“If you live in a graveyard too long, you stop crying when someone dies.” This saying captures one aspect of the desensitization that leads to a callous heart. We could update this phrase for our times by changing just a few words: “If you perform abortions for too long, you stop crying when a fetus is dismembered.”
How does this heart-hardening happen? For one thing, it’s likely to happen gradually: one is not likely to snap, and—all of a sudden—be inured to violence. (We can witness broad-scale and gradual desensitization in our world’s response to increasingly debauched and violent media.)
Another explanation is the daily battle that is waged between self and God. When I exalt myself (and my desire for freedom, comfort, money, and material possessions) over God (and his desire for self-sacrifice, love of others, generosity, and service), I risk deadening myself just a little bit more to His voice, His urgings, and—especially—His admonishments.
The hardened heart is:
- Not able to perceive others’ thinking. How in the world could you possibly think that?
- Not willing to consider others’ opinions. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!
- Not able to see as others see. Your perspective is just so faulty.
- Not willing to listen to others. If you were to stop talking I could help you understand.
- Blind to its own shortcomings. I would never do something like that!
Have you ever had one of these thoughts? I have. We must all be careful that our own hearts do not grow hard! How do we protect ourselves?
- Draw close to God and allow Him to transform you into His likeness. Being near Him will eventually rub off on you.
- Fix your eyes on Jesus, the perfect life upon which to model your own life.
- Meditate on God’s Word and allow it to transform your thinking. (Try this: Read the book of James every day for a month and see what happens!)
- Repent of any sin, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the attention areas.
- Recall God’s grace and mercy in your life. Remember that you deserve neither!
- Believe that God really loves you. This will keep your heart tender toward God and toward others.
- Rely on the Holy Spirit to soften your heart toward the things of God.
The tenderizing power of the Holy Spirit is the only remedy for the callous condition of our hearts, for softening our hardened hearts (and avoiding them in the first place!) is essential to becoming a people who will accomplish the redemptive work of God on Earth.