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.
We both had things to say as we sat in that corner booth of Waffle House, and I found divine questions dancing behind my tongue, eager for ears to listen.
How do I know what to keep praying boldly for and persevering in? How do I know what to remain faithful to if I can’t see where God wants to do the greatest work? I asked her.
Isaiah didn’t see a single convert as he did God’s will, but did that make him any less faithful? She asked me.
. . . . . .
I don’t know many things. I hardly know anything, I should say.
I know what I desire, what I wish God would do. But I don’t know for sure if those desires are His. I don’t know for sure if big results will be reaped from my big dreams.
All I know is I keep praying and hoping. I keep thinking that holding onto these dreams says something. Look, God. I’m not giving up. I want to be faithful with this.
Will you bless me if I remain faithful? Will you let these things come to pass if I don’t cease believing and praying?
I thought maybe she would bring me divine answers in that Waffle House, but I instead walked away with a question.
Isaiah didn’t see a single convert as he did God’s will, but did that make him any less faithful?
Any less faithful than the pastors of the largest church congregations in the world, she was referring to. Any less faithful than the person with the longest list of people brought to faith by their ministry.
No, Isaiah was not any less faithful. He was obedient and bold in prayer without seeing the numbers. He knew the numbers weren’t what mattered. He knew what he had to do, whether there were visible results or no results at all.
Can I say the same thing about myself?
. . . . . .
God is calling me to be faithful.
What am I going to do with that? With just this one piece of information, this one glimpse of His plan for my life?
I’m going to be faithful. I’m going to be faithful with where I’m at and with what I have.
My life isn’t meant to be a numbers-based journey comprised of me hopping around from one success to another, looking for the greatest product of my efforts.
I’m called to a faith-based journey comprised of me trusting in God’s sovereignty and grace over each decision I make and every step I take.
It doesn’t matter how many fights we have, how many obstacles and temptations we face, how many late nights of tearful miscommunications we have — I will remain faithful to the man I believe God has brought into my life, the man I have promised to love daily and intentionally.
It doesn’t matter how many kids raise their hands during the prayer of salvation, how many attendees we have at our church events, how many things I could complain about or find fault in — I will remain faithful to this ministry with middle schoolers that God has given me a passion for.
It doesn’t matter how few people read my writing or how many followers this blog has — I will remain faithful to the burdens God has placed on my heart and the gift He has given me to share them.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been ignored by people, how many communities I’ve been hurt by — I will remain faithful to the pursuit of others, striving to show them the same love that Christ has for me.
It doesn’t matter how many things have not yet been healed, how many prayers have not yet been answered — I will remain faithful in prayer, faithful to God and trusting in His faithfulness to me.
How long will I remain faithful to these things? Until God shows me a different way.
This is the long, arduous walk of faithfulness that is bound to take me through thorns and thistles. And this is the long, arduous walk of faithfulness that God has revealed Himself in as I find His hand ever reaching for mine in the dark.
Make me into an Isaiah, I pray. Let me be faithful, too.
You are, my child, He says. Persevere and walk on.
Let me tell you something about my headaches.
I get these things called cluster headaches every now and again, and they’re called cluster headaches because they only come once a year and they often come in a large (and largely painful) quantity.
I wake up with them usually. And it takes me a minute to realize what they are, but once I do, I sprint out of bed for pills and a bottle of cold water. And then I have to run to the bathroom before the pills I just took and the water I just drank are puked up all over the floor. When I am able enough to get up from the bathroom floor, I put a Bed Buddy cold pack on my forehead and drag myself to bed. I usually writhe for a little bit, stop to cry and pray and scream and vomit and whimper. Light kills me. Standing kills me. Even sitting up kills me.
All I can do is just wait it out. Fortunately, cluster headaches don’t last longer than two hours. Sometimes they’re only fifteen minutes long. But the pain is still the same and I have that voice in my head that tells me this is never going to end.
Did I mention that cluster headaches have another name? Suicide headaches. Cluster headaches are considered one of the worst pains known to mankind and having them increases a person’s risk for suicide. Pleasant, right?
I’m explaining all of this to you because I had one this morning. The first one like this in a year. I probably could’ve expected it, but you always hope you never have to have one of those dreadful headaches again. This is my third year and it’s the exact same thing with the exact same thoughts running through my head.
Thoughts like I HATE YOU SATAN AND ALL YOUR STUPID DEMONS AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS BECAUSE I AM A DAUGHTER OF GOD AND I HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO SEND ALL OF YOU BACK TO THE PITS OF HELL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST.
And then thoughts like JESUS, PLEASE HEAL ME. HEAL ME. PLEASE…PLEASE… PLEASE… PLEASE (and so on and so forth).
And then thoughts like LET ME DIE. JUST KILL ME. I CAN’T DO THIS.
And then thoughts like MY VOMIT TASTES LIKE GINGER ALE.
But you know what I think upsets me the most about these headaches? It’s not that they’re the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not that I can’t stand or sit up or keep my food down. It’s not that I’m wanting to die. It’s not that my boyfriend is seeing this happen to me and has to hold my tangled hair back from my contorted, puffy-eyed face.
What upsets me the most is that I KNOW I have been given authority to command my body to be better and I KNOW God is good and delights in healing His children, but I can’t seem to get either of those things to happen.
My prayers felt powerless coming out of my mouth as the pain remained and nothing changed.
I had absolutely no control.
And that’s a scary thing to me because I almost always am in control (or at least I think I am). I don’t have much of a say in what the world does, but I can manage my own life and my own body and my own health and what I say or do. If I’m sick, I can go to the doctor and get medicine to make me better. If I don’t like a person, I can tell them to leave me alone and walk away. If I’m feeling something too strongly, I can write it out in a blog post or in my journal or in a song.
But today was a day in which I just couldn’t control things. I couldn’t control these bastardly headaches and I couldn’t control these ghastly thoughts and I couldn’t control the demons afflicting me or the God I expected to save me.
THAT is what upset me the most.
And that’s when the thoughts turned into WHAT KIND OF GOD WATCHES HIS CHILD SUFFER THIS TYPE OF PAIN AND NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? WHAT KIND OF GOD HEARS HIS HURTING DAUGHTER’S PRAYERS AND REQUESTS AND DECIDES TO NOT GRANT THEM? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING? ARE MY PRAYERS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
And I wish I could say that He gave me this awesome revelation or I was healed right then and there. But I cried and vomited and rolled around for some time after these things transpired. I am feeling better now, but the healing wasn’t instantaneous and I didn’t walk away feeling as good as new.
But is God still good? Yes.
Do I still have faith? Always.
Do these headaches still suck? You bet.
But do I get through them alive? Every time.
This is not a post about God being cruel. This isn’t a post about how He chose to not heal me when I asked Him to and how that was so utterly wrong of Him. This isn’t a post about how there’s suffering in the world and nothing’s happening about it.
This is a post on time. That one thing NO ONE can control.
God authored time. A clockmaker gets a clock to tick, but whether or not that clock is working, time is still moving forward as we continue to orbit. And God lets this happen because time is HIS and His alone.
Why did I get this headache on a Tuesday morning versus any other day of the week? I don’t know. Why does this happen year after year? I don’t know. Why didn’t my headache go away the moment I called out his name? I don’t know.
And I don’t think I ever will know.
Just like I don’t know why death has to come early for some people and why he waits so many years before giving us the things we’ve been earnestly praying for.
All I know is that God is good and He has been faithful to me even in my wondering and questioning and faithlessness.
His decision to not heal me of my headache instantly is not an indicator of a lack of power or goodness or love. It is rather an expression of his power and goodness and love.
Why would I want to serve and follow a God who does everything I ask of Him the minute I ask it? If He did, I’d be engaged to a man I now know I didn’t have a chance of having a good relationship with. If He did, I would be knee-deep in a career I now know I wouldn’t enjoy. If He did, I would be the most impatient and faithLESS girl in the world.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Hebrews 11:1-2).
The ancients– Noah, Abraham, Joseph, the marchers of Jericho, and many others– were not commended for how quickly their prayers were answered. They were commended for how faithful they remained when there appeared to be no answers. And what joy they must have received when their prayers were not only answered, but God was given the glory! He IS a God of power and goodness and love, they must have exclaimed.
If everything was done their way and in their timing, things wouldn’t have been the same. We would not know such ancients, such faithful warriors and servants of Christ. We would only know quick-fix prayers, which may do good for the body but not for the soul.
My soul has been healed this morning because I am reminded that God is the Master of time and He is a good one.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:18-22).
I want to be like Abraham. I don’t want to stare at unanswered prayers and questions with skepticism and halfhearted hope. I want to stare at God, my good and faithful God, and I want to not waver in my belief.
I am persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. And He could’ve given me supernatural physical strength to send that blasted headache away forever, but He chose to gave me supernatural spiritual strength for my soul. That strength is faith. And I don’t see Him as a bad Father for that. No, He’s a very good one indeed.
I am healed.
God is not enough for me.
He IS, but by the looks of my life and a true assessment of my heart, I live as though He’s not.
And It pains me to write that because I so badly want Him to be.
I know that the life I’m living and the life I’m seeking often demonstrates a hidden, subtle insecurity stemmed in the belief that God cannot fill me. He cannot provide me with my needs. He cannot and perhaps WILL not give me the life I desire when I desire it.
And that is a difficult place to be in because I know that’s not how things should be.
I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to love God more than anything (with all my heart, soul, and mind, to be exact). I’m supposed to desire His will above my own. I’m supposed to find fullness and joy in Him, not look to other things or people in this life to satisfy me.
But I’d be lying if I said I am doing any of those things.
There are times when I do love God more. But when I step off of that altar of surrender and worship, life goes on and I find myself whisked away again by love for myself. You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I know my own heart. And I know that a lot of what I do is to fulfill MY wants and needs prior to God’s or anyone else’s.
There are times when I do desire His will first and foremost. I say it in my prayers, most definitely. But if I really did always desire His will first, then I’d stop trying to control my life. I’d stop resisting the work He’s doing in me, the little acts of obedience He has called me to do.
There are times when I am filled with the absolute joy of Christ. It’s like time stops and I’m just caught up in His love and wonderful embrace. But it never lasts. The song ends, the dance comes to a halt, and I’m left waiting for the next punch in the stomach. Or even worse: indifference washes over me.
Sometimes the hardest thing about being a Christ-follower is accepting that some things don’t last. Distractions, sorrow, and frustrations are always lurking around the corner, waiting for me to take my eyes off of Jesus. I feel like I just have to constantly look up at the sky and beg for more: more patience, more focus, more joy, more peace, more EVERYTHING.
What do I do, friends? How do I escape this life of constant longing?
I have no answers. I have a few theories, but I’m starting to think this is how life is. It’s hard, it’s slow. It cycles through various seasons, as do our emotions and relationship with God.
I can beg God to take my desires away, to strip me of all feeling and all longing for the future or for anything besides Him. I can ask Him to direct my eyes to be on Him and Him alone for the rest of my life.
But I don’t think He will.
Part of the reason we are given this life is to BE ALIVE. And being alive involves feeling, wanting, needing (and yes, hurting). The same goes for being alive in Him. These things don’t go away. I actually think they’re amplified. But it’s a good kind of amplification, the kind of volume that you know you want to live your life at forever. You don’t want to quiet the love you feel, the longing for Jesus that is suddenly stronger than anything you’d ever known.
I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus was (and still is) alive. He walked this earth. He knew no sin, yet he knew pain. If he could walk this earth now, I’d like to think that he might find me and hug me. He’d hold me close, whisper into my ear and heart, “It’s okay. I know.” I’d stain his robe with my tears, all the tears of longing and wondering and confusion. And I think He’d cherish each of those tears that fell from my eye because He knows they come from a place of desire for HIM.
You see, I am pained by my lack of absolute dedication, focus, and love for God, but that in itself tells me I’m doing something right.
I WANT to want Him.
And sometimes I get that want. Not always. Not completely.
But when I behold His glory and His worthiness… boy, how I want to be with Him and follow Him more than anything else! The thought crosses my mind: He IS enough.
The thought leaves, but it was there. And I will find it again. And again.
That’s all I have to hold on to.
I can’t always fathom how God can be enough for me, but maybe for now that is enough for Him.
He wants me anyway. He beckons me anyway.
And if Jesus were physically here, I think he’d hold me anyway, too.
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ … my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16: 2,9-11)