Is Your Heart Protected From the Hurricane?
I didn’t think the intrusive leak in the living room was a big deal until the hurricane hit. Yes, I knew about the leak beforehand. Over time, its damaging effects on our wood floor had become noticeable. After several frustrating attempts to fix the breach, I began to tolerate it. Ignore it. Put the couch over it. I prioritized other more “productive” endeavors over a house problem that seemed unresolvable. When weeks turned into months, I stopped thinking about the “floor issue,” forgetting about it altogether.
Until Hurricane Irma. It was then I witnessed firsthand cheap procrastination morph into costly compromise. Hurricane Irma’s wind-whipped rains came so fast and furious that our Wet-Vac worked overtime to contain the havoc being wreaked on the floor through the breach. In a matter of two hours, the damage was done, and it was irreparable. While most of the house weathered the storm fine, my one small neglect opened the door to ruining what was valuable inside.
Guarding the Heart
Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) instructs us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.” Another version reads: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV). Watch over. Tend to. Defend, like a city, preserving from dangers, so that it might remain free from harm.
Fast forward to 2020, a year that has hit our society like a hurricane. It seems like between COVID-19 and civil unrest, we have collectively failed to carefully guard our hearts. According to an April 2020 study conducted by Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, 70% of 2020 participants met criteria for moderate to serious mental illness, compared with just 22% in 2018.
What’s this telling us? Have we grown so frustrated and weary with nonstop mental assaults that we’ve decided to peacefully co-exist with “a little decay” within our four walls? If our homes are worth protecting for the value that resides within them, shouldn’t we watch over them with care? I personally spent hours trying to find a damaging leak infiltrating my house which is temporal, should I not spend even more time defending my heart, which is eternal?
Image-Bearers of Christ
Maybe we don’t fully understand the exceedingly precious value of our own hearts. The biblical use for “heart” includes our feelings, will, and intellect. Described as “our innermost being,” and “the center,” the heart is the seat of our desires, emotions and passions. But, also, the seat of our courage, that quality of mind or spirit enabling us to face difficulty, danger, and pain without fear. Perhaps the real battle being waged to infiltrate our hearts is actually a battle for our courage.
As image-bearers of “Christ in us,” we are to be “life-givers” to the world, with an “outflow” of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This happens when our hearts are in a good place. As we actively guard ourselves against spiritually decaying influences that would try to permeate the sanctuary of our hearts, we are able to enjoy our relationship with God freely and be changed in His presence. Jesus himself said that whoever believed in Him, “‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” What’s worth more than protecting that outflow to a world in desperate need of it?
“Keeping our hearts” means we defend against the fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:16), set up peace as our guard (Philippians 4:7), and center our thoughts on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4:8). We guard against messages that incite fear, anger, and confusion, so that, conversely, we protect that which is valuable inside the “house,” like a sense of well-being. Even as our hearts are the center of our being, they too must be centered.
Weathering the Hurricane
In the end, my husband unearthed our foundation until he finally found the small hole causing all the damage. After several failed attempts by professionals, the issue was solved when the owner himself caulked the crevice — but not before the hurricane hit in the middle of the night and hit harder than expected.
Likewise, as we’re all weathering a national hurricane that’s hitting us harder than expected, we might uncover holes in our own foundations where mentally, emotionally, and spiritually we weren’t as prepared as we may have thought. Also, we may realize that had we guarded our hearts better, we wouldn’t be doing damage control inside the four walls, but rather we’d be a first responder outside of them.
We want to overflow with compassion. We want our love run hot and not grow cold. We want to stay empowered by the Word of God. If these are our desires, we must revisit the phrase, “Above all else.” It’s time to reorient our lives around the priority of guarding our hearts above all things — to seal up the cracks where wrong thoughts and beliefs would seep in and pollute the peace that passes understanding.
We defend ourselves against the mind-numbing attempts to rob us of our sanity, plant seeds of self-doubt, and strip us of our courage. Courage is what our world needs right now. And courage comes from the heart — a heart protected from the hurricane.
Annemarie McLean is a four-girl mom, freelance writer, and co-founder of Brave & Beautiful, a ministry focused on challenging young women to live purpose-driven lives full of courage and character, while developing Christ-centered inner beauty. Annemarie holds a journalism degree from Oral Roberts University, with graduate work in organizational leadership at Palm Beach Atlantic University.