The way you pack a suitcase says a lot about you. Maybe you’re the “list” type with a 450-point checklist for your weekend excursion, down to the exact number of Q-Tips you think you will need for optimal hygiene. Or maybe you’re the “whatever” type who chucks in a little bit of this and a little bit of that, hoping you will be fine.
If you think about it, your heart is actually a lot like a suitcase.
You pack things in it—or don’t—every day for the journey ahead. And sometimes you find that others have packed things in there for you without your knowledge. The contents of your heart are actually very important—precious, even. The way they are arranged inside you is even important. In a suitcase, it really does matter where you put the shampoo and toothpaste, right? If you put those items on the bottom, underneath your shoes and a heavy book or two, you’re going to have trouble! (I hope you know to put everything in plastic zipper bags …) Well, it’s the same with your heart. There are fragile and squishable things in there that need some attention so you don’t wind up with a big mess.
Caring for your heart is a skill you can learn. It is an essential skill for longevity in relationships of every kind, as well as for your career and ministry.
God created you as a multi-layered being on purpose, and He understands that you feel and sense and emote from the deep well of your heart.
He also understands that everything is not always okay with your heart … and He has every remedy for healing and restoring you.
We all have heart-wounds from being alive. So many things can leave us beat up and scarred: family problems, divorce, abuse, neglect, abandonment, depression, illness, death of a loved one, rejection, offenses, failure, shame …
As a woman who has been through two nasty battles with depression, I understand.
Life can throw some low blows, and before you know it, you’re face down on the floor.
I first walked through the Valley of the Shadow as a teenager when I had no idea how to care for my physical well-being, never mind my heart. I ran myself into the ground and had a panic attack, and then my heart spiraled into deep, dark depression.
What I learned from that whole ordeal: The different layers of “me” are all intertwined and cannot function apart from each other. If I abuse my physical body (too little sleep, poor nutrition, too much caffeine as my teenage self), then my soul and my spirit will be affected as well. I learned that my soul can get out of whack very easily. And I learned that my soul (heart) is not meant to be in charge of me—it just can’t handle the job.
So, how did I get out of that mess? God’s Word. The only thing that brought me any joy during that terrible time was a cassette tape (yes, I said it) of an a cappella group singing verses from the Bible. I kept that thing running day and night. There was one song in particular that got inside my head and began to grow down into my heart. It said, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God! Put your hope in God, put your hope in God …” The group was singing out of the Psalms, and it made me want to know the rest. I read Psalm 42 over and over, until one day I realized I wasn’t surrounded by darkness anymore. God’s voice in His Word and the power of His Holy Spirit led me through the Valley to the other side. He saved me from depression! He healed my body, my soul and my spirit!
Are you in a difficult place? Are the wounds in your heart causing you pain? You are not alone, and you don’t have to endure indefinitely.
My 4 Tips for Managing Your Heart:
1. Put your spirit back in the driver’s seat.
Psalm 42 takes us to a conversation the Psalmist had with himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God! For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (verse 11). He was telling his heart to get in line. Your heart will lead you all over the place, but it cannot adequately navigate life on its own. It needs a qualified driver—your spirit. You connect with God in your spirit and are then able to align the rest of your being in a functioning order: spirit, soul, body. Sometimes you need to tell your heart to get in line and hope in God!
2. Take inventory.
Set aside some one-on-one time with God to look through the contents of your heart. Assess the damage and present it to Him. He’s so kind and gentle that He will not try to work out every issue and correct every problem all at once. He will highlight something specific He wants to deal with, and if you open up to Him, you can begin immediately to receive His healing and transformation in that part of your heart.
3. Fill up with Scripture.
God’s Word is life to your body, your soul and your spirit! Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God’s Word reads you. It changes you, strengthens you and makes you whole. Fill yourself up with it! Read it, sing it, recite it, write it, talk about it, listen to it. Get it into you in every possible way because it is LIFE.
4. Increase your gratitude.
Thankfulness opens the gates of heaven to you. When you are down, fatigued, beat up, finished … train yourself to thank God for things. Thank Him for the breath in your lungs. Thank Him for the solid floor you are lying on. Thank Him for the ability to see, feel, hear … The more you train your heart in gratitude, the better you feel. Push through your emotions and let your spirit give the command to praise God, to worship Him and thank Him even when it’s the last thing you FEEL like doing. A heart full of gratitude will readjust your focus and help get you back on track.
There are so many things you can do to help manage your own heart. But if you are experiencing great difficulty or have been deeply wounded or abused, please see a counselor who can help you process through your feelings. I honestly believe that every person alive could benefit from seeing a counselor! You are an amazing person, and the contents of your heart are worth unpacking.
What steps are you taking to manage your heart?