The heart is universally recognized as a symbol of love, and the month of February is prime season for all the hearts as we fashion chocolate into hearts, scribble them on our Valentines, and emblazon hearts across our t-shirts. One of my favorite traditions when my boys were young was to prepare a giant chocolate chip cookie cake in the shape of a heart for them to eat for breakfast on Valentine’s Day. After all, what better way to express my love than to offer chocolate chip cookies for the most important meal of the day! On our very first Valentine’s Day as a dating couple, my husband demonstrated his love for me by wrestling a giant inflatable heart up the stairway to my second floor apartment. Songs tell of burning hearts, shattered hearts, and even achy breaky hearts. Our hearts are the source of life flowing through our bodies, contracting 100,000 times a day, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood, and delivering oxygen and other essential nutrients to our vital organs. So it’s no doubt that our hearts are of great importance.
God created our hearts with both physical and spiritual significance, and confirms the vital nature of the heart through the number of mentions in His Word. In the CSB translation of the Bible, the heart is mentioned 508 times. That’s almost ten times the number of mentions of the soul (55), and almost five times the number of mentions of the mind (111). Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, recognized the importance of the heart when he said, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” If this is true, and seeds planted in the heart grow into thoughts and actions, then it’s important to make sure our hearts are both physically and spiritually healthy. In fact, Proverbs 4:23 cautions us to “Guard your heart above all else for it is the source of life.”
Our Hearts Are Sick
Heart disease is the number one killer of people in the United States. According to the CDC, approximately 647,000 deaths occur each year as a result of heart disease. Physical heart disease can be managed through proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and appropriate medication. But what are we to do about our spiritually sick hearts? Spiritual heart-sickness has caused even more devastation over the millennia than physical heart disease. The first mention of the heart in scripture is in Genesis 8:21 when God promises after the flood to never again curse the ground because of man, “…even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward.” Later in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Thus, we are born with diseased hearts, spiritually speaking. As much as we may desire the cure, we don’t have the means within ourselves to provide it. We can’t reach inside and fix this ailment. Unfortunately, many times we are encouraged to just “follow our hearts.” Perhaps it’s not wise to let emotions guide us without the direction of the one who created our hearts in the first place. Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” Only when God mends our hearts can we be assured that we will remain on course.
God Heals Our Hearts
So is there anything we can do to treat our spiritual heart disease? We can do nothing on our own. The cure rests in placing our faith in Jesus, who suffered, died, and was resurrected to pay the penalty for our sin. Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Psalm 119:11 instructs us to treasure God’s Word in our hearts so that we will not continue to sin against Him. As God’s Word takes root in our hearts, sin becomes less appealing to us. But, as flawed humans, sin inevitably rears its ugly head, requiring us to cleanse our hearts through the regular practice of confession and repentance. The psalmist is an example for us in Psalm 51:10 when he pleads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” As we strive to keep our hearts pure and live holy lives during our brief time on earth, God promises that we will live eternally with Him in heaven. Jesus assures us in Matthew 5:8 that the pure in heart will see God.
We Satisfy Our Hearts In Him
The first portion of the great commandment in Mark 12:30 says to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” So what does it mean to love God with all our hearts? Does it mean mushy emotionalism, or could it mean something more? Psalms 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” We were made by our Creator to worship, and our hearts will never be truly satisfied or whole until we humbly submit our wills to His as an expression of loyalty and faithful worship. Augustine of Hippo said, “Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” God’s Word promises in Jeremiah 29:13 that, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” As we journey on an earnest quest toward deeper fellowship with our Creator, we recognize who He is, and that He is the only one worthy of our whole-hearted devotion.
When my older son was about two years old, he made a Valentine in his Sunday School class. He brought it home, and we proudly displayed the lovingly crafted artwork on his bedroom door. As we went through our bedtime routine every night, we typically read a bedtime story, said a prayer, and went through the standard toddler stalling tactics. One night as he noticed the heart hanging on his door, he said, “There’s a heart on my door. Isn’t it pretty?” I’m not sure why, but we jokingly responded, “No. It’s disgusting, it’s horrible, it’s ugly!” Seeing the shock on his face, we then immediately replied, “No. It’s beautiful, and so are you!” He then said, “And so are you!” Hugs and kisses ensued immediately. For several months this became part of our bedtime routine, and we recited it exactly the same way every night. I admit it was kind of strange, but reflecting back on it, I think it gives a little insight into how we relate to God. We think there’s nothing wrong with our hearts and proudly put them on display. As we hold them up before a holy God, the ugliness within is revealed. Because He loves us, He provides the means to make our hearts beautiful and pure so we can enjoy His presence forever. And that will truly be a magnificent place to dwell for all who place their trust in Him.