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.
Heart of Man
The Scripture says that fullness of life depends on the condition of our heart, and especially the condition of our heart in relationship to God. So we must keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). This is not because our heart and its faculties are sufficient. In fact, to count on the faculties of our own heart is defined as foolishness in Scripture. We keep our heart in a position of connection with and trusting in God.
Proverbs 19:3 The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the Lord.
Proverbs 28:25, 26 He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
Trusting in our own heart/faculties is one of the outcomes of the fall, and much human energy is spent on trying to get that to work better. We are designed to function in fellowship and partnership with God, to know Him, draw on Him, let His light inform our hearts.
Jeremiah 24:7 Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart [the center of our being, including intellect, emotion, and will].
Where is our heart if it is not returned to him? That is one of the key questions in healing. The process of healing depends on clarity over this question. Where are we returning from to unite our whole heart with the Lord? We have talked about some of this. We are returning from being "chiefly in the mind," less freed in the other 2/3 of our heart, and so unaware of a more complete basis for wholeness. We are hiding from things we experience as threatening or uncomfortable. We are mired down in the approval of each other and cannot afford to let God’s perspective and basis for approval in, lest it mess up our position with each other. We are busy blaming Him and wondering why He doesn’t do a better job getting our means to work—i.e., not taking responsibility for our condition, but attributing it to the fact that God has let us down. What other explanation could there be for why things are not working? And we are largely in denial as to how broken our hearts have become living in the world, for a time without knowledge of God, without dependence on Him, and without the comfort from Him that has power to retrieve and restore us. People tell me that the breaking was "in the past," as though saying that wipes out the effect of it on their inner being and way of seeing things. All that phrase does, when used without examining the impact of past events, is fool people into thinking that the past has no influence, when in fact it may be actively hindering their lives, regularly marring their relationships with others, and holding in place the unseen barriers that separate them from God.
Added together, these elements of the fall of man and the breaking of heart that occurs in a world characterized by functioning according to the fall, are formidable to say the least. That means that the returning of our heart to God and getting all of it united with Him calls for a sizeable provision, and that is true for each and every individual, as we all have this journey to make with Him. It is our choice whether we choose to go, but if we decide to go, we will need to know how to invest meaningfully in the journey.
Facing What "Broken" Means
There are a couple of places where brokenhearted is described. One is in Isaiah 61:1; the other is in Luke 4:18, both of which are part of the Lord declaring the purpose for which He came. In the KJV or NKJV the second purpose (after the preaching of the gospel) is stated: "to bind up" or "to heal the brokenhearted." This is a condition that effects all of humanity. In that regard it describes the difference between a scriptural view of our condition and a psychological view. Scripturally, all are broken and in need of saving and healing. Psychologically, some people have a problem; others are normal, well, okay.
The word for "broken" used in Isaiah 61 is shabar. Wilson defines it as "to break, a bow, a bone, an earthen vessel, a ship in a storm; a nation is broken when its power is weakened or ruined…." There is the positive sense of breaking: "broken in heart are the humble and truly penitent," and there is the negative form of breaking: "the heart is also broken when quite dispirited and discouraged." It is the second kind of breaking we are addressing here, though healing that type of breaking is humbling and generally involves repentance as well, if only for our contention with God over what we have received (and believed) from sources other than Him.
Strong’s in defining shabar adds the element of there being degrees of breaking: "to burst (lit or fig.)—break (down, off, in pieces)…".The degree of breaking often dictates the length of time and difficulty of the healing process. Broken "down" is impaired, dampened, hindered in some way, which can be addressed more easily. Broken off means that there is a significant disconnection. This is very evident with people who have grown up in unsafe emotional environments. Their emotional needs, especially tenderness and vulnerability had to be buried away, and they often say that they don’t have those feelings or needs; that is just not their personality. However, they did not come that way. Something caused the breaking off. Broken in pieces is a more splintered condition. It describes what psychology now calls dissociation, and what once was called multiple personality—one’s emotional qualities broken in pieces, each, at times, trying to be the person.
