Today we consider the characteristics of a hardened heart and explore why this hinders our healing. I’ll consider what causes our hearts to be hardened and in the next post, we’ll ponder some ideas to help us soften.
If you haven’t read last week’s post on THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER, do have a read of this first.
It is no doubt the most challenging post I’ve written so far. I guess I realised whilst writing it, that my heart isn’t where it needs to be.
As I want this to change, I wanted to invite you into my thinking of the characteristics of a hardened heart.
WHAT IS A HARDENED HEART?
In our culture today, we would say that a hard heart is a symptom of coldness, unfeeling, and unloving, but this isn’t entirely accurate according to the Bible.
Scripture says that a hardened heart is an unbelieving one. Let me ask you a question, in all honesty, do you know and believe, unreservedly and wholeheartedly, that you believe in God for healing?
Perhaps you’re fluctuating, believing one day and doubting the next. The Bible calls this wavering.
In the Old Testament, God hardened Pharoh’s heart so he wouldn’t free the Israelites. You and I are living in the new Covenant of Grace where God is unable to harden us.
We do this to ourselves! We are the ones responsible for the state of our hearts.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A HARDENED HEART
Do you believe that no matter how long or bad your symptoms are
- God wants you well?
- God will do exactly as He promised?
Are you like me: Full of faith at the outset of illness, but as time went on, the more I resigned myself to my reality.
The problem with this is that there is no power when we focus on reality.
The Holy Spirit is on the inside of us, healing us. God is not in Heaven healing us from a distance.
In order to reach our physical bodies, the Holy Spirit must penetrate our soul (that’s our mind, will and emotions; you could say our hearts.)
It is essential therefore to ensure our hearts are soft and malleable to allow Him to do what He needs to do.
You see we can have a devotional life and think this is enough to have a believing soft heart, but what are we doing the rest of the day?
The following is a list of the main characteristics or causes of a hardened heart:
5 CHARACTERISTICS OF A HARDENED HEART
According to Andrew Wommack, a hardened heart, is one with limited spiritual perception.
1. NO SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION
Jesus tells his disciples they
- don’t see spiritual truths
- lack understanding
- are unable to hear God’s voice
- fail to remember what Jesus has told them.
“Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?
When the disciples experienced a storm whilst out of the boat, Jesus appeared walking on the water. They didn’t ‘see’ that it was Jesus on His way to rescue them.
God always comes to our rescue when we’re in trouble, do we see HIm or are our eyes on the storm? Do we see how God helps us each day?
He gives us the strength to get out of bed and the air to breathe.
God orchestrates for people to be good to us, He directs our steps and causes us to be in the right place at the right time. Do we recognise God’s favour?
The disciples reasoned it must be a ghost because they didn’t perceive this spiritual truth, that God is their deliverer. Their perception of the supernatural was limited, even though they had just witnessed Jesus feeding the five thousand.
They showed the characteristics of a hardened heart.
God wants us to use our spiritual eyes and ears where we start to see from His perspective. The illness that you’re facing today, Jesus is; walking on the water’ towards you, can you call out to Him or will your eyes be on the storm?
One of the characteristics of a hardened heart is that we become naturally or carnally minded. Going to church becomes somewhere we go to see our friends, serve others, hear a message…but don’t hear what God is saying spiritually.
When Jesus was asleep on the boat and the storm hit, His disciples panicked, even though Jesus instructed them to ‘go over to the other side’. Mark 4: 35
They heard Him with their physical ears, but not their spiritual ones.
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Rom 8:6
Do you leave a church service knowing what God is saying to you? Of course, there are times when we feel that perhaps we haven’t heard and that’s ok.
But if this is a pattern, then it could be one of the characteristics of a hardened heart.
What is God saying to you right now? Are you aware of His presence?
This passage mentions not understanding. I don’t think this refers to a lack of understanding of what God is doing, because let’s face it, oftentimes we don’t understand what He is doing, but more a lack of understanding His Word.
