When My Heart is Against Me

Boat on the sea of Galilee

1 John 3:19-24 NIV - 19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

A few thoughts:

  • 20-21 – Sometimes my heart does condemn me. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, I can remember that God is greater than the verdict of my own heart. His word trumps mine. He is the Supreme Court over my heart, so to speak. What about when my heart does not condemn me? It can’t be that I am at that moment somehow completely guiltless, can it? Am I ever completely free of sin in thought, attitude and behavior? In this same letter, John will say that if we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves. If we claim we haven’t sinned, we’re calling God a liar. But I am always free to be forgiven.
  • 19 – The counsel John gives in this passage is about how to set our hearts at rest in His presence. I need this sometimes. When my heart is restless because of anxiety or fear or doubt, there is a place of rest for me.
  • 20 – The answer to setting our hearts at rest when they condemn us is to remember that God already knows everything (and, implied, forgives everything), and that His verdict is greater than our own. I must let Him decide the case rather than leaving it to my own imperfect, tunnel-vision heart.
  • 21 – There appears to be a condition for receiving whatever we ask from God in prayer: 1) we keep His commands and 2) do what pleases Him. To expand the context, though, His commands are to trust Jesus’s character and love people, especially God’s people. This is how we live in Him and He is us (24a).

So Father, when I awaken restless with a haunting sense of coming up short, let me hear Your perspective. If my heart is accusing me of real faults and failures, then help me find my way to the secure place of your mercy and grace. If my heart is accusing me wrongly through weakness, scruples or such, then thank You for being greater than even this. My heart does not have the last word. You do.

For Reflection:

  • When has your heart most recently felt restless with guilt or shame? How did you respond? Did you attempt to somehow numb that voice? Did you find your way to a place of rest in God’s mercy?
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