The one thing determining your life

by Apr 29, 2021Christian living, Wisdom0 comments

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

A little while ago, we had a water main break on our street. Actually, it was all the way at the front of our street, and across it. While the county was repairing it, we were put on a boil notice, meaning they advised us to boil all water that we drank for the next three days because of potential contaminants. It turned out that not just our street, but virtually every street in our immediate neighborhood received the same warning. The pipe that was broken was on the central street of the neighborhood, towards the entrance, and so whatever contaminants leaked in at that point would then distribute into all the connected streets, to all the houses on those streets, and to every person in those houses.

That water main works a lot like our hearts, in a spiritual sense. We know that the way we experience life is not hopelessly deterministic. We do not helplessly live up and down on the whims of circumstances. We all can look at separate days which present virtually identical sets of circumstances, yet we respond to and experience differently. For example, in a given day we may have a conflict with a co-worker, a successful home project, an encouragement from a friend, and news about an unsettling current event. One day we go from stress to anger, to despair, to frustration, to anxiety. We snap and lash out. The other day we take things in stride, feel grateful, and quietly process and compartmentalize the negativity. Even more radically, we may react to the same person, in the same type of situation, on the same exact day in different ways.

What’s going on? It’s hard to know. We believe that we are responding and dealing with the unforeseeable contingencies as best as we can, but if we stop to think about it, we know that’s not the whole story. Our heart is in a different place on different occasions, perhaps seething and turbulent, or perhaps calm and expectant. The Bible does not treat us in such a reductionist fashion (as self-help literature often does) as to have us believe ample self-care will keep me smiling and laughing when my car breaks down. Bad things are still bad, and victory is still sweet. Proverbs is directing our attention to the main source of our life enjoyment – the status of our hearts, and ultimately whether we are trusting and resting in God.

If good water is flowing from the main water pipe (your heart), that doesn’t mean there can’t be a broken fixture, a leak through a crack, or a worn out filter in someone’s house. But these troubles can be addressed in isolation. Contaminated water from the main pipe doesn’t lessen any of those existing problems, it just pumps a lower quality water through everything, the good and the bad. This is why our hearts must always be our central focus, above all the concerns, major and minor, calling for our attention. George Muller, the great Christian philanthropist said it best: “The most important point to be attended to is this: above all things to see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.”

“The most important point to be attended to is this: above all things to see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.”

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