Human emotion is a tricky thing. On the one hand, our emotions can deceive us into making terrible decisions that contradict the direction that sound wisdom would lead us in. On the other hand, our emotions are central to who we are and how we experience life and must be embraced and understood in order for us to be whole and healthy.
The Bible has a lot to say about the hardening of the human heart, which can describe both an emotional coldness as well as a stubbornness of our wills against the will of God. This coldness and hardness can come from one of several sources:
- Sin that we’ve allowed to remain and rule in our lives.
- Trauma that rewired our minds to believe lies.
- Incorrect, unbiblical theology and legalism.
- The devaluing of human life, often learned from a godless cultural influence.
I’ve been there. I’ve had too many of those moments where my anger has been kindled because of emotional coldness or sheer stubbornness. But I’m learning to cling to a principle that God revealed to the people of Israel through the prophet Ezekiel in the middle of a prophecy about their future as a nation. God would restore them from captivity and deliver them from the consequences of their own rebellion, and he would also heal the hardness of their hearts.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
~ Ezekiel 36:26 NIV
The heart of stone refers to a heart that has been calloused over and has become unfeeling and unreceptive to love. And a heart of flesh is one that is soft, tender, and ready to both receive and give love.
One of the most important prayers I pray is the prayer for God to soften my heart, to keep it pliable and moldable and to help me feel real remorse over my sin and genuine compassion and empathy for other people. If you find yourself in a frustrating pattern of giving and receiving hurt in your relationships, I would urge you to pray this prayer.
Dear God, please break my heart and remove the barriers I have with emotion and empathy. Forgive my sin and empty me of pride. And give me a softened heart, a heart of flesh, so that I might feel my feelings and the feelings of others. Give me the gift of compassion and empathy for the pain of others and help me to receive your love and to give your love to those around me.
That’s a prayer God loves to hear from the sincerity of your heart because it embraces his intention to both love you and to love others through you.