Question from a Site Viewer
I just read with great interest your article In What Sense Does a God of Love Harden Hearts? and I feel compelled to seek your council as this pertains to my own hardened heart. First a bit of background information is necessary.
I received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior a little over 20 years ago. But since then, I have made many poor decisions in my life and I have hardened my heart against God greatly. I am now trying to get out of this hardened condition having realized my error in doing this. What happened to me was because of my pride, not because of anything He did or failed to do.
Can my heart recover from being hardened? I find myself trying to repent, but I find that I am still hardened in heart even though I try to repent of it. Basically, it’s a hardened heart trying to repent of being a hardened heart. God places upon me the responsibility of not hardening my heart. I have failed this responsibility and did exactly what He warns us not to do. I know now that I was wrong to do this and that God didn’t trick me and isn’t trying to hurt me with some diabolical plan to victimize me. But that still leaves me with my hardened heart and spirit. Can I recover from this? I have offered prayers of repentance, but I feel like those prayers are self-generated rather than a response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit has stopped convicting me of sins? If so, does that mean I have lost my salvation due to the Holy Spirit no longer maintaining a presence in my heart? If this is the case, please be brutally honest with me and just tell me the truth of it.
I agonize with you in your struggle. You state that you hardened your heart against God and now you find that your heart is no longer tender towards God as you would like it to be. You wonder if you can recover from this.
I can readily answer your question with “yes, you can recover.” Scripture is clear that the God of mercy is in the business of transforming hearts. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they would turn to Him (Ezekiel 18:19-32; 33:11). If we return, then He will bring us back (Jeremiah 15:19; Hosea 14:1-4). The prodigal son is the great story of this redemption in Luke 15. But it is by no means an aberration of Scriptural teaching on the subject. The God we serve wants us to turn sinners from their ways and cover over their sins (James 5:19-20). I continue to believe that the greatest, but by far not the only, example of this is King Manasseh. Manasseh was the son of good King Hezekiah. He knew what was right. He deliberately turned against God and did more evil than any king before him. But we find in 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 that when he sought the Lord, the Lord heard him and brought him back. The grace of God for sinners flows from the heart of God. If we confess (say the same thing as God says) about our sins, He considers it to be a matter of faithfulness and justice to extend forgiveness to us and to restore us back (1 John 1:9).
The problem then is not in a God who no longer wants to have fellowship with us. Rather, the problem is within us. When we have hardened our hearts against God, and we realize that we are in a mess, we find ourselves in a dilemma. We may know that our only hope is to seek God, but our hearts are persistent in trying to keep us at a distance from God.
I want to encourage you on this truth. The heart is malleable. It can be transformed. Such transformation does not come easy. G. K. Chesterton, an English writer, once stated: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” When our minds and hearts have been trained in bad thinking, it takes time and effort to transform them into kingdom thinking. Many simply do not make the effort to do the works fitting for repentance. And they fall away, like the seed sown among the thorns. But like a paralyzed person beginning to learn to walk again, those who persevere in turning to God on a daily basis, memorizing His word, beseeching Him, and seeking to bless God and others; in little steps those persons will find their hearts drawn into the heart of God.
I have a friend who has a young child. When born, the child can do nothing. Day after day, the child kicks his legs and waves his arms, seemingly in futility. But it is not futility. These activities that seem futile are actually strengthening the muscles, sending messages to the brain, wiring the brain for more action that ultimately lead to some coordination. The arms and legs begin to work in concert. Then the day comes when the child is able to raise himself up. After more days, the child is able to turn himself over. First, it seems almost an accident, but the arms and legs did it, and will do it again and again. Eventually,t he child can stand, walk, and run. It must seem to the child to be an eternity to accomplish these things. But the persistence of kicking one’s legs and flailing with the arms ultimately leads to the ability to walk and run.
So it is with our spiritual lives. When we have lived away from God for some time, we come back and we find that we are like that little child flailing with our spiritual arms and kicking with our spiritual feet, seemingly making no progress towards God. Our spiritual life seems uncoordinated, disjointed, and without a heart for God. But it is in our constant beseeching God to root the sin from us and create within us a clean heart (Psalm 51:10) that we will find, step by step, our lives being transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2) into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). God is for us on this journey. And the Spirit will return to be the vital partner in our journey in real and tangible ways. But it always is a journey.
I encourage you to not give up on your pursuit after God. You might find helpful these 10 suggestions. Ultimately, we do not want to gain the world and lose our souls. It seems that you have reached this conclusion. I only encourage you now to be persistent in pursuing God. If you do so, you will find that after a few months of diligently seeking after Him, your mind will begin to think in ways of newly found purity and delight and your fellowship with God will become increasingly sweet.
May you come to know the joy of the forgiveness and removal of sins and of a right relationship with our dear Savior.
with my prayers,