When I think back on 2017, it was a rough year for both my family personally and I think for our world in general. One thing I know for certain is that God was definitely working on strengthening my heart. There was great strife in the political arena as well as all kinds of natural disasters, hurricanes, fires, etc…seemingly one right after another. Between personal trials and worldly tragic events, we can often feel helpless, heartbroken and often very discouraged. So where do we turn on the difficult days and how do we strengthen our hearts for the times we live in?
I don’t love exercise, but I try to do it somewhat regularly to help myself stay healthy and strong. One of the many ways I exercise is occasional stair climbing. We have this wonderfully long set of stairs by the ocean (actually its four flights long) and it eventually leads down to the beach. Instead of Gold’s Gym, I call this workout God’s Gym. I not only get in a good half hour workout, it really gets my heart pumping and I also get to enjoy God’s beauty while doing it.
Now I don’t always necessarily enjoy or feel like working out (especially on cold, foggy or drizzly days), but I always feel so much better and stronger when I do. The same is true for our hearts…The human heart is one of the strongest muscles in the body and in the same way we have to exercise our bodies to be healthy and strong… we also need to exercise our hearts to be strong and guard them against anything that might weaken or damage them. The bible says it in this way…”Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
A verse I share often on my Facebook page is one the Lord often points me to when I feel distraught or discouraged. Look to the LORD for his strength, seek His face always (Psalm 105:4). I always have to remind myself that God is our source of strength and that nothing we are facing or going through is a surprise to Him. He is the sovereign creator of the universe and holds all things together (Col. 1:17).
I know in and of myself, I can control nothing. When I fully recognize how powerless I am, I can then turn to the one who is all powerful…the one who created us and this universe we live in. It is in the knowledge of God our creator where we can gain understanding and strength to help us when difficulties arise. We can learn to rest in God’s strength instead of our own. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The following is a list of the four biggest things that have found that really help me strengthen my heart for the difficult days and times we live in.
Our heart is at the core of who we are and one of the most important ways we strengthen our hearts is through reading of God’s Word. God’s Word is God’s love letter to us and his plan of redemption for our lives. God’s Word is full of promises for us and gives us the tools we need to strengthen our hearts. His word is how we come to know God’s heart for us and his plan for our lives and this world. If we don’t read his Word… it’s like having a toolbox full of tools but not knowing how to use them.
I just heard a recent poll that said only 17-20% of people who claim to be Christian, actually read their bible. Now I’m not saying that to guilt trip anyone…for a long time, I used to be one of those Christians. It wasn’t until I started spending time with God daily that I began to hear and know his voice through the truth of His word. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us, “Do your best to present yourself to God, as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” To know the truth, we need to read it, memorize it and apply it to our lives…there is the power in the truth of God’s Word and his word is how God primarily speaks to us.
The second way we strengthen our hearts in through time spent with God in prayer. Prayer is time we commune with our creator. Jesus set the best example of this when he walked the earth. He would purposefully leave the crowds to go spend time with his father in prayer and if Jesus did it, shouldn’t we? Prayer is when we not only talk to God but more importantly, we spend time listening too. Just as we invest time to grow in relationship with others…God wants us to spend time with him and grow in our relationship with him through prayer. God’s word tells us to pray at all times and for all people on all occasions (Eph. 6:18). We cant expect to hear from God unless we spend regular time talking with him.
Another way we strengthen our hearts is through community (spending time with) with other believers. I don’t think I’ve ever grown so much as when I have been in regular times of community with others. Community is where we share our lives with others. It’s where were raw and real and experience love and learn to extend grace to one another. God never intended man to be alone or isolated. We stand stronger when we’re together getting the support from a community of like-minded believers who are there to help love, encourage, serve and build one another up.
Last but not least, we strengthen our hearts by keeping our focus on Christ. This world is full of distractions and the enemy is forever seeking to pull us away from walking in God’s plan for our lives. The bible says he is a thief and his plan is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). The second part of the verse says…but I come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly. The abundant life that Christ promises is only found when we keep in step with God and his life-giving spirit within us.
Trials and troubles will come in this life, but when we’re diligent to keep are hearts strengthened through an abiding relationship with God…he promises to be with us and that the difficulties we go through will be used for good. God doesn’t say that everything that happens to us will be good, but rather it will work for good (Romans 8:28). When we abide in Christ (keeping his words in our hearts)…Gods promises can sustain us and strengthen our hearts even on the most difficult of days.
The longer I walk with God, I see him ever faithful and true to his word. I don’t always understand what he is doing…but I’ve learned that as I trust him in all circumstances, that He is faithful to keep his promises and that we can come out of the trials and difficulties stronger and more equipped to handle all the difficulties this life will continue to throw at us. Gods strength then becomes our own and we can sing with David the psalmist…My flesh may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever Psalm 73:26).
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Psalm 119:28
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trust in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7
Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11