When Our Hearts Are Unguarded
[Guest Post by Holley Gerth – Whenever I go through seasons of feeling like I’m not okay, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I appreciate her sweet words reminding us why it’s important to guard our heart — and how our hearts can function from a Biblical perspective. Please welcome Holley!]
She sends me a text and I can almost hear the sigh in her voice at the end of her words.
“I said something I shouldn’t have,” she confesses. She goes on to share that she’s especially frustrated with herself because she’d just been studying how we’re to use our words for gratitude and praise.
Isn’t that how it goes? We have good intentions, we know what’s right, and then we go out and do the opposite.
Or maybe that’s just my friend and me.
So many days I set out to do one thing and end up doing another. I struggle, repent, try again. This is especially true in times of stress.
My friend above shared the same. She’s been under major pressure, and it finally came out of her mouth. I’m sure it felt good in the moment but left her feeling disappointed with herself and full of regret.
Why does that happen?
It’s because in times of stress our defenses are down. We each have a threshold for what we can take before it becomes really tempting to do something we know we shouldn’t. Stress takes us across that threshold much more quickly.
A popular method called HALT describes how this works.
In essence, when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, then we’re more likely to make poor choices. This has been applied in areas as varied as from addiction recovery to parenting. What remembering HALT serves to do is to help us pause and recognize that we’re vulnerable in some way.
We need help of some kind.
It might be rest, a good meal, or a conversation with a trusted friend.
HALT is just one tactic for dealing with these moments in our lives. There are many other strategies too. One verse in Proverbs sums them all up: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do ﬂows from it” (4:23).
When we say what we shouldn’t, do what we swore we wouldn’t, mess up in more ways than we knew we could, it doesn’t begin right at that moment. Those are only outward displays of what’s already brewing in our hearts. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).
So when I say that our defenses are down in times of stress, what I really mean is that our hearts are unguarded.
This happens to all of us.
It’s part of being human.
The good news is that we can learn how to really guard our hearts.
Your heart is a treasure. As the verse above says, everything in your life flows from it. It’s a wonderful, mysterious gift that God has given you. It holds so much of who you are and what he’s called you to do. It’s worth protecting.
Signs of a Guarded Heart
What does a guarded heart look like? Let’s picture a place that holds great value. In biblical times, that would have been a palace. Solomon, who wrote the book of Proverbs, was a king with great wealth. He had guards surrounding where he lived to protect all that was within. Those guards had several roles.
First, they would act as defenders and keep out anything or anyone that had evil intent. Second, they would let in what was needed—such as supplies or important guests. If anything did come within the palace that should not be there, those guards would have the duty of making sure it was sent back out. They would also let Solomon and others go out into the kingdom through the gates as needed.
Guarding our hearts works much the same way.
It’s not a static state but instead an in-and-out ﬂow we carefully watch. Some-times through life circumstances we end up focusing too much on one of these aspects. When that happens, our hearts can fall into one of these states:
+ Lockdown—Our hearts are closed. Nothing can come in, and nothing can go out. We feel isolated and alone. Perhaps even hard and bitter. But the risk of opening up is simply too great.
+ Open wide—Our hearts are unprotected. We let anything and anyone in, even if it’s harmful. We may feel unvalued, of little worth, and so we don’t feel as if this precious part of who we are deserves to have boundaries.
+ Exit only—Our hearts aren’t completely closed down. We feel comfortable giving to others and meeting their needs. But we are unable or unwilling to receive. The only direction is out, and we’re often exhausted.
+ Entrance only—Our hearts can receive, but we don’t pass it on to others. We’ve somehow believed the lie that life is all about us. We take and take, then wonder why we still feel so empty all the time.
These descriptions are extremes, but we can all probably identify times we’ve been in each of these states at different points in our lives.
What keeps us from falling into these patterns is learning what it means to have a heart that’s guarded instead.
This matters all the time but is even more important when we face challenges or difficulties.
Imagine you’re standing in Solomon’s courtyard. All around you is the bustle of people coming and going. Activity is happening. Colors, food, and music abound. The air is ﬁlled with vitality and life. You smile as you are caught up in the ﬂow of what’s around you. More than anything else, the word ﬂow describes what a guarded heart is supposed to feel like: “Everything you do ﬂows from it” (Prov. 4:23). That happens in several ways when our hearts are truly guarded.
Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her popular blog and books like You’re Already Amazing, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream, and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. She’s also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South. Hang out with her at www.holleygerth.com.
[Excerpt taken from It’s Going To Be Okay by Holly Gerth, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]