Friday, August 15, 2008

The “Enlarged Heart” and Times of Crisis

Teresa of Avila renders Psalm 119:32 as “I will run in the way of thy commandments when “thou dids’t enlarge my heart”. On a practical and personal level that is often the issue when we face crises as children of the Father.

The Divine Potter batters our hearts seeking a way for us to relax the death grip we have on our inner being. We would rather treasure the command, “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We would even guard ourselves against the intrusion of Him who made us and seeks to make us still. When life batters us we resist with an inner clenching motion seeking to control the very thing that we should be surrendering. “No man can ransom himself” (Psalm 49:7 RSV), says the Psalmist. I am not my own kinsman redeemer, nor can I be yours. That is a spiritual reality for many reasons; but that doesn’t stop us from trying to be our own Saviors. In the midst of the battering of life reverse the inner motion, relax into God’s hands. As you do so you will discover not the battering you have been trying to control, but the very gentleness of your loving Father. “He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33).

It is all well and good to give such advice, doing it is another matter. When we are at sea on a storm tossed boat our every instinct of self-preservation is sharpened. We look wildly about; we bail like crazy. He says, “I am. Fear not, peace be still.” Relaxing into Him takes courage. Courage is a matter of the heart; a conscious decision and action undertaken in the face of fear. Deliberately we fix our eyes on Christ Jesus, and by an act of will, we slow down our breathing and relax. “All is well, all is well. All manner of things shall be well,” when we trust in Christ Jesus.

Everyone experiences moments of crisis. A crisis is just a crisis. For the Christian each crisis is an opportunity to deepen our trust in Him. Crises are like hot potatoes. When you find you are holding one, put it down on your plate. Relax into his hands. When trust is re-established He will help you undertake, “Peace, be still.”

There is another dimension that cannot be ignored. Some people when faced with crises retreat into denial and projection, and do their best to relieve their own repressed internal tension by passing the hot potato to others. For others the creation of crises is an attention seeking device. Some just seem to be wired wrong from birth. Don’t be surprised by those who create crises. We live, after all, in a fallen world. Those who create crises, like ancient Israel, are a warped bow that twists in the hand of the Archer (Psalm 78:9, 56-57). If those who create crises can remain in the shadows they will be able to continue to do damage. Once you begin to recognize those who create crises for yourself and others you will be free to take positive action as you trust in God. Keep your eyes on Christ Jesus. Relax. “Peace, be still.” Trust in God will build with a clearer understanding of the nature and causes of the crises and with a deepened comprehension of the sovereignty of God.

By grace you will learn to deal with crises, no matter what the source. God is pleased with our first steps, but first steps are after all, only first steps. He does not want you to remain passive in the face of tumult. He would rather that you learn Holy Warfare with your eyes on Christ Jesus, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; 2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” (Ps. 144:1-2 ESV).

When you have made again your surrender the time has come to put on the whole armor of God. Fasten on the belt of truth. Love truth and boldly speak it. Put on the breastplate of the righteousness of Christ. Let His righteousness become your righteousness. Take up the shield of faith and actively use it. A good shield is a weapon as well as a source of protection. Take up the helmet of salvation. Let your salvation protect your mind. Take up the sword of the Spirit and become skilled in its use (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Speak the truth, wield the sharp sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, use the shield of faith. Keep your eyes on Christ Jesus. Running the way of God’s commandments is not a matter of passivity, but a natural and active response to the enlarged heart. There is an old expression, used of women more than of men, “She has a heart as large as all outdoors.” We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. We are to have kingdom hearts, hearts as large as the heart of the King. As our hearts enlarge we begin to run, not walk, in the way of God’s commandments.

What is intended is not mere conformity to both the negative and positive proscriptions of the Torah, but conformity to the heart of the God Who is both loving and holy. This active and joyfully willing conformity of the heart to the heart of the Living God follows an incarnational principle, that of God working in and through human flesh. Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The one whose heart has been enlarged is ready to run in the way of God’s commandments; he is the one prepared to take the positive responsive actions necessary hand in hand with the Master of Storms.