July 13, 1993
Two severe childhood cases of rheumatic fever left me with a leaky mitral valve and a prognosis of death before middle teens. But mother prayed, my doctors labored, and I survived.
An ultrasound three years ago and another test this month resulted in the same comment from two different doctors: “If you had not told me, I would not have noticed any heart murmur... it is very faint.”
According to the specialists, my heart is healed.
But a heart can be damaged by other things. Besides physical disorders, people can break it. Unfulfilled dreams can make it ache. Unhealthy or harmful relationships can scar it. Suspended hope can make it feel sick. Our heart is a most vulnerable thing.
Obviously these are not references to the physical heart but to the emotional side of our personalities, the part that feels deep pain when injured. This “heart” doesn’t heal by surgery or medication.
There is also a third kind of heart, one the Bible speaks of far more frequently than the other two. Genesis 6 says, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
From that beginning through to Revelation, readers are reminded that God searches our hearts and rewards every one according to how they live. He makes the connection because this “heart” is the center of who we are, the inner part where we think and make choices that lead to actions and the way we live. If our hearts could choose rightly, God would commend us but the sad truth is, none of us think as God intended.
He created us to love and enjoy Him from the heart in an attitude of submission. Instead, we invariably make the choice of independence and rule our own lives — apart from Him. Because this is true, and because He loves us, He sent Christ to offer us a not only a new life but a new heart.
A new heart doesn’t mean open heart surgery. It does mean what the Bible calls regeneration, a renewal that involves a supernatural cleansing from sin and guilt. When it happens, we can see His perspective on the folly of sin and the necessity of obedience. A new heart means thinking differently.
It is not accomplished like a magician with a wand. Old habits are hard to break even though it is reasonable to offer ourselves to God. We try to act right but He encourages us to think right: “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
We are responsible to abandon our own former reasoning and choices as well as reject the way the world thinks and discipline ourselves to a regular “cardiovascular” workout. That means reading and studying Scripture, filling our minds with God’s thoughts, then doing as He says.
Not only does a new heart have the capacity to understand spiritual truth, it’s condition improves with exercise. Pain and scars of our own doing and from mistreatment gradually heal and no longer trouble us.
As I look back over my life, I can see how God has healed my hearts: all three of them. I can wash walls, something doctors said I could never do; I can love and be loved, something I’ve occasionally thought would never happen; and both are more enjoyable and even possible because the Lord touched me and healed my third heart.