Sometimes I just feel like a slave. A slave to my emotions. A slave to my circumstances. A slave to my complaining, short-sighted tendencies. My heart sometimes just doesn’t know where to rest. Or what to value. Or who to trust or love.
Have you ever felt this way? Tossed to and fro by your own feelings? Unsure whether or not to even trust your own rationality? What causes this annoying restlessness, and how can it be fixed?
The world tells us to believe in ourselves, to trust our gut instincts, to follow our hearts (Disney, anyone?). But we best know that even though we can try putting up a façade, inner turmoil cannot simply be fixed by suppressing it. Sometimes we just aren’t our best advisors. Sometimes even the people around us might not offer us the best advice if they are not god-fearing or experienced. What—or on whom—should we rely on then? Yes, the Sunday School answer would be God, or Jesus, and that would not be wrong. But let’s dig deeper and try to discover what that truly means. What relying on God to direct our steps, to direct even our hearts and deepest emotions, really means.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). A hard truth is that whenever the Bible talks about human nature, it hits the nail on the head. It is always spot on about the true condition of the human heart. As painful and cringe-worthy “desperately sick” sounds… I admit, that is a very accurate description of how I sometimes feel about the condition of my heart.
It’s one thing to know what’s right and to actually do what’s right. In the heat of the moment, anger, impulsiveness, infatuation, and even laziness often win out against our better selves. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, suffered from acting as a slave to his emotions. After committing adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God in Psalm 51, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” To all of us who have felt like slaves to our hearts, hear these reassuring words: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
So the bad news is we have wicked hearts. We can’t do everything by ourselves. But the good (very good!) news is that God can help lead our hearts. It will involve a hard process of surrender, dying to self, and moments of failure. But we are safe in the hands of our Potter and Shepherd, who prunes, refines, and molds us into beautiful masterpieces from worthless clay.
We are works in progress. Although attaining perfection and inner peace without effort at the moment we commit our lives to Christ sounds amazing, maybe the struggle is vital to reaching the end goal. Maybe the “thorns” and “scars” of life build our character. Maybe trusting in God instead of in ourselves turns our eyes upward and outward instead of inward, our “What If” into “What Now,” our restlessness into restedness. What a relief…that we don’t need to rely in our own untrustworthy hearts! Instead we can rest in God and His steadfast love.
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” – St. Augustine, Confessions
Eliza Tan (18) is a staff writer at Changing Lives Ministry. She is a sophomore at Asbury University in Whitmore, Kentucky