“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT

Your heart is like the engine of a car. You must keep it maintained or else it will die. On the other hand, if you do what some mechanics encourage, to “over-maintenance”, that is to replace and repair things before they wear out, your car can go for an exceptionally long time.

A car will give you signals that it needs attention, like “Check Engine”. That is plain. Or like what mine is saying right now, “Oil and oil filter maintenance required!” I have ignored it so far. But do you know what will happen if I ignore it for too long? Another light will flash which we call the “Idiot Light”. That is the red oil light letting you know that you are about to run out of oil. If that happens, your engine will seize up and just quit. This is unrepairable. Your car will go to the junkyard. The rest of the car was fine, the engine just needed a little maintenance.

Your heart will give you signals too, usually in the form of emotions; anger, sadness, anxiety, fear… When you ignore these warnings for too long, they can cause your heart to grow hard, and eventually just seize up.

What causes your heart to grow hard? All sorts of things, but one of the main sources is being hurt by others. Whether it is harsh words from your spouse, or unfair treatment from your boss, or a parent minimizing your pain, or one of your children dishonoring you, or a close friend betraying you…

As long as you live on this side of heaven, you are going to experience being hurt by others. These hurts are like pebbles in your shoe. You can adjust the way you walk to keep it from hurting you for a while, but eventually, you must take your shoe off and shake it out. And if you have several, it becomes impossible to walk. It is the same with your heart.

So, what can you do to maintain a soft heart? Here are three things that will help:

1. Friends

Even if it was a friend who hurt you, it will be a friend who helps you heal. The worst thing you can do is isolate. That hurt will fester and your heart will grow harder.
The Bible warns us about this:

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” Hebrews 3:12-13

I was in a meeting once with the five high school principals in the area where I pastor. I was representing the faith community. A friend of mine pulled me aside after the meeting and told me that I had an “edge” on me that I usually did not have. He also said that it did not serve me, nor the churches well. I was embarrassed, but also thankful that I had a friend who would not allow my anger from hurts ruin my influence for the kingdom of God. He was holding me accountable for my call. That is what friends do, they hold you accountable to God’s call on your life – who He has called you to be, and what He has called you to do.

2. Faith

Faith in God’s ability to heal your heart. I cannot tell you how many times I have sworn that I was going to quit because of being hurt. And I really mean it when I say it, as I am sure you do, too.

At the moment I am convinced that there is no hope that I will ever be able to go on. However, when I spend time with Jesus, He softens my heart. It truly is supernatural. It is as though when I take my hurt to Him, and sometimes I have to several times, He just reaches in and takes the hurt out – like a pebble in my shoe. It gives me the ability to trust again, which will enable me to get many more miles out of my calling.

3. Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a non-negotiable if you want to maintain a soft heart. In fact, that is why Jesus put it in the daily prayer, “Lord, forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.” Matthew 6:12

Jesus knew that you were going to be trespassed against, and sometimes daily. That is why He tells us to pray this at the beginning of the day, pre-deciding to forgive. This is where it is wise to “Over-maintenance”. In other words, clean out the spiritual arteries of your heart every morning in preparation for trespasses, rather than waiting for trespasses to happen. When they do happen, it may still take a bit of time to process the pain, but it will happen much quicker.

These three things will enable you to live as a victor, not a victim.

But it is still your choice. I want to encourage you today to choose wisely. Allow friends to hold you accountable, have faith that Jesus can heal your heart, and pre-decide that you are going to forgive. If you will, you will maintain a soft heart and successfully fulfill God’s call on your life.

Q. Will you allow a friend to hold you accountable for your call?
Q. Do you believe God can heal your heart? If so, are you willing to submit your hurts to Him?
Q. Are you willing to begin each day pre-choosing to forgive those who hurt you?