By Joy Ballard
The heart of your words matters. When life throws obstacles our way, our immediate response says a lot about the state of our hearts. You can take steps to understand your heart so that your response comes from a healthy place.
The Abundance of the Heart
Nothing can quite prepare you for the magnifying glass effect that parenting has on your heart. Just recently I noticed an increase in arguments and mean words being thrown around between my kids, so I thought it fitting to teach them about Jesus’ words: “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 ESV).
Later the same day, after enduring one too many childish squabbles, my own words came boiling out of my mouth (and heart) in a less-than-mature way. And as we know, actions speak louder than words! Oops!
When Your Heart Is Stressed
Much can be observed about a person’s heart by their responses to stress and obstacles in life. One of my kids who is in the throes of pre-teen emotions has been overusing the phrase: “the world is collapsing!” (Please go ahead and imagine the drama of those parenting moments with me!)
It’s easy to dismiss this behavior as foolish when dealing with Legos, but what about when MY world “collapses” –and I don’t mean real trauma. I mean when the coffee drive thru gets my order wrong, when my weekend plans get ruined or when my husband says something hurtful that sets off old insecurity.
What is my heart response in the small moments when life doesn’t go my way?
The Depths of Your Heart
Jesus makes a connection between words and the heart. The writer of Proverbs compared the purpose of the heart to deep waters (Pr. 20:5 NIV); and they are deeper than most of us want to or even have time to get into.
I invite you to walk a few steps into the waters of the heart with me.
Getting to the Heart of Your Words
There are three things that have helped me in the ongoing process of cultivating a healthier heart.
Get in touch with your feelings.
In the same way that pain indicates that there is a problem, feelings indicate that something in our heart needs attention.
Two of the most common feelings are fear and anger, but they often present today in the form of anxiety and depression. When you understand the root of your feelings, you can start asking better questions and get the right help.
Understanding our feelings helps point us in the right direction. God made us in his image and that includes the ability to feel. Often our default surface reactions numb us to the deep areas of our heart that need healing. With God’s help, we can find a way back to the wholeness he intended for our lives.
Develop the art of gratitude.
Gratitude is more of an art than a science because it requires the cultivation of habits that lead to a whole lifestyle that’s unique to you. What fills my heart with gratitude is different than what fills yours, but the habits that lead to a lifestyle of gratitude are similar, such as slowing down, being intentional in giving thanks, and monitoring our intake of negativity.
Generosity also leads to gratitude: serving people, sponsoring the work of a brave missionary family, helping someone in need, and even giving my time to play with my children. Developing a lifestyle of gratitude leads to a perspective shift which is the antidote to the selfishness and entitlement that often takes root in our hearts.
Walk with Jesus.
It’s one thing to have a marriage license tucked away in a file cabinet, and quite another thing to MAINTAIN a marriage relationship. Relationships need daily tending, like a garden. Our relationship with Jesus is the same. We need to dedicate time to read his words and time to listen.
Sometimes as a wife or mom, time is our rarest commodity, so we need to learn to walk with Jesus. He doesn’t sit on our porch chair waiting to talk to us (IF we heeded the alarm clock) and see us off for the day. He goes with us! If you’re in the busy years of parenting, you need Jesus’ constant help more than ever.
Understanding our heart’s feelings and becoming grateful people are awesome goals, but they’re not enough. Ultimately, only by walking daily with Jesus will we have access to the true source of everything our heart needs.
One step at a time we can walk into the depths of our hearts with courage, knowing Jesus will help us cultivate a beautiful garden from which can grow the kinds of responses to life that will bring love and healing to those around us.
Wife Step: Take inventory of your latest responses to life’s hurdles. Is there some tending that your heart needs? Invite a friend over for a heart to heart and make a “heart care action plan” based on the steps above.
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography
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