From the bottom of your heart

When we are in a tight spot, we may try to figure it out on our own.  But God is there, ready to help us.  All we need to do is trust God.

Full Text: 

From the bottom of your heart

July 7, 2013 – Proverbs 3:5


            It is one of the joys of parenting to see children mature into responsible, caring adults.  There is a secret pride when we see that they have picked up some of our positive characteristics, especially those that help them make their way in life.  There is also a certain sadness when we see they have picked up some of our habits or personality traits that may make life more difficult for them.

            Because I am an introvert and a thinker, I enjoy thinking through problems on my own.  This seems especially beneficial to me when I am confronted with a theological problem that I am seeking to resolve prior to preaching on Sunday morning.  I particularly enjoy untying a knotty problem in a way that seems fresh, if not original, to me.  And I have come to trust my intuition in those situations.

            When this becomes a problem is when thinking through a situation on my own is not enough. When I need help working things out, I need to reach out to someone else.  We saw this in one of our sons several years ago, when he was confronted with some academic issues at school.  We kept urging him to go see an advisor, but, being like his father, he didn’t see the need.  He believed if he thought long enough about it on his own, he could come up with a solution. 

            This problem of thinking, “I can figure it out on my own,” is not limited to introverted thinkers.  It happens to all of us.  It happens when we try to operate independently from God.  It happens when we don’t give God much more than a nod, or when we completely ignore God altogether in our decisions and in our every day lives.

            The book of Proverbs counsels differently. 

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out for yourself. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5, The Message)

            Whatever the situation, lift it up to God.  Whether it is hard or easy, whether it is rough or smooth, whether it is a big decision or a small one, listen for God’s prompting.  Follow God’s lead.  If there seems to be no response, maybe God is just encouraging us to go ahead.  And we can do so with confidence, knowing that, however this turns out, God will be with us.

            When we lived in De Kalb, I occasionally played golf with a couple of priests.  One of them – Father Charlie – was my age and the other – Father Robert – was in his 80’s.  Every golfer has a certain preparation they go through before they hit a shot.  Father Robert had his own peculiar pre-shot routine.  Just before he would begin his back swing, he would say, “Thanks be to God!”  I thought that was pretty odd.  What does God, after all, have to do with golf?  But then one day I tried it myself.  And I realized when I did that I relaxed more.  I got out of my own way and my natural, God-given golf abilities (such as they are!) came forward.  Generally, I made a better shot.  It didn’t always work out that way.  It wasn’t magic.  But it helped me to take myself less seriously out on the golf course.

            Now this doesn’t mean we should abandon our thinking altogether.  Sometimes God doesn’t care so much about the decision so much as God cares that we make it with God.  Sometimes all God wants is to be with us.  And sometimes, I think, God wants us to figure it out on our own. 

            A few verses later in Proverbs, we are counseled:

            Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them.  They’ll keep you alive and well; they’ll keep you fit and attractive.  You’ll travel safely, you’ll neither tire nor trip.  You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry, you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep.  No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner.  Because GOD will be right there with you; he’ll keep you safe and sound. (3:21-26, TM)

            Sometimes all we need is to trust God’s presence and proceed from there.  That will keep our thinking clear and our sense common.  It will also help us to act in love, no matter what we do.  It will help us to keep our hearts open.  And that may be more important than anything.


            One of my learning goals for my unit of CPE last year was that I become more open-hearted when approaching patients, especially in times of emergency.  Although I had a sense about this, I realized as the unit went on that, in such situations, I was completely dependent on my thinking mind to determine what to do.  Often in the emergency room, while all the doctors and nurses were rushing around and very quickly and very skillfully attending to their tasks, I wasn’t quite sure what my role was.  Family may not have arrived yet.  And it wasn’t a time to approach the patient.  So, I tended to stand nervously back in the corner of the room.  At least there I was out of the way.

            What I would do as I stood there would be to run through various options in my mind.  If this happens, I’ll do this.  If that happens, I’ll do that.  And so on.  That’s how I worked it out.  But I usually tended to stay pretty tense.  And my heart was not very open. 

            Then, one day, I was sitting with a woman in the emergency room.  I was actually alone with her at the time.  We may have been waiting for the results of the initial tests.  That’s often a time when the nurses are attending to other patients or tasks, but I don’t really remember.

            What I do remember is becoming aware of an energy around my heart.  And when I turned my awareness to my heart, I become calmer.  Not only that I became more open to the patient, more trusting of myself, more self-giving in that situation.

            We tend to think that the brain is the nerve center of the whole operation, where everything is controlled and all the important decisions are made.  I have since learned that the heart has its own brain.  It will keep pumping even when it is no longer connected neurologically to the brain.  I have learned that there are more signals that pass from the heart to the brain than from the brain to the heart.  And I have learned that the electro-magnetic field generated by the heart is thousands of times stronger than that generated by the brain. 

            I haven’t given up my thinking.  It’s more like I’ve brought my heart into the conversation.  And it’s not that I focus more on emotions, although that comes more easily now.  It helps me get out of my own way.  And when I connect with my heart, I am connected with my most deeply held values – values of compassion and generosity and service.

            I still sometimes fall back into old patterns.  I still sometimes rely too much on my mind to figure things out.  I have learned that I can’t turn my heart on like a switch.  Sometimes I turn to my heart and there doesn’t seem to be much there.  Again, it’s not magic.  But it helps knowing my heart is indeed there, even though I can’t sense it in that particular moment.  And prayer helps.  Prayer helps me trust that God is there, keeping me on the right path.

            Trust God from the bottom of your heart.  Don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.