If our hearts are our emotional houses, we have lived in them, as in our literal homes, too long and too exclusively the past few months. I can tell that people are losing their sense of proportion. Not only are tempers flaring online and in the streets among strangers, but I am seeing even mature believers and loving families snipping and sniping at each other over small things.
Emotionally, we “need to get out more.” But how?
Perhaps this will help: As my church took communion last week, the pastor called out, “Lift up your hearts,” and all of us answered, “We lift them up to the Lord.”
Lift up your heart to the Lord.
To do so does several things:
First, lifting up my heart to the Lord acknowledges that my heart is not ultimate, not the highest standard. And that’s true! My heart is not the center of the universe. As I have told my pre-law and writing students, “Don’t argue your opinion. I don’t have to live in your opinion; I have to live in reality. Convince me of what is real and true.”
One of Scripture’s most liberating phrases for me is “God who is greater than our heart” (I John 3:20). This greatness is where we all live, not in my roiling emotions or my cramped understanding of what is real. Think of Psalm 18:6 and 118:5, where the Psalmist rejoices (relaxes?) in being set “in a wide place.” You can just feel him loosening his shoulders, letting out a deep sigh.
In Genesis 26, we read the story of Isaac avoiding contention with local herdsman by moving out of their way and digging a new well, after which he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” With the broad view of a God at work, Isaac was able to resolve a dispute. A durable paradigm accounts for and includes everybody; only God has the perfect, all-encompassing view.
Second, lifting up our hearts to the Lord delivers us from earthly evaluations.
In a cancel culture, we must redouble our focus on God’s truth, not people’s views about us. Although we exist on this earth to serve and understand others, we say with Paul, “It is a very small thing” to be judged by another human. So also do our judgments of others fall away when we lift our hearts to the Lord.
Third, we are humbled by lifting up our hearts to the Lord.
In lifting our hearts to this “greater” Lord, we turn away from praise the world has given us.
The word “greater” is used in Genesis to describe the light of the sun compared to that of the moon. It’s often used in Scripture to denote a heavier burden or a higher honor. Thus, in the context of God being greater than our hearts, we are not unreal or ignored, but there is a greater reality into which our lives fit.
With our hearts lifted to the Lord, we accept our creatureliness. We are significant, but small before His greatness. I find this freeing. When I am very small, everywhere I go is up.
Fourth, we find unity in lifting up our hearts to the Lord.
If no one can live except in subjectivity, knowing only “their truth,” then humans have no shared reality. That situation leaves us isolated. If truth is only about the “voice,” and whether it is that “voice’s” turn to speak and not about the validity of the message, then many will instinctively try to simply be the loudest voice, shouting everyone else down. Discourse will become a matter of force. But when we lift our hearts to the Lord, He examines them. He softens them. In His light, we see light.
I John 3:20 says that God is greater than our hearts by virtue of the fact that “He knows everything.” He sees everyone’s hearts. He sees the beginning and the end of all things. We live and move and have our being in this One, who never changes and is the same God for everyone. This gives us a place to stand. It is the Rock that is higher than we are.
As Charles Wesley sang:
“Come, O Thou Greater than our Heart,
And make Thy faithful Mercies known.
The mind which was in Thee impart,
Thy Constant Mind in Us be shown.
From Anger set our Spirits free,
It worketh not Thy Righteousness.
In Patience let us wait on Thee,
And quietly, our Souls possess.”
Lift up your heart to the Lord!