Note: If you are using a translation that omits "heal the brokenhearted" and so wonder if this perspective is in Scripture, look at Ps. 69:20 and 34:18, where the same word for broken in reference to our hearts is used, and where the text describes the definition of the word "shabar."
Because we tend to be "chiefly in the mind," we could say that there is a more or less universal condition of broken off rampant in the world. Most people are not nearly as in touch or aware of the source of their feelings as they are of their thoughts, and most of us do not really want to find out where certain emotional responses come from; it is enough to escape them or explain them away. This kind of disconnection is the cause of much emotional wounding. For example, when emotional vulnerability and honest sharing is met with logic and correction instead of joining and compassion, it produces hurt and devaluing—a sense of one’s listener missing it and not caring about the person. If that has been a pattern in life, people learn to stop sharing their heart and may even conclude that it is a bad thing to do. Then when emotional intimacy with a mate cannot be achieved and the marriage suffers because of it, it is very puzzling, unless we realize that it is part of the widespread effect due to the breaking of hearts!
The word used by the Luke "broken" is suntribo. Its meaning adds to our understanding of HOW the breaking happens. It is a two part word. Sun denotes close union with, being together, in association, or companionship. Tribos, the second part of the word, means to rub a rut or worn track. Repeated associations that wear a rut or track in our heart. This word does not describe a positive rut, however, rather one that has the effect of crushing, shattering, bruising, or breaking in pieces (there are the degrees of breaking again). We are in close union with repeated patterns that produce a breaking of our original condition and transform it into an impaired version of how we were created. Each of us comes into adulthood with some of this damage. We tend to embrace our life experience as truth, and not realize that the sources of our conclusions may not be full of truth. If they were not, we can be imprisoned by believing, and so investing in things that do not and cannot produce fullness of life. Whatever we believe, whether true or false, has tremendous power in our lives simply because we believe it. Every person who comes to the Lord has the work of uncovering their heart, and exchanging those patterns for the truth of the Lord. The option is to remain impaired and manage it in a variety of ways. Many people live their whole lives managing the wounding of life experience and die with the ruts intact.
Both words for broken describe where our heart is and why. The Scripture goes on to say that breaking of heart produces captivity:
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
These ruts are sometimes difficult to identify because we have accepted them as "normal." However, they produce certain symptoms that do get our attention, as they worsen or become unbearable. The symptoms that people experience match the associations with which they have been united. For example, depression, anxiety, fear of intimacy, difficulty trusting God or others, lack of joy or ability to show tenderness, addictive behaviors that manage pain are all symptoms that trace to the close associations that have produced them. I have never seen that to fail. If you inquire into what has happened in people’s lives, you find that what they have been closely associated with matches the symptoms they experience, and that there are also strong beliefs that hold the symptoms in place. That is the nature of our prison and captivity. We seem to believe what has been lodged and reinforced and rutted in our heart by life experience more readily than we believe the Lord. Therefore, a huge part of healing is involved in letting God overrule and replace the ruts.
It is easy to see how the elements of our sin nature strengthen and overlap with the breaking of our heart in life. We know by our own faculties, chiefly sight and in the mind, so we trust what we see and our own conclusions about it. We tend to listen to each other, because we can’t get through all the debris to listen to God. Much of what needs to be brought to Him is in hiding, due to pain and discomfort and lack of tools to deal with it more directly. And where responsibility lies for the outcome of our lives is very confused. We can easily blame God; not so easily look at the contribution of others, or face the reality of who WE are listening to and believing. Moreover, since people do not have enough personal interaction with the Lord to determine how different He is from their life experiences with other authority figures, how are they going to correct the misconceptions of Him or know what provision He would make for their pain? People can become so focused on the fact that some devastating thing should not have happened, that they cannot consider the offer of redemption. I say to people: "I agree that what happened to you was unfair and very costly to your life. It should not have happened. But will you consider restoration? The Lord does not say that these things will not happen, but He does offer restoration. Will you consider settling for restoration?" That question is generally followed by a thoughtful silence, sometimes by a quite heated: "What a cop out!!!!!" There are various faces to our hearing through and letting the Lord join us.
