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Proverbs 4:23   Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 27:19   As in water face reflects face, So a man's heart reveals the man.

Flaming Heart

Scriptural Foundations

There is a very powerful form of healing described in Scripture. Apparently, it is supposed to take place right after we hear and receive the gospel. It is designed to heal hearts and bring believers into the wholeness and empowering reflected in the lives of the disciples. That is the goal, and it is clearly announced long before the Savior comes to accomplish it in lives. How is it, then, that many believers remain quite confused about how to receive it?

If it is true that a systematic healing is defined and advocated in Scripture, where is it to be found? The place where the progression is most clear and complete is in Isaiah 61. It identifies healing our hearts as the key to wholeness. It describes how that healing happens. It names the type of exchanges we make with the Lord. It links preparation and healing of heart with effective ministry, and it identifies what that combination will produce in the lives of others. It ends by saying that the work of God described in the chapter will be manifest in the world, and all nations will see it. It is a simple and powerful prophetic statement of how the Lord will deal with our brokenness, and where we will arrive with Him once He has.

The Lord’s healing focuses on our heart, on letting Him exchange what we have stored there for what He has stored up for us. Generally, this is not the way we approach healing, as it is quite uncomfortable to have our heart uncovered and a bright light shone there. Consequently, most of us try numerous other methods that are more knowledge based and enable us to stay in control, exposing only what we choose. However, since restoring us to intimacy and oneness with Him is the goal, the means match the goal—we proceed in deepening our connection and communion with Him until we are regularly sharing His heart.

Healing Progression in Isaiah 61

Isaiah declares prophetically that the anointing of Jesus is for several specific purposes. The first is to preach the gospel to the poor. That is definitely the starting point. We have to hear the good news and the hope and security it offers before we can face the brokenhearted condition He identifies next.

The second purpose is that He is sent to heal the brokenhearted. Do we all realize that we are brokenhearted; do we call it that, and so open the door for this great work the Lord comes to accomplish in us? How many people in the synagogue were waving their hands, saying, “Me, Lord; that is me! Over here, Lord; that is the great desire of my heart!” Probably most of them, (like most of us) had the brokenness so hidden away that they were not in touch with it. We tend to invest in ways of being, or looking okay and believe that the brokenness does not impact our lives substantially. When we continue to experience painful behaviors that mysteriously persist, that impair life, relationship, and ministry, we may begin to ask: “What is going on with me?”

The meaning of “broken” in this passage of Scripture and in Luke 4:18 is that of being in close union or association with things that work a breaking of heart—gnawing away at, or crushing the “center of our being” (one of the defining statements about heart). We were in close connection with the serpent, and had our priorities diverted, working separation from God—that is the most serious breaking. Then in our broken condition we do and say things to one another that produce various levels of breaking—broken down, broken off, or broken in pieces. The Lord comes to address both our sin (missing Him) and brokenness in life, which complicates the ways in which we miss Him.

There is a juncture, or transition, that must happen between hearing the gospel preached, and entering into healing of heart with the Lord. We may or may not know how to make that transition, and I am not sure that our provision for this juncture is clear or complete enough in the church (Jeremiah 6:14). Part of the difficulty people experience is due to lack of provision; part of it is due to not wanting to take the lid off certain heart realities that hold conflict and pain. Sometimes when the Lord is prying off our protective lid so we can see the brokenness and the prison it produces, we say: “What are You doing to me? Why is this happening?” We do not perceive it as an offer of healing, or as opening the prison, often fighting it simply because it is uncomfortable. That delays it some, but the Lord is very persistent and resourceful!

Verse 3 begins to describe what restoration will actually look like, and how it will proceed. It happens by a series of exchanges—first to console and comfort those who mourn. Let me ask you this: Do we move into mourning easily? Is it a place we want to go or think is productive? I have said to people, when they are struggling with the pain of great loss, that sometimes it is well for us to go ahead and call it loss, and allow the grief to pour out. The Scripture does not, however, say that mourning in itself is healing. Mourning alone has marginal value. Being comforted by the Lord in the mourning is what has power to put us back together, free us from the pain, and bring us to new levels of wisdom and compassion.

“To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes.” Beauty for ashes is a strong and somewhat poetic statement, full of promise. But think for a moment of how difficult it is to call something in our lives ashes. I remember one face of this having to do with the loss of my marriage. I was lamenting numerous losses, and the Lord began to show me that in certain instances it would be more accurate to call them “ashes,” and let them go. This Scripture came to mind almost simultaneously. That perspective hit like a blow to my chest, and I said: “Lord, that is so harsh! Ashes?!” As I sat with it, however, I had to admit that it was true. The things I was holding onto did not contain nourishment. It was ultimately a freeing exchange, but it was so difficult to face head on. If we do not look more closely with Him, we can spend a lot of time trying to salvage things that need to be called ashes, and wondering why we seem to be in a vicious circle that goes nowhere.

