My heart throbs, my strength fails me; And the light of my eyes-it also has gone from me.
Psalms 38:10 (ESV)
Yesterday I sat in four hours of training learning how to assess emergency medical situations and provide assistance to those in life threatening circumstances. Topics discussed included, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and proper usage of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Although all of the information received was beneficial, the lesson on AEDs stood out the most. AEDs are portable machines that shock a person’s heart. They should be used, when available, during times when a person is displaying symptoms of cardiac distress or is found unresponsive and/or not breathing. When used properly, an AED will guide the person administering medical assistance in the exact steps that include when to apply the pads, when to not touch the person, and if needed, when to shock the person’s heart. Once a shock is administered, the machine then gives an instruction to begin CPR. To better explain how an AED works, I recall the instructor describing it like this: The AED does all the work for you. If you listen to its instructions, you will use it successfully and could inevitable save a person’s life.
This statement made me think of our spiritual heart conditions. What is guiding our spiritual heartbeat and what is our spiritual heart rate? What symptoms do we display when our spiritual hearts are in distress? What can we connect ourselves to when our spiritual hearts need shocked back into the rhythm of God’s heartbeat? When we walk in full surrender and align our hearts’ desires with God’s will, I believe our spiritual heart rate is equivalent to our physical resting heart rate. We feel steady and calm experiencing a level of peace that supersedes human comprehension. However, when we are not aligned with God, or when we focus on what we cannot control instead of surrendering our circumstances to God, our spiritual (and at times our physical) hearts go into distress, racing with worry, despair and confusion. When this happens we don’t tend to turn to the One who created our hearts. We turn to false lifelines like alcohol, medication or other means of escape and temporary fixes. Just like physical cardiac distress, when left untreated turns into full blown cardiac arrest and can quickly become fatal, when we fail to take care of our spiritual hearts, we inevitably find ourselves in a spiritual cardiac arrest also. Spiritual distress can look like an anxious mind and restless spirit. Spiritual arrest is a hardened heart and a bitter or closed off spirit.
CPR and AED techniques are very useful tools in keeping a person’s physical heart beating until they can receive intensive medical treatment from a licensed physician. What tools work to keep our spiritual hearts healthy and/or shock us spiritually to get us back into the rhythm of God’s heartbeat? First, we need to spend regular time in prayer. Just like a human relationship with no communication will not survive, our spiritual hearts need daily communication with God to stay in alignment with His will. Just like routine exercise keeps our physical hearts strong, prayer keeps our spiritual hearts pumping steadily. When we can’t pray, we should ask others to pray for us. Prayer is not only equivalent to chest compressions done in CPR, but moments God speaks to us during prayer is equivalent to the rescue breaths given in between chest compression sets. In CPR, the ratio of chest compressions to rescue breathing is 30 compressions to two breaths. From a spiritual aspect, this could mean we may pray 30 times and only hear God twice. Seeking Him regularly is more important than hearing from Him. Let me say that again. Seeking God is more important than hearing from God. This does not mean we should not seek to hear from God. This just means, God may not speak to us daily but He still requires that we pray daily.
God’s word promises that if we call on Him, He will listen and that if we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:12-13). God does promise to answer us, He just doesn’t always answer us right away or in our timeline. Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God doesn’t answer us through our own thoughts either. In fact, I believe 99% of our thoughts go against what God actually speaks to us. We hear God through our spirits only and when we speak from our spirits, at least when I speak from mine, it doesn’t ever align with my own thoughts. The next time you think you heard from God, test the word. Is it coming from your own thoughts or are you recognizing it through your spirit? Get out of your head and don’t listen to your thoughts. Instead, quiet your mind and get in tune with your spirit. That’s where you hear God best.
God’s word is also our one part of our spiritual AED. When we open our Bibles, we find them filled with scriptures that direct us, step by step, in every inch of our spiritual journeys. When we get into God’s word daily, we receive His instructions on how to handle every situation we face. Just like the AED guides users through the process of assessing a human heart condition, God’s word guides us in how to assess our spiritual heart conditions also. When we are intentional with applying His word daily, we keep our hearts in perfect rhythm and won’t need to be spiritually shocked. It’s when we ignore His instructions or we don’t read His word that we get out of rhythm and show signs of serious spiritual distress. In these times, we need the second part of our spiritual AED, prayers, encouragement and at times, even admonishment from God fearing and prayer warrior friends.
Just as a person in physical cardiac arrest cannot do CPR or operate an AED on themselves, we can experience times of spiritual arrest and are unable to save ourselves. This is when God sends in prayer warriors and God fearing friends to speak and pray His word into our circumstances. Some battles are just too severe for us to fight on our own. God’s creation of Eve for Adam, and even giving Aaron to Moses and Titus to Paul is proof that He did not intend for us to do life alone. Jesus commissioned 12 disciples because He couldn’t do His ministry alone and He was God in human form yet somehow we think we can handle all of our circumstances on our own. Just as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to hold up Moses arms when he was too weak to keep them up on his own, our God fearing friends can be our strength and fight for us when we are too weak or too distressed to pray and trust God to handle our circumstances for us. When we allow others to lean in and walk along side us through difficult times, when we lean on others and allow them to hold us up when we are too weak to carry on, we inevitably are allowing God to restore our spiritual heart rates return back to the rhythm of His heartbeat. If we shut people and God out, we put ourselves at risk of having a spiritual heart attack.
Speaking of spiritual heart attacks, Danny Gokey performs a song called, Tell Your Heart to Beat Again (BMG-Chrysalis, 2016). In one music video of this song, Danny gives an introduction to the meaning behind the lyrics of this song. (https://youtu.be/eUHRDCYnFfg) The story depicts a woman undergoing heart surgery. To perform open heart surgery, physicians stop your heartbeat and have you hooked up to a machine that sustains your life while they operate on your heart. All goes well for this particular operation until the surgeon attempts to get the patient’s heart to beat again. With all medical efforts completed, the patient’s heart will not start beating on its own. The physician finally leans down and tells the patient he’s done all he can do for her, it’s up to her to tell her heart to beat again. Within moments, her heart is beating again.
Listeners of the song lyrics are reminded that at times when we feel shattered, we may go into a spiritual cardiac arrest. It’s in these moments we can be so immersed with pain and grief that we cannot feel God’s presence let alone His comfort or healing touch. These are the times we must be still, surrender our pain to Jesus trusting He is fixing our hearts. But even when Jesus fixes our hearts, if we still hold on to that pain, our spiritual pulses remain weak. It’s in these moments we have to surrender our painful pasts and tell our hearts to beat again.
What’s your spiritual heart rate right now? Are you aligned with God’s heartbeat or are you in need of some spiritual cardiac care? Has Jesus restored you from past wounds but holding on to that pain is making your spiritual heart rate erratic or non-existent? Check your spiritual pulse right now and take the steps needed to protect yourself from a spiritual heart attack. If you’re in a spiritual cardiac arrest, maybe it’s time to make a 911 call to your prayer warrior friends. If you’re holding on to old wounds, maybe it’s simply time to tell your heart to beat again. Whatever the source of your heart condition is, I pray you let God heal you, restore you and re-align your spiritual heart rate to the rhythm of His heartbeat.