Since we are all in recovery from similar conditions, it means that the healers we look to are also infected. Hopefully, they are a bit further along in their healing, enough to light the way more accurately. It implies that healing from one’s own brokenness is a primary part of preparation to help others. If we are still in denial about our own wounding and have not had the courage, or means, to dig in, we will most likely mislead and confuse others about the nature of the journey and, perhaps, the length of it. The reality is that it is an ongoing progression (work out your own salvation, Philippians 2:12,13) and we would do better to think of it as a way of life with the Lord, than as a brief trip to the altar. We will need to KEEP making the exchanges with the Lord all of our lives. It is the nature of abiding and of "branch" living—continually drawing on the Vine and knowing we do not have that life within ourselves (John 15:1-7).
Development of Our Heart Condition
There are some models that I would like to share, bearing on HOW the breaking and ruts occur and therefore what ministry to our condition entails. In order to observe the writing ethic of giving credit where credit is due, I must say that I first experienced these models as a vision from the Lord. I was asking Him why it seemed so difficult to get down to the point with people. Following that question I saw some of these things as a vision, which I tried to draw in my journal. That, of course, is impossible, so the models that follow are like taking a snapshot of the Grand Canyon. It doesn’t really portray what you see, but it does remind you of the scope and breadth of it.
There are some key relational events in all of our lives. They are associations by which we were, and perhaps still are, closely and regularly influenced. They produce outcomes, patterns, and conclusions that are lodged in our heart, unless or until they are reexamined with different light and exchanged for more complete ways of seeing. We get hurt in a variety of ways. We experience approval based on certain conditions. We feel guilty for many things, whether the guilt is false or true. The models that follow portray the development of these, as well as an alternative to them—a Healing Exchange with the Lord.
We can learn to interrupt the automatic patterns, examine them with the Lord, and let Him clear, reshape, or replace them with His perspective and provision for us. Of course, we need enough connection with Him to do that, and these models also highlight the obstacles in the way of getting connected with the Lord, and with others.
Relational Event Defense against pain Conclusions Behaviors
When we are hurt, there is a need for comfort and healing, and perhaps restoration of value. If those are not available, it is likely that we will hide and cover the pain, set up some defenses against it happening again, and come to conclusions that may or may not be true about ourselves, others, and God. This is particularly true as events occur in childhood, in continuing patterns that reinforce the defenses and conclusions, without a capacity to evaluate how true the conclusions are.
The answer to my question to the Lord about why it is so hard to get down to what really needs healing is answered at the arrow indicating where ministry starts. It begins with behaviors that are no longer consciously connected to the root causes for them, and they are held in place by conclusions and defenses that feel to the person like their means of saving their life. We will have to learn to let the Lord unravel these heart structures in us in order to be more effective agents in assisting others to see the way their prisons have been constructed.
Unfortunately, the conclusions we come to following such events can shape our view of God. If He is God and is all-powerful, why would He let us be hurt? You can see the responsibility line confusion here, as though men are not responsible for their choices and actions, but God is. He created us with a will, and does let us exercise it. He cautions us, commands us, in fact, to unite our will with His, that it may be well with us and our children (Deuteronomy 5:29), but He let's us exercise our own will if that is what we choose.
An example of a hurt that produces destructive defenses, conclusions, and behaviors would be the repeated message that it is weak or silly to show tenderness or compassion. We should be tough and self-sufficient. We learn not to show those qualities anymore, as it is quite painful to be mocked for genuine emotion and affection. Those feelings are therefore buried, silenced, disallowed from expression, and the longer that goes on, the less aware the person is of them. They become "broken off." The conclusion is that if you let that part of you be visible, it is both painful and unacceptable. The behaviors that result are life without the expression of tenderness or compassion—be strong, don’t cry, etc.
