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Keeping Your Heart Soft In Hard Times

Tom Lanning | Executive Pastor

I don’t know if I’ve ever been accused of being the softest-hearted person in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I have a hard heart (I guess you can correct me if you know better), but there are definitely times I catch myself being unnecessarily jaded, fed-up, weary or even just numb. After 21 years in law enforcement,  seeing some of the worst that the world has to offer, I guess it makes sense that I might struggle with those feelings, but honestly, my experience as a pastor may have contributed to the struggle just as much. 

And here’s the thing, whether you’re a pastor or police officer, teacher, medical professional, small business owner, or whatever….we all have to work at keeping our hearts soft, especially when we’re going through hard times.

I’m not telling you something you don’t know.  You have a defense mechanism. It helps you handle the heartache, the pain, the disappointment, the hard things.  Many of us are expert wall builders. Little by little, stone by stone, we build a wall around our hearts.  Every broken relationship, every harsh word, every unpayable bill is another stone we put into that wall.  And little by little, without realizing it, the wall we built to protect us from falling apart becomes the very wall that keeps us from experiencing the life we always dreamed we’d have.  The soft heart that was once so excited by the possibilities of life becomes just another hard stone in the wall that we hide behind.

But have you ever met someone who’s gone through incredible hardships but somehow managed to keep their hearts soft through it all?  They’ve lost a child or had some other traumatic experience and instead of a wall around them, there seems to be this incredible light and love that emanates from within.  What is their secret?  How do you keep your heart soft through the hard times?


It Starts With God’s Work

I love God’s promise in Ezekiel 36:26–27: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

God is the only one who can give you a new heart.  Through Jesus’ death on the cross, his blood shed for our sins, a new heart is available to all who follow him. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life (with a new heart) has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT). If you are in need of a new, softer heart, there’s one waiting for everyone who puts their faith and trust in God.


It Continues With You

Though God is the only one who can give you a new heart, you have a lot to say about whether or not your heart stays soft.  Can I give you some wisdom I’ve gained through many years of learning the hard way?

  1. Keep Good Company – One of the things that helped me escape complete cynicism during my time in law enforcement was that I chose to hang out with positive, uplifting people. It is so easy to fall into the trap of negativity when you hang out with negative, jaded people. 
  2. Listen to God-“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). The more I allow sin to go unchecked over time, the less it tends to bother me. Almost like I build up an immunity to its poison over time (until it finally kills me). As I fail to listen to God’s voice and word, my heart gets harder.  As I listen to his voice and obey His word, the Holy Spirit softens my heart and empowers me to live a life filled with love and hope.
  3. Extend Grace To Others – The harder your heart gets, the harder it is to show grace.  Your spouse bugs you more. Your kids get less benefit of the doubt. You become more judgemental of everyone. I try to take a look in the mirror every once in a while and remind myself how many faults I have and how much I have been forgiven.  Even when I don’t feel like it, I do my best to extend the same grace I’ve been given to others. It changes me. 
  4. Love and Serve Other People – The surest cure for a hard heart or lack of joy in my life is to stop focusing on my problems and start serving others in need. Even as I struggle through my very real and painful situation, there’s something incredibly lifegiving in helping someone else through their hardship. It changes my perspective and ALWAYS brings me joy. 

Keeping your heart soft is possible, even in the midst of hard times. It takes God’s help, a little determination and some good old fashioned hard work but as someone who’s seen both sides of that wall, I can tell you it’s definitely worth it! 


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