This morning I began thinking about what it means to guard your heart. I hear it all the time, I’ve seen it in God’s Word, I know it’s what is expected of me, and I’ve been told that men have something to do with it. But I have to admit I’m just as clueless about what guarding my heart means as I am clueless about what the heck is going on in Lost.
So I did what I do every now and then when I want to get a better understanding of something God has said. I went back to the roots. I looked up the Hebrew translation of “heart” from Proverbs 4:23 (above all else, guard your heart), and what I found was enough to get me thinking long and deep.
heart = inner man, mind, will, understanding, thinking, resolution, determination, a seat of appetites, a seat of emotions and passions, a seat of courage
My heart is complex. I knew that already. And God must know it, too, because He sees it better than anyone.
But I didn’t know guarding your heart could have so many connotations. If my heart is all these things: understanding, resolution, emotion, passion, courage… then how can I guard each of them? Apparently protecting this complex heart of mine means a lot more than what this verse in Proverbs first lets on.
For so long I thought guarding your heart just meant protecting things from coming in. Now I see it also means protecting some things from coming out.
I say this because it’s so obvious how my heart has been very much at play in my relationships. After all, my heart is where love is found, like my love for Grant (forgive me for putting so much emphasis on my relationship with Grant, but this is where I’ve been doing a lot of learning and growth this past year). Many miscommunications, disagreements, and fights that I have with Grant are stemmed from something inside of one or both of our hearts. For me, it’s usually fear, insecurity, fleshly passion, or lies.
If I’m not guarding my heart, those things can come spewing out and hurt him. They have many times. I realize now that satan wants my heart to be unguarded because it gives me the opportunity to throw this crap up all over Grant (which he surely doesn’t need or enjoy). Satan wants me to feel like “anything goes,” like it doesn’t matter what I feel or how wrong I may be; I HAVE to act on them and force them onto the poor guy sitting across from me. I let those suckers control me and make way into my relationship. This makes the enemy very happy. After all, his goals are always to steal, kill, and destroy.
The only time these harmful things inside of me are rightfully coming out is when they’re being laid before God for him to deal with. My deep insecurities do not benefit Grant. I don’t want them spilling out before him because they only bring destruction to us. And Grant is not and never can be the true healer of my wounds. That doesn’t mean just letting them stay there and hiding what is really going on, though. I MUST bring my deep insecurities to GOD so HE can bring destruction to THEM. And the same goes for all else that is wrongfully taking place in my heart.
But here’s the other side to guarding your heart: there are things that need to be protected that are good.
My resolution, my determination, my God-given passions and emotions, my courage… these are beautiful and worthy of being protected. I must fight to hold onto these things and not let the enemy distort them or misuse them.
And because Grant has taken up the task of guarding my heart, it means fighting the enemy’s attempts to steal, kill, and destroy alongside me.
It means standing up for me when I feel too weak to get up. It means praying for me and declaring truth over me when I’m facing attack and lies. It means continuing to pursue me even when I argue that I’m not worth pursuing. It means pushing me to believe again when I’m losing my faith or trust.
This isn’t something that is necessarily laid out in God’s Word. There’s no manual for exactly when and how a man should fight for a woman’s cause. But we are given a why: because Jesus fought for his Bride. Men are charged with the task of treating women with that same love and ferocity.
Guarding my heart is a task I myself must face, but I am thankful that I do not have to face it alone.
This is what I gathered from my morning venture into Proverbs, and I know I need to continually bring this to God for better understanding and application. I’ve been too careless with my heart too many times. I’ve seen the catastrophic effects. But PRAISE JESUS that I’m healing and my heart is being restored. I am being renewed through intimacy with God. And that growing intimacy with Him only enhances my intimacy with Grant.
Show me how to guard my heart today, Lord.
This is my prayer. And this is what I’ll keep praying, what I’ll keep waiting expectantly in. My heart is loved too much to be left unguarded. It’s too precious to be ignored.
And this isn’t just true for my heart. It’s true for yours.
Dear friend who just relapsed,
I heard you gave in to the lies again. You were holding out for a while and fighting pretty hard, but the voices in your head just got so loud and you didn’t know what to do. So you caved last night.
And now you’re hating yourself for it. Thinking you were so clean for so long and now it’s all gone to waste. Now you don’t know if you can stop again.
You broke promises to your loved ones. You broke promises to yourself. You broke promises to God.
You feel like the damage is irreparable now.
You feel weak. You feel defeated. You feel selfish and stupid.
But you’re still loved.
My feelings haven’t changed for you. God’s feelings haven’t changed for you.
You’re tired of feeling so weak, but let me tell you that you’re a fighter.