Then the Lord comes along, telling His children to be tenderhearted and compassionate (Ephesians 4:32). Indeed our need for tenderness and compassion is part of what bonds us to Him. If a person is afraid to go there and has it automatically cut off, it will serve as a sizeable barrier to the kind of connection with the Lord they need and desire. I don’t think I have to elaborate on the impact that being unable to show tenderness and compassion might have on relationships—especially the closer ones: husband/wife/children/friend. The person will be in great danger of passing on the very attitudes that wounded and hindered them.
Turning that structure around involves getting down to the hurt of being silenced in certain areas of our life. Once there, the messages need to be reassessed upon higher authority, the influence overruled by the Lord, and having new life and value breathed into the qualities of tenderness and compassion. I use these examples because I have discovered that tenderness and compassion are among the qualities that take the worst beating, due to the lack of safety for them in many environments in the world.
The alternative to this automatic flow that is programmed in our hearts is to interrupt it at one of the points at which it is repeating itself. There is a point of choice each time a similar event occurs in our lives. We can stop and begin to ask the Lord to search our heart and get Him involved in helping us see it differently. The choice point is one at which we say: wait a minute now, I recognize this progression and where it leads, show me what is going on with me and why, Lord. Help me make some new choices when I get hurt.
Hurt calls for comfort, and it is not silly to need it. It is also very available from the "God of all comfort" ( 2 Corinthians 1:3). It may also call for restoring one’s sense of value. The Lord is very clear on our value and the value of all of the qualities of heart with which He has created us. He cannot be moved out of it by any set of circumstances, and He is not confused by any level of subtlety they may contain.
Coming away from an event and even vaguely realizing that our peace has been shaken, presents us with a choice point. We can go down the trail of closing off, and consciously or unconsciously deciding to avoid such situations in the future, thereby constraining our world. Or we can take up the alternative of saying, "Lord, this is familiar territory for me, though I don’t understand it very well. What just happened? Why am I feeling shaken and irritable?" This is the direction of letting the Lord search our heart and show us what is happening instead of finding a way to manage it and move on. Very often what we become aware of is that something about the event is hitting old wounds. It is similar in some way and we begin to have some of the feelings we had when it happened before. If we get that far, it becomes an occasion for healing and exchange rather than running or managing. Someone was abrupt and curt when we were sharing our heart. That may have been the story of our life growing up. That was their response. What is Yours, Lord? If we can get in touch with Him, we most likely will experience His comfort, light, a cleansing away of the hurt as it is replaced with understanding and acceptance.
Conversely, if the reminder is our behavior hurting someone else, the direction may be one of confession and repentance, reconsidering our actions, being honest with the Lord about our fault, letting Him forgive us, cleanse us, and change our heart to share His heart and perspective. In either case, the goal is to move over and join Him in His truth rather than stay stuck in our own. If it is our wrong, there is forgiveness and healing and a new place. If it is their wrong against us, there is comfort and restoration of our view of ourselves and retrieving the qualities that may have been falsely and ignorantly discredited due to the person’s own fear.
There are several other kinds of relational events to which a Healing Exchange with God applies. They are key areas that impact our sense of identity and our openness to the central tenets of the gospel. One of them is the basis on which we experience approval. Approval is not a negotiable need. It is something we have to have. It is only a matter of where we get it and how complete that source is, but we will accomplish some kind of approval, even if it is at a detrimental cost to our personhood.
Relational Event Conclusions Behaviors
Most people have more experience of conditional approval, communicated by the wisdom and tradition of man, than they have the unconditional acceptance and approval of God. These conditions turn into strong beliefs and they impact our ability to expect from God, to hope in Him. I have ministered to many people who believe that the Lord is over there, or out there somewhere, and He is waiting for them to "get it together." So are they. His approval, like that of their life experience depends on them doing the right thing, and doing it the right way.
It is a very foreign and difficult concept for these folks to receive that the Lord is just as willing to be with them in their failures as in their successes.