The Parable of the Sower talks about the seed that falls by the wayside, where ‘the wicked one snatches it away’. When we don’t understand God’s Word, we see it as a history book and not relevant for today.
For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52
The disciples hadn’t grasped the spiritual lessons from the feeding of the five thousand. They failed to comprehend His miraculous power, His willingness to help and His overall goodness.
How many times do you doubt God despite all He has done for you? Just like the Israelites, we ‘forget’ the goodness and power of God in times of trouble.
The Israelites forgot God’s deliverance from Egypt and His parting of the Red Sea.
Thus the children of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side;
The disciples forgot Jesus feeding the multitudes in Mark 8:17. You’d think that they would have spent the rest of their lives thinking and talking about what they had witnessed.
Instead, the miracle was completely forgotten within hours.
When our hearts are hard, there is no deep-rooted transformation and we forget what God has done in our lives or what He has said.
Pharoh ‘forgot’ that God was responsible for each plague and still hardened his heart by not freeing the Israelites.
We pray and believe yet the miracle doesn’t happen and over time we don’t expect God to move. I know I’m certainly guilty of this.
We start to accept that our lives will not get any better and change our prayers to be more realistic.
If you think of those you know who have acute illnesses or cancers where there is an end in sight, their expectancy doesn’t carry the same level of disappointment.
But journeying through a chronic illness, the disappointment is familiar to us and it even causes us to feel safe. But this hinders our belief system, so we protect ourselves. All hope seems to disappear and we tolerate it.
I wonder if you relate to this. If your heart is hard you purely stop believing in God’s Word or you believe it for others, just not for yourself.
3. NO WISDOM
In the book of Job, God says the ostrich has a hard heart because she neglects her babies by burying her eggs in the sand, failing to consider the possibility of someone or something accidentally stepping on them.
“She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;”
When predators come, she runs off and leaves her babies behind. A lack of wisdom leads to foolish choices.
Not thinking things through, disregarding consequences and neglecting responsibility are characteristics of a hardened heart.
God instructed Pharoh to let the Israelites go; 10 times!! I’m sure you know the story; Pharaoh was arrogant and selfish, always putting what he wanted first.
He lacked humility.
When we have a hardened heart, we blame others and never take responsibility. We become stubborn and unwilling to change.
A hardened heart isn’t teachable. It sounds incredible that Pharoh just didn’t learn even though he’d experienced first-hand the devastation of the plagues.
Cain also had the characteristics of a hardened heart. God gave Him the opportunity to bring the acceptable offering but Cain was too caught up in his anger and jealousy to heed the voice of God. Gen 4:6
He was so full of pride, that he even lied to God after killing his brother. He supposed he could deny his crime before God! Gen 4:9
Pride causes us to see ourselves as better than, on a pedestal and full of our own importance.
One of the characteristics of a hardened heart is a heart that doesn’t care that Jesus was punished for our sins. It is unrepentant and indifferent or casually thinks ‘Oh it’s not that bad, I’m only human’.
Of course, none of us are perfect, there is always something we can improve on but there is a difference between growing in being Christlike, and not caring about sanctification.
How does this play out in our lives? Deliberate sin. Ie, sexual immorality, refusing to forgive others, being abusive, bullying, gossiping, being judgemental, lying….
WHAT CAUSES A HARDENED HEART?
We are in the world 24 hours a day, bombarded with distractions, enticements and things that contradict the Word of God.
TV shows, the news, spending time with the wrong people etc.
I think one of the biggest issues with worldliness is being image-conscious. We are concerned with how we appear to others.
Instead of the real authentic us shining through, we project who we think we need to be. We don’t love ourselves or who God created us to be.
Even busyness will cause our hearts to be hard. It is glorified so much in both the world and the Church. Productivity has a downside if it is stopping you from spending time with God and hearing Him.
Sin of course will also harden our hearts.
As we journey through life, we encounter stress and trauma that change us. We develop mindsets, patterns of thinking, and behaviours in order to survive.
