Guard Your Heart
Apr 20th, 2012 | By Rita Schulte | Category: Women of Faith, Words of Wisdom
By Rita Schulte –
Our world is in constant turmoil today. Everyone seems to be defending a cause or fighting a battle of some sort. Whether it’s the war on terrorism, defending the cause of morality, sexual equality, the right to life, or the right to choose, our fight is always indicative of our passion and tells the story of what we hold dear.
But somewhere wedged in between our causes and the wars we fight lays a different kind of battle. One we often miss because we don’t always pay close attention— it is perhaps the most important battle we will ever enter into—the battle for our hearts. Why is this battle so important? Because our hearts matter to God; and he calls us to guard them with all diligence.
I know—fighting a battle for our hearts seems more like something out of a romance novel than an article on rules of engagement. But if you and I are going to move through the losses of life, we must devise and be intentional about executing a battle plan to care for our hearts after losses assault. In other words, we must learn the rules of engagement.
The first step in this process is to notice how the difficult places in our lives have affected us—at the heart level. Next, we need to identify each person, circumstance, or event that hurt us or broken our hearts. Then we need to put words to our pain.
Devising a Battle Plan
All of our losses are important, and each one has shaped our beliefs about self, God and the world around us, so it’s important we identify both the relational and abstract losses we have incurred in order to process our pain. Relational losses are pretty straightforward and would include loss due to death, divorce, or betrayal. Abstract losses are less recognizable. They could include:
- Shattered dreams or unmet expectations
- Loss of a possession
- Loss of trust, hope, or faith
- Loss of health or safety
- Role loss
- Loss of self-esteem, or identity
- Loss of childhood or innocence
You may begin this journey of self-discovery with an identifiable loss, or you may discover hidden losses that you have never stopped to consider.
To begin, pray. Ask God to help you identify the losses in your life, and record each one. Then put feeling words to your pain.
Next, list what you had hoped for, or expected from this person or situation. This will translate into your loss. Then write down what you will need to trust God for as a result of this unmet expectation. Your list should look something like this:
Offense/Loss Relational Loss—Best friend
- What Happened
- Betrayed a confidence by…..
- How I felt
- Anger, hurt, disappointment, betrayed….
- What I hoped for, or expected
- Her loyalty to our friendship. Loss of trust, faith, role as her friend
- What I will trust Christ for—-my security
Additional ideas for putting words to your pain could include: journaling, writing a letter, writing an autobiography to tell the story of your losses, or talking to a trusted friend. The key is to do what feels right for you.
All these exercises are designed to help you engage with your pain and keep a check on your emotional pulse. If any of your losses have left you with regret, unfinished business, bitterness, or an unforgiving spirit, take the time to learn about forgiveness. A great resource is Dr. Everette Worthington’s work on forgiveness and reconciling.
Putting it All Together
How you respond to hurt and pain will affect you for the rest of your life, because loss has a cumulative effect on your heart. If we don’t allow ourselves to touch or connect of the losses of our lives, if they are denied the expression of emotion, sooner or later we’ll find that our hearts will grow cold, frozen under layers of unrecognized hurt and pain.
Once you have completed your list, it’s time to put it all together by deciding. Here are some things you need to consider:
- How long will I need to grieve this loss? What will that look like?
- What beliefs have I formed about self, God and others from these losses?
- Do I need to forgive myself, God or another person to move forward?
- Is there any unfinished business attached to this loss that needs attention?
- Is there anything hindering me from moving on?
- What next steps do I need to take to move forward?
- Do I need professional help?
Taking care of our hearts can be messy business. Most of us would rather avoid the process altogether, fearing that if we connect with our pain, it will shatter us. The truth is, burying our heads in the sand will only prolong the process. We will continue to experience a low-grade pain or depression for years to come.
The Lord’s command “to guard our hearts with all diligence” begins with noticing what’s happening to them as the issues of life unfold. So begin today. Become a noticer, and follow the rules of engagement to fight the most important battle of your life. You won’t be sorry you took the risk.
Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional Christian counselor in the northern Virginia area. She has written a book entitled Sifted As Wheat: finding hope and healing through the losses of life which is currently represented by Hartline Literary Agency. Rita also hosts a weekly podcast show called Heartline. You can find her at www.siftedaswheat.com.