I am convinced that there is a tiredness that is growing in our nation and our world – a tiredness of life being only about what we have and what we need; about going to work so that we can pay the bills, and then paying the bills so that we can go out to work. As Christians, we know that life is more than what you do and what you can afford; we know that we are not just a body, but a living soul, connected to our creator. We know that there is an inside to us – the Bible calls this our heart – our mind and will; all of that stuff that determines who we are and how we respond to the world around us. We know that the condition of the heart – the condition of our inner self – affects the way that we think and live and see the world, for the good or for the bad.
Solomon had some great wisdom around this: “Above all else,” he says, “guard your heart; for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:20). This is a truth that we know: that if the inside of us is hurt, and broken, and bitter, then it is going to affect the way that we live our lives, and that bitterness is going to come out, whether we want it to or not. But if the inside of us is good, and we know who we are, who created us and what we are here for, then this is also going to flow out of us in the way that we live, in the passions that we have, and in our friendships. Roald Dahl said it like this: “if you have good thoughts, they will shine out of you like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely”. We know that there is a responsibility to care for the things that are inside of us, because that is what is going to come out.
We could take this, and feel a pressure: don’t spend time with those people because their behaviour might catch on to you; don’t listen to that music or read that book; don’t watch that Harry Potter film you might catch some of the sinfulness. I’m not saying that the things around us can’t influence us, but I sometimes wonder if this mindset means that we are spending a lot of energy trying to keep ourselves holy, when God has already made us holy. I sometimes wonder if this mindset means that we do not go near certain people in the fear that their behaviour will have an affect on our heart, when they are the people who need us near the most. I wonder if this mindset keeps us in our own very safe, very small bubble, when God is telling us to go.
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul says this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in all things, but in all things through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6). God gently linked these two verses together for me, and it changed my perspective on what it means to keep my heart turned towards him. I’m pretty sure that we are not supposed to keep God in a Sunday-shaped box, but walk with Him throughout our whole week and involve him in everything – and this is the key: give it all to Him, and trade it all for peace.
How do we protect our hearts? We do not put up walls, and not let anything or anyone near us. We walk through our entire lives with Him; and we do not hold on to anxieties about anything in our heart, but give it immediately and directly to Him – because when we do this, he promises to fill our hearts with peace beyond understanding. This peace does not hang on answers and solutions to the things that are causing us to feel anxious – if peace came when God had sorted it all out for us and given us a solution, that would be peace within understanding; and yet we are not promised peace within understanding, but peace beyond understanding – peace that is abundant, ridiculous and cannot be explained.
What does this peace do for us? It protects our hearts in Christ Jesus: that is, we do not need to live in fear of anything that might taint our heart, we do not need to put up walls and keep ourselves away from people who see the world differently to us. Instead, we are just told to live in a conversation with Him, not taking on anxieties for ourselves but giving them directly to Him; and letting Him fill us with that peace that doesn’t make any sense. And then, the life that flows from us will come straight out of us – watch, and see the things that He can do with a heart that is totally for Him.
We do not need to protect our heart – because He wants to do it for us.