How to Heal a Toxic Heart
- Dawn Wilson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2016 8 Dec
The Bible mentions the “heart” nearly 300 times, but it’s not talking about that big muscle in the middle of our chest. The heart in Scripture is the spiritual home for our most authentic self, where we dream big dreams and pursue our passions. It connects us with the Lord and people.
As the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), everything flows “downstream” from the heart: our thoughts, attitudes, words, actions and habits. If that wellspring becomes poisoned, everything else downstream becomes toxic too.
Jesus said the evils of life erupt “out of men’s hearts,” making us unclean (Mark 7:21-23). We all have a serious heart problem!
The Bible tells us King David was a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), so we understand God has a “heart” too, and God’s children can align their hearts with His. It is His work in us that makes this possible.
We don’t understand how deeply sin has affected us. In its natural state, the human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), deeply affected by the Fall. God knows how pervasive our sins are (Psalm 44:21; Jeremiah 17:10), because He searches and tests our hearts. The Lord knows our most secret and pet sins.
The truth is, only God can heal our totally toxic hearts. It is “with the heart” we believe in the finished work of Christ that accomplishes our forgiveness and righteousness (Romans 10:10). He transforms our hearts when we come to Him.
David longed for transformation. He prayed, “Create in me a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10). In Ezekiel 36:26, the Lord promised His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” It is this new, changed heart and the work of God’s Spirit that enables God’s children to walk in newness of life.
Today, Christ-followers are blessed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who continually works to make believers more like Christ. As we yield our heart and body to Him, we cooperate with the Spirit in His sovereign work of grace, and daily change begins (Romans 6:8-14).
There are at least three ways we can respond to the Spirit as He continues to heal our toxic hearts.
Just as a surgeon must cut out a lethal cancer before a body can begin to heal, we allow the Spirit of God to root out the toxins in our hearts. The Spirit makes us aware of the presence of sin in order that we might repent.
We all struggle with sin and its consequences (1 John 1:8-10; Galatians 6:7-8), but feeling bad about sin won’t change a thing; and remaining in a place where we feel shame and a sense of condemnation only leads to more defeat. The Apostle Paul wrote about the wretchedness of this struggle (Romans 7:15-24).
We need to repent. And feeling bad is not repentance. The Hebrew word for “repent” is “to sigh or breathe heavily,” essentially to grieve over sin. When we respond to the Spirit and understand how deeply our sin displeases God, we develop a sense of godly grief and a desire to turn away from sin.
And this prepares us for the next step.
Genuine sorrow over sin leads us to confess our sins to the Lord. We agree with God, getting specific in calling out the toxins poisoning our lives.
We don’t ignore, redefine or justify sin. We don’t gloss it over. We don’t blame other people or our circumstances or environment. We face the reality of our toxicity and call it what God calls it.
If a heart is poisoned with bitterness or anger or hate, it does no good to call these things by other names. And healing never comes in casting blame. Sin is sin, no matter how justified we feel pretending otherwise.
Adam blamed Eve (and ultimately God) for his sin instead of owning up to it (Genesis 3:12), and that has been mankind’s tendency ever since. Like David, we must admit sin is an act of our will and ultimately against the Lord (Psalm 51:4). We must accept full responsibility, confess and stop making excuses.
Confession is not a matter of pleading for forgiveness. All of a Christian’s sins are already forgiven in Christ (1 John 2:12; Ephesians 4:32). Confession is simply admitting to God that we are at fault and are willing to deal with our besetting sins.
Christians confess their sins from a perspective of faith and obedience (1 John 1:9). The healing truth is this: in Christ there is “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1). We know we are released from the penalty of sin, and we’re aware of the continuing influence of sin in our flesh, but we rejoice that someday we will be free from the presence of sin.
God wants to heal us because He loves us. It’s why Jesus came (Luke 4:18). The power of the cross is Christ coming to change and heal our broken, sinful hearts. And Jesus also wants to make us who are positionally holy, experientially holy too (Acts 13:39; John 17:17). He wants us to obey the Word and pursue holiness.
It is our responsibility to “keep a close watch” on ourselves (1 Timothy 4:16). Solomon says we must guard our hearts if we would keep them pure (Proverbs 4:23). This is no small task. The heart is a battleground and Satan is bent on our destruction, opposing God and everything that is aligned with Him!
We would be wise to consider what we allow to enter our hearts. We’ll monitor influences: what we see on television and at the movies, what we read, what we listen to. We will train our eyes to look away from anything displeasing to the Lord. We will persevere in making godly choices, not allowing for compromise when it comes to godly priorities.
Solomon offers three powerful ways to keep our hearts with vigilance. We can check our speech, watch our gaze, and ponder the path of our feet (Proverbs 4:24-26). “Then all your ways,” Solomon says, “will be sure.”
We can also erect a strong “fence” to help keep toxins away. We can dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
Only God can heal our toxic hearts, but it’s certainly a believer’s responsibility to yield to the Holy Spirit, keep a close watch, and make wise choices to guard the new heart the Lord gives us.
Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, and also publishes LOL with God and Upgrade with Dawn and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with the International School Project.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/weerapatkiatdumrong