They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the LORD of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them. —Zechariah 7:12 NLT
I came across this puzzling verse the other day and have been chewing on it mentally ever since. Often in Scripture, God hardens a heart or promises to change a hard heart of stone to a soft and supple one. In this verse, however, we read that God’s people hardened their hearts on purpose so they could not hear Him and His instructions. And this made God angry. Eugene Peterson interprets the passage like this in The Message: “But did your ancestors listen? No, they set their jaws in defiance. They shut their ears. They steeled themselves against GOD’s revelation and the Spirit-filled sermons preached by the earlier prophets by order of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies. And GOD became angry, really angry, because he told them everything plainly and they wouldn’t listen to a word he said” (Zechariah 7:11-13 MSG).
These words sobered me. Do I willfully harden my heart at times? When God shows me something in His Word or through a sermon from my pastor, am I really listening? As I pondered what causes us to harden our hearts, I thought of several reasons:
Crisis. When someone we love and trust has wounded us, we often build a hard wall around that bruised heart of ours and put up a Stay-Away sign. Feeling sorrow hurts too much, and so we try to stop the pain by not feeling at all.
Control. When we are determined to go our own way, shape our own destiny as we see best, we often harden our hearts against all comers who would make us rethink our grand plans.
Comfort. When we are enjoying a comfortable life and really like it that way, we can easily be so determined to keep just what we want that we stop listening to anything that might disrupt the pretty flow of it all.
I understand these reasons and readily identify with each one. I have absolutely hardened my heart at various moments in my life because of crisis, control, or comfort. The results have not been pretty. Hardening a heart comes at a very high cost.
Crisis. When a crisis causes us to build a hard wall around our bruised hearts, we block ourselves from the only One who can offer true hope and light and healing. God’s intent is not to trample on hearts. He is the Healer, the Peace-Giver, the Restorer of Broken Walls. Even though it hurts to trust again, it is far more damaging to attempt not feeling at all. All those stuffed feelings create ulcers, high blood pressure, depression, and anger toward even those we love. Our high walls and hard hearts hurt us far worse than feeling the pain ever would. If this is you, dear one, seek out a godly counselor. This might be a trusted friend, an older woman in your church, someone your pastor recommends, or a professional Christian counselor, someone who can help you feel again, wisely and carefully, after trauma.
Control. Sometimes we set our hearts on a course of action or a plan for life and become ruthless in making it happen. The plan or destiny that we have determined is what will bring us happiness becomes our god and our obsession. Sadly, too many superstars and athletes have reached the peak of their games and realized in bewilderment that it really wasn’t all they thought it would be. They will still die. They will still have to face their Maker, and they can’t take their stuff or their strength with them. Let’s set our hearts on the treasures that last for all eternity. All else is rubble and will not give lasting pleasure. Don’t waste a life pursuing the wrong things.
Comfort. When we become comfortable and settled in our ways with our own little place to live and enough to eat and wear, it’s far too easy to want to hold onto that comfort to the detriment and harm of others. While we eat well and sleep comfortably, others starve and shiver. Can we help everyone? No. Should we help more than we do? Probably. If we harden our hearts to the poor and the needy, not sharing and giving as God leads and directs, we will miss out on many blessings and joys. Let’s not forget the poor, the imprisoned, the displaced ones. James puts it this way, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27 NLT).
Lord, help me! It is so easy to willfully harden my heart against You, who love me and want what is best for me. Give me a heart that would rather be wounded than not to feel at all. Give me a heart that is yielded, knowing that Your plans for my life are far better than my own. Give me a heart that is willing to hurt for others. I yield, Lord. I yield to You, the One true God. You know me best. You love me most, and Your desire is to help me fulfill all Your good and grand purposes for my life. I choose You and Your will. Soften my heart, Lord, that I might hear Your voice every day in every way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
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