Over the past few weeks we have been exploring the value in guarding and keeping your heart. Proverbs 4:23 Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flows the springs of life. This verse provides insight in what happens when the heart is guarded or unguarded; your life flows from whatever is rooted in your heart.A guarded heart rooted in love full of hope produces a life full of peace. Therefore an unguarded heart rooted in fear and in ever changing circumstances springs a life full of fear and ultimately deception. Today we will put it all together.
When we guard something it means we protect and watch over it; anything coming or going. When it comes to matters of the heart it’s the thoughts that we think, coming and going that we dwell and meditate on that need guarding or capturing. When we capture our thoughts we guard and protect our heart from the root of fear and we embrace love and have peace. Fear is truly the opposite of love and the path toward and unguarded heart starts with the 4Ds; distraction, discontentment, discouragement, and deception. Here is the process.
Distractions was the first of the 4Ds we talked about. Distractions keep us from the real focus. As C. S. Lewis shared: Do not allow any temporary excitement to distract you form the real business. A distraction could be a good thing, such as a job or friend. Or it could be a relationship that is absorbing too much of your time. We can allow our families to be a distraction. A distraction from what? Our real business is our first love which is God and placing Him before everything we do. Anything, anyone that causes us to focus more on “that thing” could be a distraction and pull us away from our first love. Distractions maybe large or small, intended or unintended, whatever the distraction we have them. We need to pray for wisdom to reveal and uncover any and every distraction in life that would keep our focus off the real thing which is the love of God that guides us into all truth.
Discontentment is the second of the 4Ds which create an unguarded heart. When we are discontent, we are dissatisfied with our lives and truly absence of contentment. I believe a person with a heart full of discontent, is a person who had not seen the opportunity to embrace an attitude of gratitude. The danger of living without gratitude is we allow discontentment to take root and may become dissatisfied with God. We may be discontent in the wait or perceived “slowness” of the manifestation of a promise from God. The answer to discontentment is gratitude; enjoying the journey on the way to where you are going. Don’t lose the opportunity to enjoy the “happys” along the way because it’s in those moments we can celebrate the little miracles which soften our heart to appreciate and be content while moving forward.
Discouragement is the third of the the 4Ds which contribute to an unguarded heart. Discouragement is the condition of being with out hope. 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. Through life’s distractions we may become discontent and discouraged. How do we become discouraged? I believe it is in what we rehearse. We remove the courage and hope from our inner dialogue and rehearse fear filled thoughts that then propel us into a direction of continued defeat. What if we abandoned the defeating thoughts and began rehearsing our victories? When we remind ourselves we are His beloved, loved and created for such a moment as this, this produces hope and encouragement to see life’s circumstances as opportunities to embrace love and not fear. As we rehearse our victories, courage comes, witty creative ideas come to provide direction toward courage.
Deception is the last of the the 4Ds that we will explore today. Deception is the unguarded heart full of illusion and fear. The foundation for the unguarded deceived heart is, distraction, discontentment, and discouragement. It is a heart that is unknowingly rooted in lies and not the truth. Deception is tricky because it appears as truth however it is a lie.
Deception involves a deluding and lulling to sleep. It is subtle, yet deliberate in the intention of wearing you down to where if exposed to it long enough you believe the lie as truth. You believe a lie and therefore become the lie. Deception is the opposite of truth. All of the “Ds” I have shared lead to this embracing of deception. You start with distraction, you become discontent and even discouraged and left unguarded you deceive yourself into potentially believing a lie, based on current circumstance, as truth.
There maybe a job promotion that you desire. You think it would be a great opportunity for you and would look great on a resume. You may have some experience which could potentially qualify you for this promotion. You think that you are ready to step out in faith for it and you miss the whisper, “Not now”. I am all for promotion and being dedicated to personal development in the work place however, I also believe there is a right timing and a plan that God has for each of us. I will share a common scenario of how distractions, discontentment, and discouragement produce deception, an unguarded heart in my life.
