Dr. Jackie Minor
NEED A HEART CHECK? Three Ways to Protect Your Heart in a World of Negativity
How is your heart doing these days? Do you even think about it? Do you realize your heart needs to be protected and guarded?
I recognize these questions are direct and not easy to answer. I’ve been asking them of myself, too. I was ready to write a blog this week about something “lovey” since it is February! In schools, we are inundated with candy hearts, chocolate kisses, and Valentine’s Day cards. Love is in the air much to the chagrin of educators who have to navigate all of the silliness, especially in middle school! My seven-year-old granddaughter even wished me “Happy Valentine’s Day Month” on February 1! Admittedly, I enjoyed this time of year when I was teaching. Talking about and focusing on “love” was fun.
Much has changed over the years. I often find myself burdened for educators. Those who serve in education are often at the center of unfounded criticism. I was on Twitter the other day and read an extremely long string of negative comments regarding the indoctrination of students, accusations that educators vehemently deny. In a Facebook group, teachers were lamenting unfair treatment by parents and a growing disrespect for the education profession. Teaching has never been easy, but I do acknowledge it isn’t like it used to be.
A blog on “love” might be fun, but it just didn’t feel quite right to me. Instead, I decided to focus on the heart. I want you to safeguard your heart, to watch over it and protect it. The Bible talks a great deal about our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life (CSB).
I’ve worked with thousands of educators over the years, and I know our hearts can be vulnerable. If unguarded we can become defensive when questioned about our actions. We can become overly competitive with the teacher next door. We can become discouraged when students aren’t making progress as we had hoped. The enemy will use every opportunity possible to turn our hearts away from God and onto our circumstances. How can we protect our hearts when everything around us feels negative?
Before I answer this question, I first want to go back to Proverbs 4:23. Take a look at this verse in two different translations.
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (AMP)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)
With all diligence, above all else – sounds like guarding our hearts should be a priority. Why? Because the heart determines our thoughts, words, and actions. Think of the heart as a reservoir that supplies and fuels every aspect of our lives. Everything is impacted by the condition of our hearts.
To truly grasp the full meaning of this verse, we need to look at the context. Solomon wrote Proverbs for the purpose of imparting wisdom to his sons (and us). Like any parent, Solomon wanted his sons to live their lives wisely so they could experience life as God had intended. Solomon knew spouting a set of rules was not enough. Living the abundant life was and is a matter of the heart. Look what he said just prior to his command to guard our hearts in verses 20-22.
My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings. Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body. (emphasis mine)
These verses give us insight into how we protect our hearts when everything around us feels negative.
1. Be intentional. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said, “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” In a nutshell, what goes in comes out. What are you putting into your heart on a daily basis? What are you thinking about, meditating on, or looking at? Solomon implored us all to pay attention, listen and hold tight to God’s words. In a world of negativity, the truth of God’s Word, His promises, and His warnings will protect our hearts. His Word becomes our shield no matter what anyone else says about us or does to us (Ephesians 6:17).
Being intentional means we are checking our hearts on a daily basis, being alert, and guarding against anything contrary to God’s Word. For example…
When defensiveness or anger threatens, we can remind ourselves to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). God has promised to be our defender (Psalm 3:3).
When our flesh wants to compete with others, we can claim our identity in Christ, knowing He created us uniquely for good works He has prepared for us and us alone. We aren’t meant to be like anyone else (Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 139:13).
When discouragement rears its ugly head, we should remind ourselves that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. His grace is always sufficient! (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Do you need a heart check? We all do. Be intentional. Keep the Word of God in your heart.
2. Control thoughts. Some versions of the Bible translate Proverbs 4:23 this way: Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life (NCB, GNT, EXB). These translations are basically saying the “heart” includes the mind and all that proceeds from it. It’s hard for me to separate my heart from my thoughts. The two seem interwoven. If I have a bad thought or attitude about something, it is usually a heart issue. The opposite is also true. When my heart is pure, so go my thoughts. I’m not sure we think about that enough. Controlling our thoughts is crucial to protecting our hearts. When we let negativity dictate our thoughts, our hearts can become hardened.
This is an area I have struggled with in the past. For example, something hurtful would happen to me and I would let my mind run wild with worst-case scenarios. The longer I thought about the situation, the worse the scenarios become. I would get myself so worked up that I couldn’t think straight. No doubt, I needed a heart check. If this ever happens to you, I would recommend you pause and ask yourself a few questions.
· Why is this bothering me?
· Where is this coming from? Frustration? Insecurity? Anger?
· Do I have all of the facts?
· What is my role in this?
· Do I need to apologize?
· What does this say about my heart?
Guarding our hearts includes controlling and reframing our thinking. We can’t let our thoughts run amok. Instead, we should heed the wisdom of the apostle Paul. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
3. Take refuge. Yes, there is negativity all around us, but God doesn’t abandon His children when times are tough. Just the opposite is true. All throughout Scripture, we are reminded of His protection.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
Part of guarding our hearts is remembering to take refuge in the One who can truly protect us (Psalm 121). Fighting our battles in the flesh results in our becoming disheartened and frustrated. Our hearts grow weary. This doesn’t have to happen. We can protect our hearts by letting God fight our battles. Yes, we need to be intentional about keeping God’s Word in our hearts. Yes, we need to control our thoughts. But sometimes we need more. Trusting ourselves to Him and trusting Him for ourselves will protect our hearts. The Lord is our refuge.
How is your heart today? Guard it with everything you’ve got! Your capacity to live with joy, peace, love, and contentment depends on it!
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10