Every one of us can relate to heartbreak. We experience it when someone we love dies or becomes distant from us through death or emotional hurts. We say we are “heartbroken” when someone we love offends us.
But when we consider the physiological functions of the human heart it is kind of odd that we describe the negative experiences as “heartbreak.”
Over the past year, I experienced some concerning physical issues related to my heart. I’ve had some persistent pain and palpitations. I’ve worn heart monitors and had different types of imaging studies, all to rule out more dangerous reasons for these sometimes scary and annoying symptoms.
One of the tests showed something that could possibly be a hole in my heart. Many people are born with holes in their heart that require little to no intervention. Though I was born with a heart murmur, no one ever mentioned a hole in my heart. But because I was having these symptoms, my doctor ordered a more invasive type of imaging study which required sedation.
I was worried for sure. But in the midst of heart monitors and tests, I kept thinking about how we use the comparison of emotional brokenness to actual breakdowns in our physical heart. Also, because the initial diagnosis of this possible hole in my heart came shortly after the loss of my mom and my sister, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was experiencing a physical manifestation of grief. At the time this test described a small hole in my heart, I felt like their deaths had left a void in my heart.
One year, almost to the exact date of my mom’s death, as I drifted off to sleep under the sedation, I thought that the grief in my heart was a little less bitter and a little more sweet. Would that also mean that the hole in my heart had disappeared?
I woke from the sedation feeling very well rested. It made me realize how badly I need a good night’s sleep. When I woke, the doctor gave me the good news that there was no hole in my heart, thus confirming, in my mind anyway, that grief can manifest itself in physical symptoms, and, in time, my heart was on the mend.
The pain and the palpitations were diagnosed as inflammatory responses from autoimmune issues and menopause. Nothing a baby aspirin and a good night’s sleep couldn’t control.
Considering this heartbreak and healing, I thought about Jesus’ repeated encouragements to the disciples in John’s gospel:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled have faith in me and in my Father. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:1,27).
These words were among the last words Jesus would say to His disciples on the night before He died. Not only was Jesus preparing them for His imminent death, but He was also assuring the disciples and indeed all of us, that we have control over the heartbreak in our lives.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” specifically implies that we can choose the impact difficulties have on our hearts. The Hebrew definition of heart means the entire inner person, mind, will and heart. The heart is the seat of all decisions from which actions flow.
We tend to think of our minds as being the place where we make decisions and figuratively our hearts being the place of emotions. God looks at the whole person and Jesus explains this as our hearts.
These final words of Jesus in John’s gospel are really important ones. When a person knows they are nearing the end of their lives, it can be a bittersweet time — a time to put things in perspective and share what’s really important with those we love.
Having experienced the loss of loved ones by sudden death and a slow death due to disease, I’d rather know when the end is near. It gives us all perspective and a chance to say goodbye. You savor the time and the meanings of words are so much more important when you know you might not hear them again.
Over the past month, as I am recovering from my knee injury, I’ve had to take the stairs very slowly, one step at a time. Along the way, I’ve noticed some things I took for granted before.
Just at the height of the stairwell, we have a beautiful painting by a local artist who is also a friend of our family. The painting is entitled Things Unseen. It’s a colorful depiction of shapes and images that appear as doorways, arches and distant portals to a life unseen. It always reminded me that this life is a gateway to heaven and the hope of eternal life. When I first received the painting, I made sure to place it in a prominent place where we would view it every day — the first image as we walk down the stairs.
But the troubles of life distracted me. As I ran down the stairs distracted, I hardly noticed the painting. Then, forced to slow down, I made a conscious decision to walk carefully and notice the encouragement of God along the way.
At the bottom of the stairs, there’s a large sign with this scripture: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare and not for woe — plans for a future full of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I’ve passed that sign every day for the past 15 years. I used to read it faithfully. Now as I am carefully taking each step, I’m reading that scripture again and trusting God that He’s got these troubles under control.
Jesus’ loving command to NOT LET our hearts to be troubled means that we can have control over the brokenness we allow in our hearts. He doesn’t promise us that there will be no troubles, but that we can keep those troubles from our hearts by trusting in Him.
Jesus assures us that “in this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” in John 16:33.
Take heart! And do not allow your heart to be troubled, but rather, make a decision to trust God. Take time to observe the beauty around you, and recall God’s promise’s step by step. Laugh, cry, sing, dance and breathe, believing God that there is no trouble in this world that will not be overcome.
Your heart can rest in His hands.