Choose Not to Harden Your Heart
One More Year of Choices
By Barbara Dahlgren
God admonishes us not to harden our hearts like the children of Israel did. (Psalm 95:8; Hebrews 3:7-11) Time and time again the Israelites saw the miracles God performed, yet they seemed determined not to appreciate all God did for them. Because they hardened their hearts one too many times, they did not believe. An unbelieving heart turns away from God and cannot enter into His rest. (Hebrews 3:12; 3:19) Because of their unbelief, the children of Israel were not allowed to go into the Promised Land.
The Greek word for “hardened” means to be stubborn, bullheaded, headstrong, self-willed, inflexible, stiff-necked, dry, hard, or tough. We all struggle with these proclivities from time to time. The trick is not to let these characteristics overtake and consume us. A stiff-necked person is headed for disaster. (Proverbs 29:1) Hearts that become calloused do not want to see or hear God. (Matthew 13:14, 15) Hardened hearts lose their spiritual vitality. They go through the motions of being Christians, but their hearts are not in it. They may honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. (Mark 7:6, 7)
A hardened heart does not appear overnight. It’s a process and may happen so gradually we don’t even know it. Perhaps it starts with grumbling, complaining, griping, or blaming others. Then we make a habit of not doing what we know we should do, or doing what we know we shouldn’t do. God’s Word slips away. (Hebrews 2:1) We segue into refusing to acknowledge God’s greatness or what He has done for us. We are unappreciative. Communication with God falters. We stop praising, worshipping, and praying. We start to rely on ourselves instead of God and enter into self-deception. Then it’s just one short step into being unwilling to trust God. The heart becomes hardened.
A hardened heart loses the ability to spiritually perceive, understand, hear, see, or remember God’s love, grace, and greatness. We can all be guilty of this sometimes.
Consider this… Even the disciples had to guard against hardened hearts. (Mark 8:17-18) Their thoughts would get overly dominated with physical concerns, so Jesus would have to remind them of who He was and what He was capable of doing. After all, didn’t He feed the multitude with just a little fish and bread? Yes, He did!
If we feel ourselves drifting from God, we are in danger of letting our hearts become hardened. Remember, God doesn’t move from us, but we sometimes move from Him. To get back to Him, we need to get back to the basics like prayer, Bible study, and meditation. These basics need to be coupled with asking God to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. (Psalm 51:10)
Remember, only God can replace our stony hearts with new ones – hearts that will yield to Him. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Suggestions for practicing this choice…
Hardened hearts forget God’s greatness. We can be quite forgetful, so ask God to bring back to memory all the wonderful things He has done for you. You could even list things as you remember them, so you can reread them when you feel discouraged.
Guard against letting pride and arrogance consume your life. Proud people have a hard time admitting they are wrong and arrogant people know they are never wrong. If not kept in check, these self-destructive attributes can carry over into our relationship with God. Ask God to help you see when you are wrong and be willing to apologize.
Ask God to search your heart and gently point out areas where you need to change. Ask Him to help you be receptive to changing. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Try not to let the negativity of this world get you down. A “what’s the use” attitude keeps us from opening our hearts to what God has in store for us. When the world gets you down, ask God to lift you up.
Ask God to continually soften your heart and give you a right spirit, one receptive to Him. (Psalm 51:10)