Healing the Heart, Part 1: Walls

Posted: Apr 26, 2024

This is the first of 3 articles on healing the heart. This first week we will look at that which keeps us from healing, particularly, the walls we build in our hearts.

In the early 2000’s I led a men’s support group in Colorado Springs. One week a new guy walked in. During the meeting every man is asked to share how they were doing with lust, temptation, their marriage and family, and their relationship with God. When it came time for the new guy to share, he said “I’m hear to help.” Red warning lights are going off. He had walked in expecting to take part in leading the group. I explained to him that everyone around the table was expected to share (and had no intention of turning the group over to him). He resisted… “I’m a new creation in Christ and don’t need that…” I didn’t relent and he finally opened up. The few pieces he gave us revealed that his life was a train wreck.
That was the last time we saw him.

He had built walls around his heart. Ministry was a wall. So was his bible knowledge; he used it to cover up his problems. He had brought a large Bible with him; it appeared he wanted to turn the group into a Bible study. (Bible studies are great, but it’s easy to hide if no one is expected to open up). Walking into a group and wanting to take over felt like narcissism, to be in control, tell others what to do. Some want to be the boss so others will look up to them, while artfully avoiding exposing their heart.

That is, until God intervenes and blows up their life.

The heart balks when imprisoned in darkness. It doesn’t work. God created the heart for abundant life, light, peace, love, and joy. Those elements rarely break through to a heart that’s been walled off. Pent-up emotions will find cracks in the dam and leak out from time to time, with a messy outcome.

Anger is often the first to bleed through. Ask someone with an imprisoned heart about their struggles, sin, hurts, or weaknesses, and SNAP-WAPING! Their booby trap springs, the defenses go up; hopefully you’re wearing a poncho because you’re going to get sprayed. Given enough time, they become a skilled narcissist, having woven a spider’s web of defenses that makes it difficult for their loves ones to get through. Smokescreens are their specialty. They are quick to counsel others; slow to open up, if at all.

Anger’s cousin, fear is another barrier. The two are linked. Given enough time under the hood with an angry person, it won’t be long before fear is exposed, hiding in the shadows. Fear is a faith killer. Hard to receive God’s touch when we don’t trust Him and are keeping Him at arm’s length.

What are we afraid of? Often, getting hurt, especially by a loved one. Intimacy. Many who have been molested or abused have a terror of intimacy. The unknown. Saying we trust God is easy; having a heart at rest when everything is coming apart around us or we’re under assault in spiritual warfare is something else. Fear gives our spiritual enemy a base of operation where he can camp out and launch more assaults on the heart.

Many are afraid of feeling their emotions. Especially, the pain and wounds they know are there. Some will spend their lifetime walling off, covering up, and avoiding their heart because they refuse to visit those hurting, broken places, even with Jesus. Until the walls are dropped they will be miserable, constantly searching for a fix in things that will never satisfy or heal. There are brief moments when a ray of love gets through, but they don’t experience deep-seeded joy or peace on an ongoing basis. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace…) is something they read about, but rarely taste. They’re faking it often, especially at church.

Some get so paralyzed in fear that they can barely pray, not understanding that prayer is their conduit to healing and spiritual strength. Satan has it easy playing prayerless Christians.

A vow is both wall and stronghold. “I will never expose my heart to another person again… never take that risk… be abused… be hurt by another.” The enemy steps into the wide-open door a vow gives him, nodding his head in acceptance with the agreement that has been made with him. Vows open the door to anger, fear, and hopelessness.

Knowledge can be a pride-built barrier to grace. We are flesh and self-tainted with preconceived notions of how life should work—including the Christian life. Some principles in the Bible are rock-solid, non-negotiable (Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of a virgin, killed on a cross for our sins, raised from the dead 3 days later, salvation is by faith in Him alone, and our works and the fruit of our life are the manifestation of that salvation). Some principles in the Bible are mysteries, gray areas, where men take their best guess and built doctrine-sets and denominations around them. Read through Scripture, and you’ll see that God had a habit of blowing away people’s theology and preconceived notions. The disaster in the book of Job where Job’s three friends hammered him with a theological debate is one example. Paul on the road to Damascus is another. Jesus was constantly upending the apostle’s belief systems. The Pharisees. Our knowledge of the Bible and preconceived ideas of how we think life is supposed to work can silence the voice of God and even cause more damage than good. The core issue is pride in our very limited understanding of what we know instead of walking with and trusting the One who created the human race and breathed life into the Scriptures He gave us.