We end up being someone that God didn’t intend.
My history is one soaked in fear, people-pleasing and inferiority, all the result of learned survival behaviour caused by trauma.
My anxieties are my biggest enemies. When our nervous system is dysregulated, then whenever we experience a trigger, we tend to stay in the place of fear with no ability to self soothe.
According to Polyvagal theory, our stories (thoughts) follow the state we’re in. So if we’re already in a place of fear, then we’ll spend most of our time with worrying thoughts.
Religion will cause our hearts to be hard. When we operate from our heads and not our hearts. If we’re full of ‘following the rules’, looking at others and judging them and even judging ourselves.
Legalistic people tend to have Parent Egos. They are self-righteous, critical and condemning of others.
If you are legalistic you try and earn the blessing of God, sometimes unconsciously. I see this sometimes with people that need healing. All of a sudden, they start upping their offerings or their service in Church.
Legalism is a lack of grace.
Are you living with disappointment?
It is disappointing and sometimes confusing when God seemingly doesn’t answer our prayers. We pray and believe, yet we don’t see the healing or the breakthrough. This happens to all of us.
Unconsciously we confuse ‘guarding our hearts’ with ‘hardening our hearts’.
We don’t want to experience the hurt of disappointment so we lower our expectations. So instead of expecting the breakthrough, we alter our prayers to ‘something more likely’.
This is so common for people with long-term illnesses. It is far easier to pray with passion and conviction when we are praying for an acute illness.
Our brains expect more of the same the longer our situation continues.
I am certainly guilty of this. There are seasons where I don’t see myself well in the future, I don’t pray about healing as much as in the past or I just feel ‘resigned’ in some way.
The enthusiasm and passion for breakthrough doesn’t seem to be there. I’ve allowed disappointment to take over.
5. THE NATURAL MIND
When we allow pain or symptoms in our bodies to be more real than the Word of God, then this will hinder our belief that God is healing us.
We have this tendency to focus on the things in life that aren’t right. The things that hurt us and steal our attention.
Strictly speaking, the Bible tells us that we are ALREADY healed at the cross of Jesus Christ but our natural senses tell us this isn’t true.
Of course, what we focus on gets stronger and will certainly stop us from abiding in the Word of God.
The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts Ps 10:4
It’s scary to think that in the Old Testament God calls us ‘wicked’ if our thoughts are not on Him.
It’s important to not condemn ourselves for this. We didn’t choose the trauma and most of the above causes are unconscious so we’re not aware they are reinforcing a hardened heart.
As a counsellor, I think education and self-awareness have to come first before we can integrate what we learn into our lives.
How can we change something in our lives if we’re not aware of the destruction? I certainly don’t want to stop complete healing or hinder my walk with the Lord.
I don’t know whether you have ever stopped eating sugar. Our body eliminates it to the point that should we introduce just a hint of sugar, we will be sensitive to it.
It is the same with those characteristics of a hardened heart above. If we eliminate them from our lives, if they ever creep back it, we’ll react and be in a better position to take action against them.
Here are a few suggestions that I am going to start introducing into my life. I hate to say it, but the above characteristics of a hardened heart are aligned with death
Healing and Life of course go hand in hand. Sickness and death go hand in hand.
It’s easy to assume that a hard heart is someone who doesn’t believe in God at all. How sobering is it, when we realise that it refers to committed Christians as well.
You may relate to some of the characteristics of a hardened heart. Which ones do you identify with?
I think the next post will benefit you. Originally it was a part of this post, but it was sooo very long, I felt it better to write a brand new post, but the idea is for you to read them together.
Can you imagine your life, if you had a soft heart susceptible to God’s Word always? God’s will is for you and I to be like young children, who have such childlike faith, that they believe everything they’re told.
If you’re on that journey, then I invite you to read the following post ’10 WAYS TO HELP MY UNBELIEF’
If you enjoyed this post, take a read of