The Spiritual Discipline of an Aching Heart
I am captivated by the passion of the Bible.
The Bible is not written like a spiritual textbook, merely explaining and analyzing life’s spiritual truths. Nor is it some dry history record of ancient peoples and ancient beliefs. The Bible is filled with the passion of God. In the pages of Scripture, we find God exploding over injustices that harm those whom God cares immensely about. And we find God weeping in solidarity with those who are in deep sorrow. And we find God rejoicing ecstatically with those whose joy is overflowing.
In the pages of Scripture, we find Jesus, whom John describes as the One who makes known to us the invisible God (John 1:18), weeping at times, angry at other times, and sympathetic often. At times He is even described as aching in His gut for individuals.
The Bible also stresses that the work of the Holy Spirit is to grow within us the character of God. Therefore, we need to realize that since the Bible reveals to us that God is passionate in His care for people, as we grow in His character we should expect to find ourselves growing in passionate care for people.
I see this truth lived out in a man named Nehemiah. While Nehemiah was living in comfort as cupbearer to the king of Persia, he receives news about how poorly his countrymen are living in his homeland of Judah. Listen to his reaction, as recorded in Nehemiah 1:4: “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
It seems to me that this is a “godly reaction,” a reaction in keeping with the character of God.
It seems to me that as we grow in the character of God, we will find ourselves caring passionately about the hurts and needs and joys of others. It seems to me that as God’s character grows in us, we will find our hearts breaking with the things that break the heart of God. The more we grow in Christ, the more we will find that the Christian life is not an uninterrupted flow of joys and blessings filling our lives, but many times involves a broken heart for the things that break the heart of God.
Perhaps one of the most important spiritual disciplines we can put into practice is the discipline of paying attention to the aching in our hearts. It may well be that when you find your heart aching it is because you are in touch with the heart of God that is breaking for those whom He cares about deeply. If that’s the case, continue to pay attention to how God happens to nudge you. He may nudge you to do as Nehemiah did. He may nudge you to weep and to mourn and to fast and to pray. And He may nudge you to get involved in some further way (which is exactly what God did with Nehemiah as the story continues on).