Beauty for ashes. When we can get what we are counting on over to Him and see His perspective on it, it will be lit up for whatever it actually is: whether it is true, not so true, requires adjusting, or needs to be thrown out altogether. However, we cannot just set aside what we believe. We cannot stop believing it. We seem to have to exchange it for something we come to realize holds more truth. When we can see or hear the Lord’s perspective and priority, a meaningful choice becomes possible. Then He can give us beauty for ashes, we can move into agreement with Him, embrace His view, take it into our heart, and let it replace the old structure(s). That is an ongoing work! We empty out what we have and replace it with His exchange.

The oil of joy for mourning. When we are in a mourning process, we can scarcely conceive of joy coming out of it. But on the other side of letting the Lord join and comfort and put us back together, is there joy? Yes, and it is very exciting to discover that indeed He can bring joy out of mourning! There is a great lifting that occurs. I have heard many people say: “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.” That is very exciting because until it is lifted, we don’t fully appreciate how hard it has been to keep walking under it.

Next He offers a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Heaviness means depression. Depression is a condition of having no energy for or interest in anything, generally because there is a sense of hopelessness about “it” coming to any positive outcome or conclusion, or of ever getting to a place of feeling that one’s life has great meaning and purpose. It is very de-energizing, and impacts our ability to concentrate. The reason we do not experience these exchanges more fully is because it is so difficult to get the mourning, or ashes, or heaviness over to the Lord and be able to hear and “see” His response enough to make an exchange. When we are able to be with Him, hear Him and see His perspective on whatever we bring, the grief and depression have means of being lifted and exchanged. It is a process of preparing our hearts to live in a new way with the Lord. He said that this is a work He does,

“THAT they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
That He may be glorified.”

As these exchanges are made we look more like Him; we act more like Him; we share His heart; we believe the things He believes; we’ll even say them to others; and that will have great influence. He begins to describe what will happen through these folks whose heart He has healed:

And THEY shall rebuild the old ruins,
THEY shall raise up the former desolations,
And THEY shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.

Those who have been buried under sorrow and heaviness will become the agents He will use to extend freedom and restoration to others. What an amazing approach! What a statement of the Lord’s grace, and of His concept of justice.

The desolations of many generations. When things are handed down generation after generation, it is difficult to see anything else. It is the storehouse we inherit. But He intends to prepare some of His children to interrupt those desolations, even those that have gone on for many generations.

Verse 6 says a very interesting thing—that the people who have had their hearts healed and are effectively turning around the old desolations, THEY

“…shall be named the priests of the Lord
They shall call you the servants of our God.

They will be called priests because of the fruit of their labor, because it is evident from it that they are in partnership with the Lord and are bringing about His purposes. They are in that partnership because their hearts have been healed, prepared, and are united with His. This is a clear description of Biblical therapy and Biblical credentials. It is repeated in Acts 6:3. These are very clear statements, but somehow we continue to focus more on academic training than heart unity. Odd creatures, aren’t we, settling for much less than He wants to give.

Verse 7 says:

Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion, they shall rejoice in their portion.

How many times have you asked questions of the Lord about your calling, maybe with underlying feelings of shame or undeserving that disqualify you. He intends to bring us to a place of clarity, where we can rejoice in our portion.

Verse 10 says:

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God…

Well, that is very different than a spirit of heaviness! There has been a raising up and releasing, which causes us to delight in the Lord and flow with Him. It goes on to say that He has “clothed me with the garments of salvation.” What were we clothing ourselves with before?

Then verse 11 says:

As the earth causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before
     all the nations.

He is describing a natural process, and comparing it to “natural” spiritual development. If certain elements are together and you put seed in the ground and water it, the seed will spring up. It is going to grow. So this work of the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth, just as a garden causes seed to spring up. If we let Him make these exchanges and rebuild our hearts, righteousness and praise of the One who did that mighty work will naturally spring forth. And they will spring forth BEFORE ALL THE NATIONS! The last verse in this chapter I see as a description of the Lord’s kids out there being the church, declaring it and being a personal manifestation of it.

The chapter begins with us in a quite broken and bound condition. We end up freed and out there with Him, reflecting the work and glory of God! We end up being called ministers of our God and effectively dismantling bondages in the lives of others. So this chapter describes not only healing of heart but empowering for ministry that is the intended result of healing. If we do not let Him do the healing, we will be too afraid to venture into ministry, will go for the wrong reasons, or will not be as effective as this preparation intends to make us.

Connecting Hearts to God takes this chapter very seriously, and tries to assist people through healing of heart with the Lord, all the way over into clarity of calling and empowering to carry out the ministry to which He calls each one of us individually. Whatever that ministry is, we need to walk in it with healed and prepared hearts.