When Your Heart Goes Dark

When Your Heart Goes Dark

Desponding, struggling, exhausted saint, call the Lord Jesus to mind. Bring his sweet remembrance — and living presence — into the inner chambers. Think much of him, and the stone under your head shall become a pillow, the gall in your soul become sweetened. Do you feel weighed down by this life? Do sins cling to your mind? Do you begin to faint on the journey, tire from all the running, wonder how you will make it through the week? Look to Jesus. Call him to mind, and therefore have hope.

“As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). What a man thinks in his heart — not what he says with his mouth — is where to find the man naked in his natural habitat. He may say warmly enough to be convincing, “Sit, eat, and drink,” but sweet words can coat a bitter heart. He may brood against you while he bids you to his table. What he thinks inwardly, his soliloquy uttered in secret chambers — that is the man as he is.

But we may go further: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he will become.” That man in the inner chamber may change — for better or worse — depending on where he sets his innermost thoughts. Beautiful or beastly, peaceful or disturbed, heavenly or hellish — as a man thinketh in his heart, so he will become.

Knowing this, Scripture knocks loudly upon the inmost door.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1–3)

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5–6)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

The Holy Spirit would open the windows and flood our soul’s inner rooms with fresh beauty and light:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Have such texts prevailed with you? The secret thoughts of your inner man — upon what do they dwell? Are you being transformed by the renewal of your mind?

Thoughts in the Darkness

This principle makes all the difference for us in life generally, but especially in our suffering. As a man thinketh in his heart while under the knife of affliction, so he will become — hardened and drifting away or “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

We see this truth illustrated after one of the darkest events in holy Scripture: the destruction of Jerusalem. The book of Lamentations is aptly named, its pages stained with tears and blood. In it, the poet brings us into the ruins of his heart and the conquered city he loves. From within that cave, Jeremiah teaches us how to find warmth amidst the bitterest winter: he calls truth to mind.

As others sink irretrievably, Jeremiah goes down to the threshold of his heart, unlocks the door, and forcibly turns the thoughts of his soul away from his “affliction and . . . wanderings, the wormwood and the gall” (Lamentations 3:19), to his half-remembered God.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21–24)

In the midnight of despair, he brings the lantern of memory into the secret place of his spirit and there reads of God’s goodness and faithfulness from the sacred ledger. Behold the heavenly alchemy. He has seen recent nights haunted by unspeakable terrors and sins, yet he pens lyrics of God’s every-morning mercies and tireless love. His world has been stripped from him, but “the Lord is my portion,” he catechizes the inner man. “Therefore I will hope in him.”

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