Cultivating a Healthy HeaCultivating a healthy heart
Guest Post by Jo Acharya
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure;” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV) These words will resonate with anyone who has ever followed their own thoughts, feelings or desires down paths that proved to be destructive. How can we trust ourselves at all, if this is the verdict of God’s word and our own experience?
In the Bible, the heart is our inner self: our unique blend of thoughts, feelings, choices, desires and beliefs. It’s the place where decisions are made, where we turn towards one thing and away from another. It’s where we react emotionally to events, form opinions and develop a view of the world around us. Our hearts are the core of who we are.
The Bible is clear about two things. Firstly, the fact that we have the ability to think, feel and choose is good. It’s how God made us! The very first task God gave to Adam in Genesis 2 was to use his powers of reason and creativity to name the animals. Our capacity for conscious thought and emotion is one of the ways that we are made in God’s image.
But secondly, the Bible tells us that our ability to think, feel and choose is damaged by sin. It’s true: we cannot fully trust ourselves. The answer though is not to reject or ignore our hearts, but to submit them to a higher authority. Proverbs 3:5 (NIV) tells us, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.’ The characters in Sophia’s new book, ‘The Captive’s Crown’ grapple with this as they gradually learn to trust God above their own damaged emotions and desires.
Even for Jeremiah, human brokenness is not the last word. Later in his prophetic book, God reveals his plan for the redemption of every part of us, including our hearts: ‘“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”’ (Jeremiah 31:33, NIV)
The very innermost part of us, the part that is enslaved to lies, is the very part that God promises to engrave with his truth. The part that is ‘beyond cure’ is the very part that can now be healed and restored by the saving work of Jesus. Not only that – the Holy Spirit makes his home in the hearts of those who trust him, and works with us to bring health and wholeness into every part of our lives.
So what is our part in cultivating a healthy heart?
Our thoughts and emotions are so familiar to us that it can be easy to assume they are accurate and reliable. But they are rooted in the complex soil of our upbringings and past experiences, and for most of us the true and helpful are mixed with the false and harmful in ways that aren’t easy to tease out. When we start to examine where our feelings or thoughts are coming from, we often find they tell us more about ourselves than they do about the world around us. When we ask God to help us line our inner selves up with his truth and life-giving love, he is more than ready to teach us his ways.
This kind of self-reflection can be challenging and even painful. But when it’s done carefully and prayerfully, and with pastoral or therapeutic support if needed, it can bring freedom, wisdom and emotional stability. There are many resources available to support this journey. One is my devotional journal, Refresh, which explores God’s design for wellbeing in many aspects of life, including our inner selves. It’s designed to gently guide you into a conversation with the Holy Spirit, where you can invite him to shine his light into the areas that need help and healing.
Perhaps you could begin your conversation with these famous words from Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV): ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’
Jo Acharya is a writer and former music therapist. She lives in Sussex with her husband Dan and is passionate about inviting God into every part of our lives. You can read more of her writing on her website valleyofsprings.com, where you can also buy signed copies of her first book, Refresh: a wellness devotional for the whole Christian life’.