Happiness Truly is a Matter of the Heart

What do you really desire in life? What keeps you up at night and gets you up early in the morning? What do you clutch onto so hard that you will protect it with your last ounce of strength?

That is your treasure and that is also where your heart is.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21 NIV

In my work, I see a lot of people who are desperately trying to hold on to something that is not giving them the life they desire. It could be money, relationships, a career or score of other things that seem to melt away the tighter they clutch on to them. The problem is those “things” never satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. I am not advocating quitting your job or leaving your relationships, what I believe we need to do is to no longer see those things as the fulfillment of our desires. In fact, the more we try to make them do that the more miserable we make ourselves.

An example of this is money.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs
— 1 Timothy 6:10 NIV

The point Paul is making in this verse is that when we pursue (love) that which cannot satisfy our souls we end up doing ourselves harm – akin to stabbing ourselves.

God knows we need money, and careers and homes – but we were made for something much more satisfying than this stuff. We were made for God himself.

When we “wonder” it often starts innocently. We become delighted by some new toy or someone strokes our ego. Pretty soon we’re saying this feels good … I want more. So we start chasing this new shiny object and then it happens. That object becomes our treasure rather than the one who ultimately gives all good gifts.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7:11 NIV

Is there anything that we need that he is not willing to give us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
— Romans 8:32 NIV

This is a call for deep reflection. I confess I am guilty of seeking the gift rather than the giver – of longing for the resource rather than making the source of all blessings my heart’s desire.

Could this be why there is so much depression, anxiety and relational brokenness in our lives? Could we be deceived into believing the lie that something other than our Creator can satisfy our deepest longing?

Pascal.jpg

Blaise Pascal

"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.” 

So are you saying, James, that we’re not supposed to desire anything but God? No, I am saying that we are not to desire anything MORE THAN God. And when we receive what we desire we are to immediately thank him for what we have received.

God has no problems with us asking him for … whatever. But like the excellent father he is, he withholds the right to give us only what is best for us. If we become enamored with the shiny things of this world and he knows that they will cause us to wander off into places that will cause us harm, then like any good father he will withhold these things. Wouldn’t you?

Ask for whatever you wish and if your dearest desire is to honor the Lord and bless him with your life, it will be irrelevant whether you receive it or not because he will give you the ultimate desire of your heart. Your soul will be abundantly satisfied. And isn’t that what we truly crave?

Prayer of reflection

O Lord, I come to you seeking to open my heart to your gaze. Look deeply into my longings Lord and see if there is anything that I desire more than you. Search my heart Lord and reveal any attachments to whatever is not you. You are my source for all that I need. You have promised to graciously give me whatever is necessary. Help me to take my eyes off of all the “shiny things” in this world and fix them upon you. I confess I am so easily distracted. You know all things and you also know that my deepest, passionate desire it to bring you honor and glory in my life. Create in me a steadfast spirit that will live this desire in every area of my life.

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Is it Okay to Feel Bad?

I come from a certain Christian tradition that puts a premium on being joyful even when we didn’t feel especially joyful. It was a “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality. But we chose to call it walking by faith. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for faith. The bible says:

For we live by faith, not by sight.
— 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

So faith is an absolutely essential part of living the abundant life. But faith is not denying what you feel or the reality of the condition of your heart. Faith is looking beyond our present circumstances or feelings to an ultimate truth and then placing our trust in that truth. As believers we have chosen to believe what God says is true more than our experience, emotions or human logic. That is because we trust in a God who has made everything, knows everything and has our future already guaranteed. So when he declares truth we can be assured, in his eyes, it has already happened. But I can hear you saying; “that’s great James but I live in the here and now and, I am pretty darn anxious right now!”

So that’s why we often slip into the “fake it ‘till you make it” philosophy. In other words, we deny our feelings and try to look positive. But let me give you an alternative.

Transcend rather than deny

What is transcending our feelings? Let’s first look at what happens when we deny our feelings.

  • When we deny our feelings we are closed to our hearts cries and shut the door to God’s comfort. How can God comfort our hurting heart unless we admit that our hearts need comforting?
  • When we deny our feelings we often shame ourselves for not being stronger in faith. Faith is not a feeling. The most powerful demonstration of faith is in the presence of our doubt.
  • When we deny our feelings we isolate ourselves from others who God could use to encourage, comfort and give us wisdom. God has put every believer in his family and this family is the way he brings us resources.
  • When we deny our feelings we are attempting to be someone God has not chosen to make us. As Brennen Manning said, “God loves us for who we are not who we’re not”. When we deny the true state of our heart we are trying to be someone other than the person that God loves … perfectly!

Okay if denial is bad what does it mean to transcend our feelings?

  • Transcending means that we acknowledge what is going on in our hearts. We don’t hide our feelings from God or try to “sugar coat” them with platitudes. Our prayers are real and our pain is exposed fully to his glorious light.
  • Transcending means we agree with God concerning his promises and proclaim them truer than our emotions, acknowledging that he is able to do just what he has said he will do. Note: This requires that we become intimately familiar with the Scriptures. We will never escape the power our feelings have over us if we don’t know the greater power of God’s truth as proclaimed in the Bible.
  • Transcending means that we become real in the presence of other people. We acknowledge the present state of our hearts all the while confessing the truth of God’s Word. We invite other’s encouragement and prayers because we accept the maturing process of Holy Spirit in our lives and in humility receive all the resources he graciously provides. Denial is often an excuse for our pride. When we deny the true state of our hearts we are often saying that we are better than we are. But Scripture says; “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)
  • Transcending is the only path to healing. Jesus said; “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and that is true of the emotional prison our feelings put us in. When we set our hearts on what is true we set in motion a process of transformation that will ultimately lift our emotions out of the pit and free us to experience true joy and peace that are our true inheritance and children of God.  

One last thought. I have found that sometimes I have enjoyed wallowing in my negative feelings and resisted the need to transcend them.  Don’t ask me why, it’s a mystery. Why would I find it strangely comfortable to be in emotional pain? The one thing that pulls me out of this emotional masochism is the effect I am having on the ones I love. When I allow myself the “luxury” of remaining in my pain I am in fact inflicting pain on those around me. Therefore transcending my feelings is a gift I give to others especially those who are close.

Here are five tips for transcending your feelings

  1. Write down on 3X5 cards Scripture verses that state a truth or a promise from God that is especially meaningful to you.
  2. Carry them with you constantly and refer to them regularly, especially when you are tempted to go negative in your emotions
  3. Talk to God honestly about how you feel but always acknowledge that you will ultimately put your hope in him despite your current feelings. (this is a faith statement)
  4. Be real with others, especially mature believers, about the state of your heart and ask them to pray for you right there and then.
  5. If you get stuck seek godly counsel to help root out the underling source of your emotional pain. We all need help sometimes.

As always if you have any comments, questions or prayer requests it is our privilege and delight to respond