The English Standard Version’s translation of Jeremiah 17:9 puts it this way, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Last week’s shooting in CT was a sharp reminder of the depths of the depravity to which the human heart can sink. My older son prayed last night for the families in CT, and his little brother, who’d been unaware up to that point, asked what happened? After my brief explanation, he was incredulous. Who does something like that!? What’s wrong with that guy? He can already see that at the heart of someone who could do something so evil, something is wrong. Something is broken. Who can understand it?
But it doesn’t always take something that drastic to reveal the brokenness in our lives; we can see it in more mundane moments of deception, too. Our brokenness is revealed in our efforts to assuage our own feelings of guilt, or as we jealously begrudge the successes of others. It’s seen in our anger and our greed.
Greed, jealousy, anger, and guilt are four of the most pervasively damaging emotions in our society today, tearing at our hearts and leaving wounds that, if left untreated, cripple us. In Enemies of the Heart (affiliate link), Andy Stanley shares a great deal of biblical wisdom for anyone seeking freedom from the control of these emotions. Each of these feelings deceptively lead us to believe that a debt is owed, either to us or by us. The problem we have is that those debts clutter our lives and dirty up our hearts with a destructive power that corrodes the very foundations of our lives. Relationships are damaged or destroyed, along with careers, friendships, and families, when these four emotions compel our behavior.
Generosity, celebration, forgiveness, and confession are the habits that Stanley suggests we need to engage as antidotes to the corrosive force of greed, jealousy, anger, and guilt. These habits release us (or those around us) from the debt dynamic that otherwise rules our relationships. It’s a dynamic that we’re not meant to live in, and when we try, life breaks down into shattered relationships.
There’s an answer to Jeremiah’s dismay at the deceitfulness of the human heart: it’s the Maker. He knows our hearts inside and out! Enemies of the Heart is a helpful reminder of how God has provided a way for us to live free from these destructive emotions and how we can achieve restoration in the broken relationships in our lives.