You were determined. Things were going to be different this year. You made relationship goals and you’re trying hard, really you are.
But there’s a problem. You brought last year’s baggage into this year’s efforts and your family and friends did the same.
Doubts, disappointments, failures … memories linger and somehow get in the way of the changes you were hoping to realize.
We’re almost half-way through the year and the desires and dreams you had in January … began to fade months ago.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give up. I want to rekindle that spark of hope. So, I’m going to God’s Word for inspiration and ideas of changes I can make to guard my heart against recurring disappointments and maybe, just maybe, bless my relationships as well.
Kind Solomon wrote in Proverbs…
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.Proverbs 4:23
It sounds good but what exactly does it mean to “guard your heart”?
The dictionary defines guard this way…
- to keep safe from harm and danger
- to keep a close watch
- to keep under control or restraint
- to provide a safeguard
That’s the simple definition and it makes sense but how do you and I guard something as fragile as our hearts … especially when they are so vulnerable to the words and actions of the people around us.
If you’ve ever had your heart broken . . . you may believe “guard your heart” means never allowing yourself to be vulnerable again.
And I understand, sometimes living behind a protective wall feels safer and easier.
But you and I were made for community . . . for relationships. God wants us to live connected to Him and to each other and that means isolated living isn’t really an option, at least not a good one.
We need to learn how to remain open and vulnerable while also guarding our hearts … but doing so with wisdom and discernment.
And that is not easy!
So, here are 5 ways I believe you and I can guard our hearts and bless our relationships.
5 of the Best Ways to Guard Your Heart
and Love People
1. Know God’s Truth to Defeat Lies
The enemy of our souls is constantly whispering distractions and defeat. His goal is to rob our peace, devastate our efforts, and ruin our relationships.
If you and I want to live in community with guarded hearts, it’s essential for us to know the truth.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth,” 78 times. Truth for life and truth about relationships.
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard.John 16:13
God’s Word is full of relationship advice but it’s hard for you and me to apply it if we don’t know it.
The more we fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth the easier it is to guard our hearts while still remaining open, caring, patient, and kind.
I’m holding onto Colossians 3 as a reminder:
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.Colossians 3:12–15
2. Carefully Control Your Thoughts
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Philippians 4:8
I bet you wanted to start with an easy one!
Thoughts pop in from everywhere. If you’re like me, you find it almost impossible to remain focused on the true, pure, and lovely aspects of life; especially when opposing views are so readily available.
And that’s true in our relationships as well.
Old habits are hard to break. Annoying behaviors get on our nerves. Conversations turn into arguments and hurt feelings leave us thinking about anything and everything but things like truth, respect, kindness, and love.
You and I can guard our hearts by…
Addressing problems kindly, calmly, and quickly. Forgiving fast. Refusing to bring up the past.
And giving thanks for small steps of progress believing that God has hope-filled plans for the future.
3. Pray for Wisdom and Strength
Plain and simple … I need God’s wisdom in my relationships.
I need God’s help! It’s impossible for me to apply verses like the one above without His help!
Honestly, I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to go to the Lord praying…
“I don’t want to be merciful, kind, humble, gentle and patient right now. I’m hurt, frustrated, and angry. Please help me see this person the way You see them and help me love like Jesus.”
“I don’t know how to handle this situation. Please reveal the truth to me, guide my thoughts, and show me what to do and say going forward. Help me set wise boundaries and bless this relationship with Your grace, mercy, and love.”
If you do not have wisdom, ask God for it. He is always ready to give it to you and will never say you are wrong for asking.James 1:5 (NLV) and James 3:17 (NLT)
The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
I love that the Lord wants to bless us with wisdom and tells us what it looks like!
I’m not very good at self-love when it comes to pats on the back and pep talks.
It’s important to stop and remember just how much God loves us!
In perfect wisdom … He cares for, provides, protects, comforts, strengthens, and saves us!
Loving ourselves means … caring for our bodies, minds, emotions, and souls. For more details about loving yourself God’s way click here.
I love this quote about God’s love by Jerry Bridges…
“God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.”
And it is God’s unfailing love flowing into and through us that helps us love others.
5. Love Others as You Love Yourself
It’s easy to think of love as a warm fuzzy feeling of affection you and I have for people who are precious to us.
But I don’t believe that’s what Jesus meant when He said…
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”Matthew 19:19, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27
Loving others as we love ourselves is caring for them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is love that is caring and kind, forgiving and patient … it reflects the love of Jesus.
Which is another reason why I need God’s help! My selfish nature absolutely can’t do that on its own.
Trust God with the Rest
Sometimes I think guarding our hearts this way only works in a perfect world. In a world where you and I are dealing with imperfect people like us … we must do our best to do what we can and trust the rest to the Lord’s loving care!
Friends, your heart is precious. It is the core of who you are. What you believe takes root in your heart and reveals itself in your words and actions.
The Message paraphrases Solomon’s words this way…
Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.Proverbs 4:23
That’s awesome relationship advice!
You are precious to God. The people around you are precious to Him, too. Guard your heart with His truth, reflect His love, and trust Him to help you with the rest.
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