“It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him.”
– Oswald Chambers

Over the years, adding big blocks of pride creates a fortress around the heart. A vow anoints self as god: “I will never...” The narcissist feeds on exaltation of self. Fear screams that God is not with me. I’m alone so I have to take life in my own hands and live it my way; trusting God doesn’t work. Anger is detonated when self is offended or not worshipped, appreciated or loved the way self demands it. Or when someone dares to insinuate that a mistake was made.

Bitterness is a poison-laced barrier to grace. “I will not forgive”… “I will not ask for forgiveness.” Allow bitterness to camp out long enough and it will turn your heart to stone and can ruin your life.

Sin is a wall. We can’t hold onto sin and God at the same time, any more than a married person can have an affair and pretend their marriage is anything more than a sham.

What many don’t realize about their walls is that:
1. They are killing their heart by blocking it off from the healing, life, and love that Jesus offers.
2. They are giving the enemy increasing influence and strength in their life.
3. Their walls offer no protection, including from the times of trauma, suffering, and darkness we find ourselves in.
4. They will hurt their loved ones.
5. True, heart-level intimacy with God is rare if not nearly impossible.

I’ve had to tear down these walls I’ve written about here in my own life. I write from experience when I say that putting up barriers is dangerous, destructive. There is no life with them. Every time one of those walls was dropped and the truth was exposed, God showed up and filled that space in my heart with His life, love, peace, joy, strength, and boldness. His Spirit lives in me and is able to do much more than I could ever do on my own.

One of the biggest challenges I have in working with people is getting around their walls. Some have elaborate defense systems they’ve been manufacturing for years. Others are masters of the smokescreen; the smooth, preachy, words that are meant to deflect, justify, dazzle, and confuse. I’ve watched as people I’ve worked with stormed out of the room when their booby trap was sprung. Even so, I don’t give up; God doesn’t have a problem going Jericho on their walls. Often my role is to pray them through to healing. Sometimes a liberal dose of God-directed pain is required.

What is dangerous, risky, sometimes tragic, is that God gives everyone a choice. We can listen to His gentle prompts to surrender and open our heart to Him, or we can ignore Him and pile on the bricks.

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
– Hebrews 3:7-11

I know, we modern Christians are only supposed to keep it positive, encouraging; stick with the love of God. But if we don’t warn people that they’re heading in the wrong direction, do we not have blood on our hands if we keep silent? One reason so many are leaving the church is because we’re not giving them the whole counsel of God and helping them with the struggles and intense battles they’re fighting. The letter to the Hebrews was written to the church; allowing the heart to go cold is dangerous, with severe consequences if we stay on that path.

“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.”
Proverbs 29:1

I am sure there are some of you who are hurting. (Some of you know, or are married to, a friend in this place.) Though your heart is hard; you’re dying to know the way to healing. Maybe you’re tired of playing church and hanging around others who are. Or maybe you just read God’s warnings above, realized you have some walls that need to come down, and are ready to change and heal.
Good! Then God is reaching His hand out to you now.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
Ezekiel 36:26-27

Jesus’ heart is to restore, not destroy. He came to set captives free, heal, and give new life. He softens hard hearts. Remember how Paul came to Christ; Paul’s heart must have been rock-hard with bitterness and pride when Jesus intervened.

If this is you and you’re ready to begin the healing process, here’s a prayer to offer the Lord to get you started. Modify as you wish.

“Lord Jesus, I need You!
I confess that I have lived life my way, on my terms.
I surrender my life, my heart, into Your hands.
I renounce my walls of (fill in the walls that you have built around your heart). Please come and take them down.
I confess my sins of pride, self-reliance, fear, lust, bitterness (add what you’re struggling with) and I renounce all the ground I’ve given the enemy in these areas. Please come and take the ground I’ve given the enemy from my sin, Lord Jesus.
I invite you into every area of my heart. Cleanse my heart with Your precious blood. Please come in and heal. I now give You an open, standing invitation to convict me of all my sin.
Please bring healing to those around me that I have hurt and show me if there’s something You want me to do.
Please show me the next step.
I love You. I want to know You. Please reveal Yourself to me.
In Jesus name, Amen.”

Even if you feel like you’re in a good place it wouldn’t hurt to pray this prayer. As we move forward in our relationship with God, He will often expose deeper layers of our heart that He wants to restore.

I suggest you pray the rogue prayer above for the next week at least to continue the process of allowing God to work in your heart in these areas. Share your struggles with a friend, and ask for them to pray for your healing (James 5:16).

Ultimately, this prayer is about surrendering our heart and life to Him. Singing “I surrender all” in church is easy. Inviting Him into every area of the heart, including those we’re afraid to face, is quite different.

Next week, we shall take the next step in your healing journey.