What is the value in guarding your heart? We have been exploring this question for the past two weeks and Proverbs 4:23 gives us insight to the answer. Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flows the springs of life. The value is this, a guarded heart rooted in love full of hope produces a life full of peace. Therefore an unguarded heart rooted in ever changing circumstances springs a life full of fear and deception.
To guard something means to protect and watch over. When we guard and protect our heart from the root of fear we embrace love and have peace. Fear is truly the opposite of love and the process to an unguarded heart starts with the 4Ds; distraction, discontentment, discouragement and deception. Discouragement will be our focus this week.
To discourage, according to Webster’s Dictionary, means to deprive of confidence or hope; to dishearten. Discouragement is the condition of being without hope or confidence. When we lose hope or confidence we’ve lost our courage to continue. We see life’s circumstances through the lens of no hope and make choices based on fear.
I am sure you have heard the phrase: Practice makes perfect! I happen to disagree with this statement. I have sung in many choirs and groups and played sports teams and know that practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. Here’s why; you may practice the wrong cord progression or specific play on a sports team until it’s engrained in your head. It becomes muscle memory, easily performed without much thought. By this point, it’s a habit and would take plenty of unlearning of that permanent practice to correct. The same is true for the process we take towards discouragement. However instead of practicing a chord progression or sports play, we practice thoughts of discouragement.
Through life’s distractions we may become discontent and discouraged. How do we then practice this discouragement? I believe it’s in what we rehearse. We remove the courage and hope from our inner dialogue. Re-hearing the voice within, re-playing, practicing discouraging, fear filled thoughts of doubt and unbelief. Rehearsing defeating thoughts and solidifying discouragement, and as a result, our heart becomes unguarded. Here’s a thought, what if we started where we are at? What if we abandoned the defeating thoughts and began rehearsing our victories?
My first son, Micah, has demonstrated a life rehearsing victories. Micah was born with Erb’s Palsy in his right arm. At his birth, our first pediatrician us offered no hope. The doctor told us he would never use his arm and it would just dangle and be lifeless. He recommended we get Micah into physical therapy to potentially regain 25% use of his arm. In the midst of this discouraging prognosis, we found the best physical therapy department and prayed.
I remember going into Micah’s first physical therapy appointment at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. The therapist was friendly, bubbly and optimistic. The therapist created a tiny arm brace for Micah. The brace wrapped around his wrist to keep his arm straight as to not curl under. She worked with Micah and demonstrated some exercises we could do with his lifeless arm. Moments of rear rose and it was discouraging not knowing if my son would ever use his right arm. The therapist sent us home with exercises to help strengthen his muscles in his arm and encouraged us not to protect his arm, but allow him to explore how to use his arm with the brace. We had a journey ahead of us.
We went back to physical therapy frequently. We explored many options to create movement and strength in Micah’s little arm. The first milestone for Micah to tackle was pushing up during tummy time. To our surprise, Micah would create a fist in his right hand and used his fist as a base, grip his brace strapped on his arm, and then push up. Somehow he knew exactly what to do. Micah knew no different and didn’t compare himself with other babies. The courage to crawl was in him. He used what little strength he had to push toward the next milestone.
The second milestone for Micah was crawling. Micah was so determined to crawl. He was full of hope and in his own way, had this courage that was built upon his victory of pushing up. He learned to crawl with his right hand in a fist position, balancing, still in a brace, he was crawling. Brilliant! Truly one of the fastest crawlers more importantly he became a great example of overcoming adversity and not allowing a physical challenge become his challenge or discouragement.
Micah would go through his childhood never becoming discouraged in his physical challenge rehearsing his victories. Over the years, becoming stronger and stronger playing sports defeating the odds of his first doctor prognosis.
In Micah’s seventh grade year, Micah was sought after the football coach to play on the team; and we got the question. Full of courage, he asked us if he could play football. My husband and I were thrilled to hear his excitement however, questions rose. What position would he play? With still some weakness, how would he tackle, how would he defend himself. Not fully persuaded we wanted to “protect” Micah. We were unsure of how he would pull it off; we said yes.
Micah did what was so familiar to him; rehearsed his victories and played. I remember seeing the pride in his eyes that first game. His position was defensive tackle. H told me his job was to protect the quarterback. While protecting the quarterback he was protecting and guarding his heart, rehearsing the message of hope which kept him from discouragement in his physical challenge.
Sometimes circumstances in life are beyond our control. The best news is, we don’t have to live in discouragement. We can carefully hand pick our thoughts and chose which we will hold captive according to 2 Cor 10:5 casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Casting down the fear filled thoughts that keep us in discouragement and cause us to make decisions in life that are rooted in fear and not love.
Today I encourage you to stir up that gift. Guard your heart against discouragement by: revisiting, rehearsing, pondering, meditating on the past victories in your life. Remind yourself where God has brought you from. Start where you are now; work with what you have and see how guarding your thoughts from dwelling on discouragement will decrease and hope will increase and bring peace into your circumstances. Until next time…
Ps 27:14 Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage.