I have been writing about the heart all this month, thanks to a reader’s questions. But I would be missing something if I did not speak about the hardened heart. The Bible uses this term in a number of places and urgently warns us about having a hardened heart. What are the signs of a hardened heart? In this article I will speak of 7 signs of a hardened heart, but most importantly, share God’s cure for it. God can, in this, as in all things, bring healing.
In a previous article, I wrote about the difference between the soul and the heart. The soul encompasses the mind, will, and emotions. The heart is seen as the seat of emotions, aspirations, and beliefs, and is therefore, part of the soul of a person.
Now, Jesus said that “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45 ) and therefore the condition of one’s heart is so important. What we say and do starts out in our hearts.
And King Solomon said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) It seems pretty important, then, that we attend to the condition of our hearts to keep them soft and good.
What are the 7 signs of a hardened heart?
A hardened heart is basically a heart that is unmoved by things others would be compassionate about. It is a heart that is rebelling against God. But, there’s more. Here is a list of 7 strong warning signs that a heart has hardened and needs repair:
- Lack of ability to perceive, remember, or grasp events or ideas coming from God.
- Insensitivity to sin, sinfulness.
- Failure to follow God’s commands, the way of Jesus, the voice of the Holy Spirit.
- Arrogance and pride.
- One is easily offended, resentful, lacks ability to forgive.
- Indifference to the Word of God.
- Unbelief, drawing away from God.
And, if we think a hardened heart only occurs in someone who does not believe in God or perhaps in the most notorious of hardened hearts owners, Pharaoh, we’re mistaken. Yes, Pharaoh was the ruler described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible who would not let the Israelites leave their slavery and his country, Egypt. No matter how many plagues God sent on him and the Egyptians, Pharaoh continued to have an increasingly hard heart and would not let the people go.
Jesus chides the disciples about hardness of heart
But, here’s the truth. “Anyone’s heart can harden, even faithful Christians. In fact, in Mark 8:17-19, we see Jesus’ own disciples suffering from this malady. The disciples were concerned with their meager bread supply, and it was clear that each of them had forgotten how Jesus had just fed thousands with only a few loaves. Questioning them as to the hardness of their hearts, Christ spells out for us the characteristics of this spiritual heart condition as an inability to see, understand, hear, and remember.” (from an article on www.gotquestions.org)
Here is that Bible passage:
“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’
‘Twelve,’ they replied.”
So, hardness of heart can be in any one of us if we don’t “stay on our toes.”
How does a heart get hardened?
How do our hearts grow hard, unfeeling, disobedient, and cold?
As you may know or guess, sin is a major component. If we keep on doing something or things that are wrong and don’t repent or stop, our hearts will get hard. Our conscience will no longer get stung by these wrong acts or attitudes. They just become habit and no big deal.
You’ve probably heard of the concept of the “frog in a kettle.” If you put a frog in boiling water, he’ll jump out immediately. But if you put him in a pot and gradually warm the water until it reaches boiling, he’ll probably die in it as he won’t perceive that danger is increasing.
Sin is this way. If we do wrong things a little bit at a time, gradually they get a hold of us, until we don’t think about the wrongness of our actions. But the Bible is very clear, “the wages of sin is death…,” (Romans 6:23) if there is no repentance.
Ingratitude and disappointment also hurt the heart
Jesus accused the disciples of hardness of heart in the event described above (Mark 8:17-19). In fact, more than once they showed that their excitement over a miracle tended to be short-lived. They forgot.
A lot of us can be this way. God moves in our lives. We have a revelation of His love and help. Then, a short time later, we’ve forgotten and are complaining again. This can be the way any one of us behaves. Ingratitude is deadly.
But finally, another way that we develop a hard heart is through disappointment. I actually think this is very common too. You pray for something. It doesn’t happen in the way you were hoping. You get disappointed. Or, perhaps, someone betrays or hurts you. Suddenly, you begin to hold in question the whole idea of being earnest in your faith. “Why bother?” you’re thinking at some level.
We can all get disappointed. People are imperfect. Life is not predictable. It’s necessary to get back up, dust yourself off and keep trying. Developing grudges, resentment, or bitterness always hurts us far more than anyone else. Jesus told us entry into the kingdom could only be done with a childlike, expectant mindset. And, we MUST forgive.
What are the solutions to a hardened heart?
So, what are the solutions to a hardened heart? You might be surprised, after I’ve described sin and pride and such that I’m going to end this by sharing a moving story I read on the Bible in One Year website (from the Alpha program) This is a bible reading program so that you read the whole Bible with very easy to understand commentary in one year.
Here’s the story:
A soldier came to an Alpha session at Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. Alpha is for non-believers to explore the Christian faith in a safe, no pressure environment. This man had been having knee pain for twelve years. There was no cartilage left in his knee. On top of that, he tore the ligaments and tendons in his knee. He could neither sit nor stand for very long because of the intense pain.
By his own description, the soldier had “decided to try God and try Alpha.” Though in the program, he was not going to the church. With “much hesitation,” he decided to go.
There, he heard people testifying about their healings from God and in his mind, he was thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” His heart was hardened against God. But, then, someone had a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8) about missing knee cartilage.
The soldier sucked in his breath and went forward to receive the prayer he didn’t believe in and encountered a miracle. God healed his knee and he began to run again. And draw nearer to God.
What should we do to repair our stony hearts?
To cure the hardness of our hearts, we need to humble ourselves and repent. Repentance does not just mean that we feel badly about something and regret it, but it means primarily, that we turn in the opposite direction. We “go completely the other way.”
And, we need to dive deeply into God’s Word. The Bible renews our minds and brings our thoughts into conformity with God’s heart.
Finally, we need to obey what we hear and read from God. When we hear that “still, small voice” of the Spirit, we need to hop to it and do what God is leading us to do.
But, here’s the really good news. As for the soldier above, God is a God of surprises for us too. In those times of our lives when we get jaded from people letting us down, from setbacks; when we’ve failed and given into temptation, God has a way of touching our lives and bringing us back.
Just as the soldier described above received a healing he never expected, God breaks into our lives too with truth, a bit of kindness, a healing, resources, unexpected aid and our hearts soften because of Him.
Do you recall when Jesus restored Peter?
The apostle Peter was at one point, a disappointed, jaded disciple on the beach by the Sea of Galilee (See John 21). He had denied he knew Jesus in the high priest’s courtyard, not once but three times. So, for a moment, he gave up and went back to fishing.
Remember, Jesus had warned, “If you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33) Peter’s sin of betrayal was no small thing.
And so Peter was suffering from hardness of heart, mad at himself. He was back on the beach, in the fishing boat, turned away from the Lord and from helping people. But, Jesus visited Him suddenly, miraculously and then restored him. Peter entered into ministry with a new heart once again.
Keep in mind the promise of Ezekiel 36:26:
“And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” God promised. He will do it.
How can you pray about a hardened heart?
If you sense any of the above is true for you or someone you know – arrogance, pride, indifference to sin, coldness to people, don’t wait, pray. Ask the Lord to intervene and to create in you (or them) a new heart. Especially, if this has come about by hurt. In truth, the perfect prayer has already been written for us in these heartfelt lines from Psalm 51:10-12, 15-17:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it…
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
you God, will not despise.
Create in us all, a newer, fresher, more tender, more true heart, O God. Amen
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