You weren’t defeated. You just lost a battle. But the war doesn’t have to be over. You don’t have to raise your white flag.
I know it’s hard to convince yourself to keep going, but you did it once and you can do it again. You can hold onto freedom. Christ died so you could.
. . . . . .
I’m so sorry you were hurting so bad that you didn’t know what to do but return to your former life. I wish I could’ve been there the minute you decided so I could’ve reminded you just how hard you’ve worked to be okay and how damn much you wanted to be okay.
You want to be okay. And you are.
It doesn’t feel like it right now. But you are.
Today was just one day. It was just one time. And yes, one time can change everything. It can make everything fall apart. It can lead to another time and another and another.
But it doesn’t have to.
You will still be hurting, the ones around you will still be sad, but you will have made a decision that will ultimately save you. If you would only just pick your resolve back up like I know you can.
. . . . . .
Let me remind you of who you are: you are a redeemed child of God. You are important. Do you know the lives you have impacted just by simply being you? By smiling that smile? By offering that listening ear, that compassionate heart? You are special. And that’s not something to be ashamed of. You feel things more deeply than most, and that is simply beautiful. Yes, you are beautiful. You are a beautiful being comprised of gifts and talents and love and grace.
You are also comprised of genes. And I know you hate your genes. You hate your chemical makeup. You hate that it feels like there’s so much crap you can’t do a darn thing about.
But despite the way it feels, it’s simply not true.
You can make a choice. Just like you did that solemn, brave day when you decided you wanted a better life and you knew God could get you there.
You’re not forgotten. God’s still pushing you forward. He has a plan for you, and it doesn’t involve this mess. You can still get there. I promise. God’s holding out his hand and I can be your cheerleader on the sidelines. Just one more step. And then another. I got you.
I love you.
I am a victim and observer of what I have decided to call “bipolar Christianity.”
What on earth am I talking about, you may ask. Well, here’s my definition of bipolar Christianity:
Bi-pol-ar Chris-ti-an-it-y [bīˈpōlərˌkrisCHēˈanitē] = having two poles or extremities relating to one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
To break it down even further, bipolar Christianity is when you are a Christian who experiences periodic “highs” of praise and joy in Jesus and yet also experience all-consuming “lows”.
I’m talking about the people who go to church and are ecstatic and overwhelmed by the grace and love of Jesus and then go home only to sob for hours.
I’m talking about the people who are absolutely in love with Jesus and yet have an inexplicable sadness that creeps in uninvited.
I’m talking about the people who are on fire for God and have all these dreams and plans and motivation only to later be found curled up on the floor wondering why they’re even alive.
And these people don’t necessarily have clinical depression or bipolar disorder. And they aren’t experiencing some silly side-effects of PMS.
They just have this problem with keeping their emotions on one side of the spectrum. They love Jesus and they have great faith, but they experience intense ups and downs. That’s just their life.
If you’re reading this and you’re starting to feel like I may be referring to you because you can wholeheartedly relate, then I just want to say now that nowhere in this post will I offer a solution.
I don’t have a solution. Trust me.
I’m a bipolar Christian and I can rack my brains for as long as I’d like and still never come up with an answer to this dilemma.
When you’re a bipolar Christian, you just feel kind of… stuck.
This post isn’t intended to encourage you to do step A, B, and C to get a hold of your emotions and your life. I have no authority to tell you how to do so.
This post is intended to just say, “hey, you’re not alone.”
And I also want to remind you of some nuggets of truth that maybe you can hold on to for now. You might not remember these things when you find yourself in the low moments of your day, but when you’re composed again, I hope they are an encouragement.
Truth #1: Jesus loves you.
You know it, but do you feel it? Stop for a second and just meditate on the idea– the REALITY– of His love for YOU.
You know the way you feel sometimes when you’re worshiping? Like how full of joy you feel to be praising your glorious Father? And in that moment, you don’t feel like a failure or a disappointment. You just feel loved.
When you’re NOT worshiping, you are loved just the same. When you’re just going through the mundane routine of your life, you are loved just the same. When you are unable to speak, move, or pray, you are loved just the same.
He loves you today just the same as He ever has or ever will. He loves you infinitely more than you’ll ever understand or comprehend. And that love doesn’t change.
Truth #2: You are blameless.
I know you wish from the bottom of your heart that you could feel whole and just be fine and not have to deal with the things you do. I know sometimes you feel so guilty and ashamed of your inability to remain joyful in God. Everyone else seems to have it all together and you have no idea of what’s wrong with you. All you know is that it’s wrong.
But it’s not wrong.
