Archive for April 2019

Reordering Your Heart

April 8, 2019

Last summer I was feeling very overwhelmed with various pressures, demands, and uncertainties.  I began to read again John Piper’s book, Desiring God.  As I read, I was challenged by the passages which cited where the Psalmist delighted in, or found his joy in God, or instructed his listeners to delight in the Lord (e.g. Psalm 16:11; 43:4, cf. Desiring God, p. 23), or where Paul admonished the believers in Philippi to “rejoice in the Lord” (3:1; 4:4).  I was convicted that “I” did not find my joy in God.  Instead, I felt more of a burden of being overwhelmed by the stuff of my life.  I was reading my Bible every day, and I was praying, and I was preparing messages from God’s Word each week, but I could not say that I found my “joy” in God.  I knew, and found encouragement in many promises of the Bible.  I knew that God had delivered me from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).  And I knew that I needed to bring the various concerns of my heart to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7), which I did, and I had peace because of it, but still I didn’t have joy in God.  I wondered whether finding joy in God was somewhat esoteric, which some God-followers possessed – but not all.  But this thought of a “limited-distribution-joy-in-God” gave me cognitive dissonance, because it seemed to me that something good, like finding joy in God, ought to be within reach of all God-followers.

God convicted me that there was a problem with my heart.  As I reflected on life as viewed by the Psalmists, I realized that they seemed to find orientation for everything by looking to God, looking to God not just for his blessing or direction or deliverance – but in everything.  Theirs was a worldview which came into clear focus as they looked through the lens of Almighty God on his throne, sovereignly and providentially allowing and directing the affairs of the cosmos – and of their lives specifically, day in, day out.  Theologically I knew that too.  But somehow that knowledge was not informing how I interpreted the pressures, demands and uncertainties of life.  I “knew” that God was in control, but I didn’t look through the same lens which the Psalmists did as I weighed the stuff of my life.  And the stuff of my life was weighing me down, and I didn’t find “joy” in God.

I wanted an answer, but I was concerned about sustainability.  I have lived long enough to see too many quick-fix solutions to problems, too many “Ten Steps to Victory Over _______” books, and too many short-term spiritual fads.  Those are candy.  They taste good for the moment, but they don’t sustain you.  I wanted something that would change me, not for the moment, or for that season of my life, but for the rest of my life.  I didn’t need another book by Navpress, or IVP, or P&R, or even by Oxford or Cambridge.  And I felt that there ought to be something timeless, perhaps that I was missing, in God’s Word which would speak to my problem.

God very graciously brought me to realize that my heart needed to be “reordered.”  It needed to be reordered with an orientation of looking to God as my sovereign Lord and God who directed in the affairs of men – and in my affairs – and who was good and all-powerful and sufficient.  God inclined my heart to go to the book in which the writers seemed to always find their hope and joy in God, to the Psalms.  I had read the Psalms many times.  I had taught from the Psalms.  I had preached the Psalms.  But I had somehow been able to do all of that without “catching it,” that is, without “catching” whatever the Psalmists had, which I didn’t have.  They knew God, and found joy in him, and I didn’t.

Less than a year before this time I had taught a lengthy series on the Psalms, and I had preached through a number of them.  In that series I had suggested that people try “praying the Psalms,” that is, taking a particular Psalm, and using it as a guide, praying it back to God.  [For instance, the familiar 23rd Psalm could be prayed, “Lord, I know that you are my shepherd, and I know that in you I shall not want for anything that I need.  You have directed my steps such that I have been led by you to lie down in green pastures and beside quiet waters . . . .”]  And I had done that myself with different Psalms at different times.  But when God seemed to be nudging me that my heart needed to be “reordered,” this use of the Psalms was brought back to mind.  But even though I had “done” that at times in the past, it hadn’t given me lasting “joy in the Lord.”

The Lord then inclined my heart to begin reading, meditating, and praying through multiple Psalms at a time, every day.  I was reminded that marinades don’t accomplish their purpose if brushed on the meat just before the meat is set before the diner.  Instead there is soaking time required in more than just a teaspoon of sauce.  God began using the reading of, and meditating on multiple Psalms every day to reorder my heart.  Reading just one Psalm didn’t reorient, or reorder my heart.  Maybe it would for some people, but my heart appears to be particularly dense.  But after reading and meditating on multiple Psalms, every day, over a period of days, and then weeks, God began to give me the perspective of the Psalmists.  He reordered my heart to take in all of life through the lens of His holy, sovereign, loving, all powerful authority over all of life.  And as he did, I discovered that the various pressures, demands and uncertainties that had so weighed me down before, where neatly brought under an awareness of his sovereign authority over my life, and I was able to begin to find my joy in him.