“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
As I begin to contemplate what goals the LORD would have me set in this coming year, there is not just the battle of the mind, but the battle of the heart. What we think about matters to God. What our heart longs for does, too. Our hearts can be drawn to many worthwhile and unworthy passions. What we desire, we will often succumb to, unless our minds are girded with the word of God and our flesh saturated with God’s perspective.
Although the mind and the heart have many similarities, when I refer to the heart, I am referring to the strong emotions which affect our will and thoughts. Catching myself craving something that might not be in accordance with God’s will can be difficult to discern. I confess that I struggle with disciplining my flesh when it comes to exercise and food. My thoughts can be well intended regarding both of these important aspects of life, but my emotions, my heart, can deceive me. I wake up excited to run on my treadmill (ok, maybe excited is a stretch, but motivated, nonetheless). I overcome the mental block inhibiting me, then my heart comes in and tempts me with the Lazyboy recliner and a cup of joe. I begin to think on it and I am ashamed to say that my heart usually defeats my mind when it comes to food and exercise.
The rationalization might be dressed in righteousness. Time with God, ministering to my family or friends. But physical training is of some value. Around and around the battle goes. So, how do we cultivate and foster a heart towards righteousness? How do we crave what pleases God? What we meditate on in the mind is paramount, but when our heart feeds our mind, we can call out to God to help us walk after the spirit and not the flesh.
Disciplining the mind and heart is not all drudgery, though. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4, which contains a precious promise of God granting us the desires of our heart. What precedes this promise of God is our delight in Him. Turning our heart toward craving the things of God instead of the things in this world is possible. Christ being our joy is also far more rewarding than any other occupation or endeavor this world has to offer.
As we plan for the coming year, may we consider our heart and lay it bare before our Maker. He knows what is best and what I desire must be checked by the Holy Spirit and submitted to my God, my King. Retraining our heart to run after the things of God will feel unnatural at first. That’s ok. Practice makes perfect. Despite our failures, there is great hope: God is our strength and our portion forever. He really is all we need.