Repeat this to yourself: It’s not wrong to feel the way I do. I’m not wrong for feeling.
You are a new creation in Christ and that means the kingdom of heaven is now yours. And if you’re having a hard time understanding what that means for your life, that’s okay. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to be filled with joy, that’s also okay.
Your Spirit knows. Your Spirit knows God’s joy and how to bring you there. Your Spirit knows your innermost longings and it cries out when you cry out, too.
Do you know what’s IN the kingdom of heaven? PERFECTION.
And even though you’re stuck here on this earth for now and you can’t fully enjoy that perfection awaiting you in the next life, you are already considered blameless and pure and whole in His eyes.
You might think that’s an audacious statement, but it’s only audacious to you if you don’t know Scripture.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be HOLY and BLAMELESS in his sight. (Ephesians 1:3-4; emphasis mine)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you HOLY in his sight, WITHOUT BLEMISH and FREE from accusation. (Colossians 1:21-22; emphasis mine)
These aren’t traits that are to come. This is our reality here and now. Once we were saved by faith in Jesus Christ, we were ensured an inheritance and that inheritance, the kingdom of heaven, is sealed in us by the Holy Spirit.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Because of the Spirit living in you, you are regarded as WORTHY of receiving God’s promises and that worthiness translates to you as being holy and blameless. Only a holy and blameless person could receive these gifts of grace and salvation from God. And only Jesus could bring us to that state of holiness and blameless.
You, my friend, have been brought into that state.
You are holy and blameless, and no depression or anxiety or pain can destroy that.
Truth #3: You don’t have to be alone.
Do you know that there are bipolar Christians (and I’m sorry if you don’t like being called that) everywhere?
There are bipolar Christians around every corner and some of them could be your closest friends.
The reason why we don’t know where to find them is because they’re often in hiding.
We bipolar Christians are fond of hiding because we think it’s abnormal and wrong to feel the things we do and be the way we are.
We’re afraid that if people find out, we will be beat over the head with talk of spiritual welfare and demons. Our faith will be questioned and we’ll suddenly be the odd ones out.
And even though all of these things are a possibility (depending on who you surround yourself with), your true brothers and sisters in Christ would not want you to suffer alone. And God doesn’t want you to suffer alone. No one should have to suffer alone.
As scary as it is, admitting your bipolarity can be the most freeing thing. You suddenly feel like you have allies, people to pray on your behalf when you don’t have the strength or willpower to pray for yourself. You have friends, people who truly know you.
It’s okay to confide in trustworthy people about your feelings.
It’s also okay if you don’t. We aren’t designed to be isolated but if you feel as though you just can’t confide in anyone right now, know that Jesus is your ally. And I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
We serve a God who “is able to sympathize with our weaknesses” and whose “throne of grace” we may approach confidently (Heb. 4:15-16).
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and FAMILIAR WITH PAIN.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and BORE OUR SUFFERING,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds WE ARE HEALED.
(Isaiah 53:3-5; emphasis mine)
Jesus understands. It’s perhaps unfathomable, but it’s true. He understands you better than you understand yourself, and he beckons you closer to Him because you are never meant to be alone.
I know these things aren’t the answers you might have been looking for, but like I said, I have no solution to offer. I only have the truth.
And this truth I have to declare over myself all the time because I know how hard it is to hold on to it.
As I’m bombarded by attacks of satan and my flesh, it’s so difficult to remember to put on this armor of God that Paul speaks so fondly of. But there’s something powerful about the armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of TRUTH, and having put on the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish ALL the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD OF GOD, praying at ALL times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:10-18; emphasis mine)
This whole armor of God thing might be kind of confusing, but it makes sense if you consider what it’s really saying. We must be equipped with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer if we are to have any chance of withstanding attacks of the enemy.
And it may sound strenuous to try to equip ourselves with all the things, but just about all the work has been done by God already.
He’s given us truth through His Word and His Spirit, He’s already made us righteous, He’s given us the full story of the Gospel and how through that we have received salvation, and we are worthy to approach Him with our prayers and supplications.
The biggest part of the faith is sometimes just remembering we have these things. It’s especially hard to remember when darkness is so convincing.
But darkness doesn’t win in our lives. Not anymore. The “gospel of peace” that gives us “readiness” (v.15) is the story of Jesus’ victory on the cross and the subsequent victory in our lives. We are ready to fight when we accept that we are already victorious.
Regardless of how overwhelming things are for you, the truth remains that Jesus loves you, you are blameless, and you don’t have to be alone.
How I wish we could all just dump our sadness once and for all! But that’s not the world we live in.
That beautiful, perfect, pain-free world is coming. And until then, I pray that we learn to fight.