Think of something soft. Something that remains soft is workable, like, for instance, dough, clay, or glass. Each of these things, when combined with yeast, water, and heat can yield some pretty amazing items. But if they become hardened before the process is complete, they are junk. We throw the lopsided pot or the deformed glass jar in the trash. If the dough becomes hardened before the crust is formed, then what? Something for the kids to whack around on the ice arena? The true art is formed while the material is soft. This is where the action is.
That’s how it can be with our hearts after deciding to follow Christ. They’re soft at first. Moldable. They are pliable enough to let Jesus make us into someone He can use for His sovereign purposes. We’re excited to experience the freedom Christ offers. We accept it. We’re finally freed from the hurt, guilt, and shame we’ve allowed to keep us in chains for so long. We’re free! For now. The minute we do something that doesn’t line up with our new belief system (and believe me, we will), He wastes no time. (enter the Holy Spirit) Knock-knock-knock. We don’t answer. Knock-knock-knock…Knock-knock-knock. We’ve learned what to do when He arrives. We’ve developed behaviors, both mental and physical that keep Him away. Pretty soon, we don’t hear Him knocking anymore. Or maybe He has stopped coming by. When we continue in behaviors contrary to our character and to our conscience, a hardness of heart develops. The more we continue, the more layers mount up. These layers actually form a thick and hardened protective barrier. We can no longer hear. We can’t see, and we can’t feel. The less we feel, the less we’re affected. The less we’re affected, the more we’ll play, as it’s good to play and to not feel sometimes. We’ve had enough of that furnace nonsense! We’ve learned that we can do whatever we want to do, whatever feels good, and it’s all okay, just as long as we’re not feeling the pain of the furnace. That is the goal. I know. I’ve been there.
When your heart grows cold, when it becomes hardened, trouble isn’t far away. Here are 10 manifestations of a heart that’s becoming more hardened by the minute:
- Stubbornness – you won’t give in to anyone. You only see things from your perspective. It’s your way or the highway.
- No guilt – you feel nothing when you do something contrary to your values or to your character.
- Justification – you make excuses when you are found at fault. You justify what would shock other people.
- Self-deception – you cheat on a test, but you actually believe you scored the high mark because of your intellect.
- Selfishness – you lack the spirit of giving. You wouldn’t give to someone even if you owed it to them.
- Mean spirit – you have poor opinions of most people. You are mostly unhappy. You do not speak lovingly or compassionately.
- A spirit of protest – if someone doesn’t treat you as you think they should, you are right there with your fist raised high. To you, nothing’s ever fair.
- Lack of forgiveness – when you feel you’ve been wronged, that’s it. Game over.
- Instigating spirit – you’re quick to get someone riled up or to encourage them to sin. They can go to confessional tomorrow.
- Blame – When you do something contrary to your values, you’re quick to blame other people or even the Almighty Himself.
The real spirit at work here is the spirit of pride. It’s ultimately pride that produces a hardened heart. Take a look inside your real self. The person God sees you to be. Then hurry and get back on the counter, the wheel, or in the furnace. Here’s what God has to say about it:
- They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. Ephesians 4:18
- Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:14-15
- Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Proverbs 28:13-14
- For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
- But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. II Timothy 3:1-4