Several years ago I desired a regional training job. Mind you I had only been a store manager for a few years and had trained several employees but I was up for the challenge it would bring. As a regional trainer I would partner with corporate and retail stores helping to design training curriculum to train employees. The job involved some travel, visiting stores throughout Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana supporting managers in their training implementation. I felt I had a wealth of experience with the adult learner. Up to this point, I had taught several management classes for the company and therefore thought I would be a great fit for the position.
To me the regional training job was a dream job in a company that I loved. However this desire for the regional training position became a distraction for me. It slowly became more of a focus for me, when my store should of had my focus. It was my focus, pouring hours into prepping for classes and planning that took away from my family. I began to take on and teach more management classes that I would teach throughout the state of Mississippi. I even offered to help organize the on-boarding and training for two new stores in the state. All great opportunities, absorbing much time away from my first love.
All my hard work and self promotion paid off. I landed the interview for the position! I had an initial phone interview and then had to travel to New Orleans for the second interview. I was optimistic. There was a sense of pride in my consideration for this position. I had proven myself over the past years as a newly promoted store manager and this was my opportunity!
I traveled to New Orleans and the interview went really well. In the interview, I was able to provide some great examples of my dedication to training and development in my store as well as throughout the state of Mississippi. I shared key performance measures and articulated how investment in an employee’s training benefitted our business through a reduction in turnover and an increase in the customer experience. I felt confident, in that moment, I knew I nailed it and had the promotion.
A few days had passed. I waited and waited which felt like an eternity waiting for the call letting me know I got the job. However, not one email, not one word. Slowly, I became discontent in the wait. I was impatient. Would they call already? By this point, I struggled with knowing that all of the hard work I had put in would go to waste. Surely they were negotiating salary and relocation expenses. Right?
Two weeks had past and I finally heard. It was not the news I wanted to hear, it was a no! They chose to go with another candidate. Oh the typical generic HR response. I was was completely disappointed. Surly they made a mistake. I really wanted this job. I thought to myself, what did I say that made them say no? I replayed the interview over and over, the conversations I had with the training and development department. Slowly the “Where did I go wrong? ” turned into “Where did they go wrong?”
The rehearsal of the defeat replayed for several weeks when I heard who got the position. To my knowledge, “the other candidate” was no where near as qualified as I. The negative defeating thoughts continued and by this point, comparing and judging were at an all time high. I truly felt that was my job and before I knew it, my sense of entitlement became the foundation for deception. My heart was bitter, full of fear of what if I did’t get another opportunity for this highly coveted position? Looking back now, with the bitterness and resentment, I certainly was not ready.
Several months had passed and I began to regroup and regain my focus. I soon got word that they were eliminating the position I had interviewed for. My frustration eased and I the illusion of entitlement dropped. God had saved me from that position. The deception that had held me in fear began to dissolve. Tears followed. That could have been me. What I wanted and what I was distracted into thinking was the REAL THING for me was not God’s plan. I had drowned out the whisper “Not now” and deceived myself with discouragement and discontentment.
We’ve all been there. That moment when you realize that what the enemy meant for harm and deception, God turned it around for your good. It’s always valuable to remind ourselves that the enemy is out to kill your dreams, steal your joy, and destroy your hope in God for the plan He has in place for your life. Several years ago, the enemy was out to keep me in bitterness and deception; an unguarded heart. I helped this process along through losing my focus through a distraction, discontentment along the journey, discouragement and finally deception. But God! God restored me back to that place of knowing that He was God and turned me toward the path He designed for me.
My prayer is that you too would begin to examine the areas of your life where you have had an unguarded heart. Allow the love of God to show where you allow one of the 4Ds to keep you in an unguarded heart. The unguarded heart rooted in distractions, discouragement and discontentment produces a life full of fear and deception. However the guarded heart that is filled with focus on your first love, gratitude and rehearsal of the victories produces a life full of faith, hope and love.