I’ve never really wished for a hard heart. But there are seasons when my heart begins to get a bit crusty. Perhaps there are things so deep and dark and painful that I don’t feel equipped to handle them. Which translated means—perhaps there are things which seem so powerful that I don’t trust the Lord to be big enough to handle them. Or maybe a choice sin has wrapped its tentacles so tightly around me that I’m deadening my own heart so as not to feel deep conviction.
Regardless the cause of the hardened heart it is a dangerous thing. To be “unmoved, unaffected, and disobedient” is not where one wants his heart to be. The Puritan, Richard Baxter, summarizes the hard heart quite well:
And that is the hard-hearted sinner, that will not be wrought to a love of holiness, nor let go his sin, when God commandeth him; but after all exhortations, and mercies, and perhaps afflictions, is still the same as if he had never been admonished, or took no notice what God hath been saying or doing to reclaim him.
That’s a terrible spot to be in. To prevent this and perhaps to shake believers out of the doldrums of a hard heart, Richard Baxter offers twelve helps for dealing with hardness of heart. I’ve modernized and summarized these, but I believe I’m being faithful to the original.
- Remember the majesty of the One you are hardening yourself against. You dare not respond to a king with such indifference—how much more the Living God?
- Consider the seriousness and nature of eternity.
- Ponder your deathbed and the judgment of Christ. “No man will stand before the Lord in the day of judgment, with a sleepy or a senseless heart.”
- Think often of the love of God in Christ.
- Look upon the end of your hardened heart; namely, the death of the soul.
- Take notice of the sad effects in the world which comes from a hard heart.
- Sit under passionate preaching and get around passionate Christians.
- Let tender-hearted Christians instruct you, and not be a witness against you.
- Avoid company which tends to harden your heart.
- Take heed of willfully sinning against knowledge.
- Be cautious of a dull familiarity with the powerful means of grace.
- Go to a graveyard or to a deathbed.
You really need to read the whole thing and not just my summary. Baxter is a helpful physician of the soul and the way he walks you through hardness of heart will likely enliven your heart to Christ. Here you can read it for free.
If you’d like to read a thousand more of these types of directions consider purchasing Baxter’s A Christian Directory. (It’s one of the most helpful books in my library).