Actually, when our approval is based on conditions being met, i.e., our performance, we tend to feel that nothing is good enough, so He couldn’t possibly be happy with us anyway. The conclusions are that I have to live up to a certain standard to expect blessing. And the behavior is that of striving and never feeling good enough. Those efforts are often accompanied by a great deal of depression because it is not a workable structure and the person will not be able to feel loved and accepted while pursuing approval in that way. People who wrestle with these feelings may not be keenly aware of what is going on. Because in their thinking they understand and know that God loves them and accepts them unconditionally, it does not make any sense why they do not experience His acceptance. The conclusion is not in their mind; it is an emotional belief, a strong conclusion that has lodged in their heart, and they will not be able to convince their heart with mind arguments. They will have to turn around, listen to the heart belief and get it all the way over to God, being very honest with Him about it in order to find out if it is even true. "Lord, I see that in my heart I feel very strongly that You could not possibly love and accept me until I clean up my act. Is that true? Are You over there waiting for me to get it together?"
The key is then to help them hear the Lord’s response. Of course, their conclusion is not the gospel (good news)—He came to get us when were far from together; that is the gospel. That has to become real in their hearts, where the nearly opposite belief must be exchanged for the Lord’s perspective. The truth to be reckoned with here is not only that He is not waiting for us to get it together so we are worthy to approach Him; it is also that we are not the ones who get to Him. He is the One who comes to get us. God will reveal Himself to us, meet with us, and in that interaction we will come to know Him, but we will not be able to figure Him out.
Ministry begins with the striving, has to proceed through the conclusions, the belief that striving to please the Lord is essential, and get down to the discovery of how those demands were communicated. The key question is: "Does the Lord agree with my conclusion?" If not, how does He see it? Does He also hold those conditions? If He doesn’t, what is His approval based on?
Feelings of guilt can build up as a result of an actual wrong we have done, for which we are responsible and answerable, and in that case we need to humble ourselves and bring it to the Lord. They can also be due to a failure to measure up to someone else's expectations or desire for us. Paul Tournier called that "false guilt." The truth or falsehood of guilt needs to be determined with the Lord.
Guilt - True or False
Relational Event Defense of Ego Conclusions Behaviors
Whatever the feelings of guilt are, they are very heavy and take a toll in terms of disqualifying people and making them feel unworthy. Each time those feelings are bumped into, there is an occasion at hand to examine them with the Lord and see what His provision is for freeing us from them. If it is a true guilt—that is, we have ignored and/or disobeyed Him, or put other things or people before Him—we confess it, humble ourselves, receive His forgiveness and freeing, and enter a new agreement with Him that releases our life to be more fully committed to Him. If it is a false guilt based on the opinion and preference of man, it is a matter of letting the Lord clear up the gap between their perspective and His and help us move over into His. Because we may have invested strong belief in the disappointment others expressed and feel the guilt of letting them down, we will not be able to experience much freedom unless the Lord overrules that perspective and gives us His more complete one. If we were not going against Him, there is no real guilt. The event may have called for the other person to let go of control and respect the choice of another person for their life.
All three conditions are covered by the directive in Jeremiah 4:3,4, a Scripture about taking away the foreskins of our hearts, uncovering our heart and clearing out the thorns and briers. Being in this process continually, as a way of life with the Lord, is also called abiding in Him (John 15:4).
Abide means to remain or stay in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy. That's the invitation. The light and love available when we are abiding in Him enables us to see and receive the Lord’s restoration from heart structures that have become prisons.
These drawings reflect the elements of the fall and how they are lodged in our hearts. They also reflect the associations in life that have wounded and distorted our perspective. In all of them there is a picture of how the natural tendency to hide works. They reflect what makes up our "knowing" by our own faculties and how we came to "know" certain things. They describe beliefs we have incorporated due to receiving approval more from each other than from God; and they indicate the confusion we wrestle with as to who is responsible for what. All of these influence our condition of heart until the Lord stands in the midst of them with His light and puts our heart back in the relational order in which He created us to function.
Lord, I pray that You use the reading of these models to reveal Your great intent to free our hearts and unite them with You. Encourage the hearts of Your children. We are easily confused. You are very clear, Lord. Show us Your way through the debris and back into the presence and provision of the King!
Connecting Hearts to God