Friday, June 20, 2014

Hardness of Heart and the Ruin of Relationships

Modern divorce rates are high. The last official statistic I found from the CDC was that somewhere around 50% of marriages now end in divorce. In the arena of special needs, where my own family exists, the rates are even higher - hovering around the 80% mark (often due to the weight of physical and emotional burden that husband and wife carry). These are heartbreaking figures, and they result in heartbroken lives. 

Sure, living under the same roof can be rough and marriage can be hard, but then again, since the fall, what relationship isn't? 

Parents and progeny fuss and fight. 
Friends become foes. 
Churches split.  
Relationships rupture.
Many marriages are a mess.

This morning, my quiet time took me to Matthew 19 and a section on divorce.  In the text, a group of Pharisees have come up to try and trick Jesus – as was their custom.  They toss out a question about whether divorce is or isn’t lawful (and lawful “for any cause at all”) and then misquote Moses hoping to trip and trap my Lord.

As is always the case, they fail in their folly.  How do you ever outsmart omniscience?  Jesus does a beautiful job of correcting their twisted teaching by driving them all the way back to the institution of marriage  - marriage before sin made a mess of it.  He looks at the original portrait of the Master rather than the marred imitation of the impostor. 

There’s much I could write on this, but today’s post is actually not one on marriage per se, or about divorce in particular – though it clearly has a ripple effect on both.

This is a post about hard hearts.  My hard heart, your hard heart, the ravaging effect of hard hearts, and ultimately about the One who changes hard hearts.

About halfway through the passage this morning Jesus says this: “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

I was stopped dead in my reading tracks this morning by that phrase: “because of your hardness of heart.” 

Is this issue not always the crux of crisis in relationships? 
Hard hearts hurt us and hard hearts lead us to hurt others!

Think about it: does not every issue of strife and struggle and strain spawn off of someone’s hard heart?  Perhaps it is my own. Perhaps it is my partner’s. Probably it's a bit of both.

Is it not hardness of heart that causes us to be brash instead of benevolent?
…cruel instead of kind?
…lambasting instead of loving?

Is it not hardness of heart that makes us selfish instead of serving?
Is it not hardness of heart that causes us to slam doors shut instead of swinging them open?

Does not all abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and bludgeoning (of fist and of tongue) ultimately come from a hard heart?

If our hearts weren't so hard wouldn't we love more and hate less?
…give more and take less?
…build more and break less?

Were our hearts not so hard would we be more apt to forbear and to forgive others - even as Christ has been so quick to forbear and forgive us?

If husband’s hearts were not so hard would they be much more prone to love their wives even as Christ has loved His (often adulterous) bride?

If wives’ hearts were not so hard would they be much more likely to strive to respect and serve their spouse?

If father’s hearts weren't so hard would they be less likely to provoke their children to anger?

If children’s hearts weren't so hard would they be less likely to disobey and dishonor their father and mother?

If friend’s hearts weren't so hard would we be more faithful?

We are in a mess because by nature our hearts are “more deceitful than anything else and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Is it not "from within, out of the heart of men, that proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness" (Mark 7:21-22)?  

Our hard hearts wreak havoc and wreck relationships, and even as we come to see these things about ourselves we often remain stubborn as stone where they are concerned.

If all our hearts were not so hard would we not be fleeing more to Jesus to help us with these naturally deceitful and desperately wicked hearts that far too often control us?  

As I read this morning I was reminded of my own struggle with a hard heart even in the midst of a beautiful marriage, even against the backdrop of precious children, even in the day to day of interacting with wonderful friends.  Redeemed as I am, I’m still rocky rough around the edges and need help with the stone beneath my surface. 

So, what will I do with my hard heart?  

Will I excuse it and blame all my problems on those around me (as did Adam and Eve)?  Or will I own it?  Will I own my part and seek help for my hardness?  If I were to do so, if I were to hate my hardness more than yours, if I were to despise my sin more than my spouse’s, if I were to fight against my failings more than I fuss about my friends’… how great a difference might it make??

What can I do about my own calloused core?

There is but one sure cure.  There is but one Physician who can take this heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh.  There is but one answer to my selfish, stubborn struggles in relationships.  There is but one source for bending and breaking this boulder - Jesus Christ who was crucified for that hard heart!

Jesus came to earth because of my hard heart. 
He died on the cross for my hard heart. 
He rose from the grave to remind me that He can conquer my hard heart. 

The first step for all of us is to flee to Jesus in faith, for “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.”  It is the marvelous Messiah who “will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you”, who “will remove the heart of stone from you and give you a heart of flesh”, and who will “put [His] Spirit within you and cause you to walk in [His] statutes.”  

Fleeing to Him is the first step.

Continuing to flee to Him is the next step, and the next one, and the next one – until we take that final step into our heavenly home where relationships are made right!  

Left to itself even my renewed heart will petrify like air drying clay unless it is constantly being washed by the One who is the Water of life. I am so prone to wander and so given to hardening in the heat of this fallen world.  

Only as I keep running to Christ in repeated faith and repentance is there hope in my hardening.  Only as I daily turn from my recurring rockiness of heart and fall upon Him and His softening sanctifying grace can I love you as I ought, bear with you as I should, and forgive you as I must.  Only then can my marriage, my parenting, and my partnering with you as my friend become a beautiful thing instead of a bullying thing. 

May I run to Jesus for only He can truly and effectually permeate the impermeable and tenderize the tough.

May we all flee to the gracious God who searches hearts, cleanses hearts, humbles hearts, and changes hearts.  In Him may we find daily renewed hearts that are being made malleable by His mercy - and through Him may we see marriages maintained, divorces dissipate, and relationships restored.

2 comments:

  1. I needed to hear this. Thank you. Your posts always challenge me and encourage me.

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  2. robinson.buckler @ yahoo . com who lives in (UNITED STATE) did a love spell for me about 3 days ago and my Ex reconciled with me……….

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