“Above all else guard your heart, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) This is the second of two verses I remember from my time as a youth at various church camps. What exactly does it mean to guard our hearts? In the verses directly following we get some idea. “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:23-27) In some sense we guard our hearts by seeking purity and holiness.
In my first full-time job I got to know Mrs. Badgley who was the mother of a girl in our youth group. She was the consummate nature lady, comfortable in her barn jacket and boots, adopting several Corgis, a bird, and a horse. Mrs. Badgley was the kind of caring woman with whom you’d sit down for a cup of hot tea and feel completely at-ease. It was delightful to spend time with a down-to-earth Christian lady who was gentle and wise. During the time I knew her, almost 30 years ago, she decided against getting a newspaper and watching the news. She believed that God helped guide her to that decision so she was better able to focus on spiritual growth without so much negative input. Certainly we could not all take that kind of path nor would God lead us all in that direction. For others, however, avoiding much of the news for a season might be necessary to guard our hearts.
As we go through life, we realize that not each friend, acquaintance or family member is committed to protecting our hearts. Some are more nurturing towards us and we sense their dedication to look out for our best. Even if unintentional, most of us have played a part in crushing someone’s spirit. Hopefully we have learned from our mistakes and try harder to build each other up. “The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14)
Ultimately, our only completely faithful friend and companion is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the one who can mend and protect. For years Young Life, a ministry bringing the church to teens, has used a one-act play called “Broken Heart” to demonstrate this. A girl goes through life with her heart- an orange- being peeled away little by little. Satan convinces her to wrap her orange in a thick layer of armor or tin foil as protection. Finally, she listens to the repeated whispers of Jesus. He gives her a brand new heart.
In guarding our hearts let’s surround ourselves with a close circle of friends who are grace-giving, joy-bringing, God-loving, and life-speaking. Let us be those things to the people around us.