invites pests as guests, and allows our enemy to steal the abundance of life that Jesus came to give us (see John 10:10). However, our hearts can be transformed into treasure, like the process of refining gold into a treasure of treasures. Living with an undivided center of identity and integrity is the essence of wholeness. Wholeness of heart is a treasure worth sacrificing for. It can produce advantages such as preparing for future unannounced storms of life, simplifying and avoiding further complications in relationship, and living an overall healthier and higher quality of existence. Why would we settle for anything less?
The purest gold of all is the relationship we can enjoy with Father God. Our tendency to be defeated by the shame and guilt in our heart is caused by our sin nature. Jesus is our Savior from this vulnerable condition. When we accept this treasure in our heart, we are once again restored to living in the presence of Almighy God. We can experience God as Father, and enjoy all the benefits of sonship (or daughtership) with him.
And remember what made the greatest impact on King David's heart to push it in a different direction? When he realized the One he offended the most by his sinful actions was God Himself. Relationship with God was his ultimate treasure that he lost. We too offend God when we offend (mistreat, sin against) other people. It offends God when we critically judge, prejudge, or misjudge a fellow human being (when they fail to meet our expectations or needs). These offenses (committed by ourselves or others) have been forgiven by Jesus as our Refuge. We need only to turn offenses over to him for his forgiveness (see John 20:21-23). The Psalms (many written by David) express this Refuge theme again and again. That's one reason I make the Psalms part of my daily reading, and I encourage you to do the same.
I am reminded of a Neil Young 1970's hit song called Heart of Gold. which says, "I want to live, I want to give, I've been a miner for a heart of gold. .... Keep me searchin' for a heart of gold ..." What if we each sing that song about ourselves? I think our world could be a much better place if each of us could turn the search inward before searching outward. Can we really know what we're searching for, if we haven't found it first within? A final question, "Am I willing to make my heart a "heart of gold," so that "miners" (other people) can discover the gold?" Go for the gold! And make the most of the refining process.
Disclaimer: I realize there may be a small percentage of people who read this who have tried as hard as they can to choose the better way, but feel, for whatever reason, they are unable to do it. Please do not feel condemned for trying and failing. Seek help from a trusted friend or counselor, and remember that human flesh may be weak, but God is strong. God only asks of us what he knows we can handle.
Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at http://bluerockbnb.com
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry