I used be be so hardened. I thought that my hardness was a kind of strength. I thought that by acting like I did not care, then no one could hurt me. I thought that being wrong was weakness or would lead to being ridiculed, so I could not admit fault. I thought that loving people would just lead to betrayal and pain, so I closed off and became numb. I filled the void with destructive things, became very depressed, and could not be satisfied by much of anything.
I was not always that way. When I was a child I loved people. I befriended the kids who had no friends, because they were strange like me. I wanted to help people. I felt sorry for people who were abused, poor, or outcast. I did struggle with hardness, but I had that child-like naivety that allowed me to see good in the world and have hope for the future.
Things happened to change that. By the time I was in my mid twenties, I was totally disillusioned as my ideas about the world, relationships, my ambitions, and even my sense of self was rocked at the very core. I became severely hardened, and I still fight the aftermath. Things like turning all emotions into anger because it is easier to deal with, shutting down when feeling threatened emotionally, or retreating in general from difficult situations instead of facing them head on. I sometimes fear being betrayed or see the worst in people, even when dealing with the most genuine and kind-hearted folks.
Though the struggles are not gone, I know the Lord can heal our hard hearts. I know He has worked wonders in my own heart, teaching me to love those who hurt me the most, how to endure emotional abuse without retaliating or becoming hard, how to be vulnerable and forge new relationships, how to forgive, how to show mercy, how to remember kindness, how to lay my selfish emotions and desires aside and focus on Jesus instead.
Today, though there are times when I feel the pangs of my hard heart that is not fully healed, I can honestly say that I would rather love and be hurt, trust and be betrayed, see the best in others though they see the worst in me, cry when I’m sad instead of becoming angry and lash out, and forgive even the most unforgivable.
Why? Because Jesus loves me. Because He loves me even though I have hurt others, even though I betrayed the Lord when I went after this world, even though I have been the worst and assumed the worst in others, Jesus has never given up on me. He has forgiven me because I sought forgiveness and because I seek a healed heart that forgives. He is merciful and he teaches me mercy. He is compassionate and he teaches me compassion. He understands my pain and he uses my afflictions to help me understand those who are afflicted.
All things, all pains, all trials, all the struggles of this life are being turned around and used for His glory and for the good of my spiritual health. Jesus can do the same for you.
Living with a hard heart is no way to live. It is miserable loneliness and nagging longing, consuming bitterness, self-hate, unforgiveness and so much more. It is not strength.
Loving the way Jesus loves — that is strength. Being patient with the sinful and difficult, loving those that hate and mock us, turning the other cheek, trusting in the Lord to avenge us while knowing that all things are working together for our good. Resting in the Lord’s peace and perfect will. That is a heart that is filled with Jesus. That is the heart that can endure all things without becoming corrupted by this world. Jesus died to give us this heart!
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