Last year, I visited an adult female family member in the Southeastern region of the US. Louise is in her seventies, and lives alone in a broken-down mobile home in a small rural town. She doesn’t drive.
I hadn’t seen Louise in 15 years and was curious as to how she was doing. As I discovered, the woman I knew from my youth is mostly gone. I don’t mean mentally; her mind is fine. It’s her heart that’s missing. While we were talking, or trying to, she would go off on rambling mini-sermons on impulse. She talked freely about current events, but getting past the surface wasn’t happening.
Louise’s lifelong way of dealing with pain had been to stuff her feelings and shut those out of her life who caused conflict. Permanently.
A month after I visited Louise, I tried calling her; she didn’t answer. She checks caller ID often (I witnessed this while I was there when other calls came in) so she knew it was me. I mailed her a check in May to help with her financial situation. She never cashed it.
Watching Louise last year, I saw the consequences of what happens when someone closes their heart for decades. They eventually end up with emotional dementia; their heart has been lost.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear statements like “I closed off my heart as a child,” while working with someone in counseling. Many have been in church most of their life; some hold a ministry or leadership position. They know the Bible… and their life is a train-wreck of pornography or some other false coping mechanism. Their story has been marked with bitterness, fear, and strained family relationships.
In his book Get Your Life Back, John Eldredge writes:
I rushed through breakfast, dashed out the door to get to some meetings, and now I’m rattled. I don’t like that feeling, and I don’t like the consequences. When I’m rattled, I’m easily irritated with people… I find it hard to hear from God, and I don’t like feeling untethered from Him.
I notice now in my rattled state that I want to eat something fatty and sugary; I want something to make me feel better, now. When we’re unsettled, unnerved, unhinged, it’s human nature to seek a sense of equilibrium, stability, and I find myself wondering—how many addictions begin here, with just wanting a little comfort? Get out of the rattled place and soothe ourselves with a “little something?”
Surveys show that two-thirds of Christian men are indulging in porn, while two-thirds of all Americans are overweight. That’s a lot of people looking for comfort with the wrong objects…
…which shows us our hearts. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can close your heart off or shut your feelings down without consequences. The heart screams for love; it will find a way to feel better, even if only for a moment. In time, anger and bitterness bleed out. Walls are built to keep people out, and inside you grow hard and cold.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
The times and circumstances we are mired in are dangerous to the heart. If one’s heart was closed before 2020 began, the fear, spiritual warfare, uncertainty and confusion of our current environment can hasten its demise. Porn views increased 25% when the covid outbreak hit; what a person does when they’re alone exposes who they are and what the source of their life is. The lockdowns brought to light who we really are with force and clarity.
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Thankfully, God doesn’t walk away while we’re wallowing in our sewage. Those who are willing to grab His hand and make changes can experience the abundant life He has promised. If you’re one of those who have closed off their heart, here are 4 keys to finding healing and rest.
- You must change your view of pain.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
The example Jesus gives us of the heart is one that faces grief and sorrow. Suffering and pain are to be embraced, not stuffed. Emotional pain is the doorway to healing, cleansing, growth, joy, and connection with others. The extent to which you feel pain will be the depth that you experience joy. Keeping your heart shallow puts you at risk for being a rootless believer:
As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
With covid and the blanket of evil that has covered the earth, we have entered a time of tribulation. You dare not walk through this period with a shuttered heart and risk being one of those whose “love grows cold.”
There is a balance here. Although we embrace pain, we don’t live in it. Some people park themselves in their suffering. They have no intention of healing and want to use their problems to keep the pity party going. Facing your sorrows isn’t the same as holding onto them. For some, the process of letting go is the key to healing.
- You will not heal in isolation.
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
It’s critical that you meet with another Christian brother or sister once a week for the purpose of support, encouragement, and prayer. Staying isolated is the same as stuffing your feelings; you won’t find release until you share with another brother or sister.
- With God and others, face what you’ve been avoiding.
Ask the Lord to open your heart and heal it, and be willing for Him to take you to places in your heart that you’ve covered up. Cooperate with His healing process. Your healing journey includes connection with God and others. Rest with the Lord in silence, often. Throw yourself into prayer. Spend time in private worship. Write your feelings out in a journal. Most people who have closed hearts struggle with connecting with God. You can’t receive His love if you won’t sit still with Him long enough to hear His voice and allow Him to touch your heart. Share what God is showing you to your support partner and ask them to pray for you. Bringing God and others into your journey will open the door to healing of your heart.
- Shatter your broken cisterns.
If you’ve been using porn, food, drugs, alcohol, ministry, spending, work, or any other grace counterfeit to fill up the hole in your heart, face it, and with the help of God and others, break it. Some of these are sin (like porn) and are to be shunned at all times. Others should be realigned so they’re used in their proper God-given context, such as ministry.
Don’t expect a quick fix. Focus on persevering one day at time, and eventually your heart will come alive.
If you’d like the help of myself or one of our team, we offer individual and couples counseling, including two day intensives.