What’s Your Spiritual Heart Rate?

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.

A Tornado in a Trailer Park Kind of Faith

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39

“You are the trailer park, I am the tornado.” (Yellowstone, 2021, Paramount Network) If you’re familiar with this TV show, then you probably can recall the scene this quote is from. It takes place in season three. This was Beth Dutton’s response to a man named Roarke, after he asks her if she is up for a fight and proceeds to tell her she’s wrong to think she can win. Instead of cowering to this man’s gaslighting tactic, Beth Dutton looks him square in the eye and says, “Right back at ya” and finishes with the tornado line. To this remark, the man turns and walks out of the establishment where this verbal sparring had occurred. This four minute conversation was centered around this man threatening what was most valuable to Beth and her family, land that her family’s entire existence is centered around.

As I rewatched this scene I couldn’t help but liken it to a conversation between the devil and us. If you’re a Christian, you already know that the devil comes to seek and destroy. He studies our weaknesses and attacks us when we least expect it. If he is unsuccessful, he will attack everything/everyone that is precious to us. He is a constant threat to us and to everything/everyone we value the most. Have you drawn closer to God recently only to have chaos ensue or watch a close family member/friend get hit with a major setback or struggle? As you become a mighty prayer warrior, do you find your life getting easier or harder? When you fast, do you get the answers you were praying for, or does the complete opposite seem to happen? For me, it’s the latter to all of these questions. The closer I draw to God, the more I work to grow my faith and dependency on Him, the worse life gets, for me and the ones I love most. I have 47 years of examples I could list, but if I did, this post would turn into a chapter book that read like a pity party. Instead, I’ll just admit that being hit hard and knocked down by the devil, every time I have turned back to God, has challenged my ability to trust God and even question His plans for my family and me. The firmer I dig my heels into faith, the harder I try to deepen my roots in Jesus, the harder the enemy hits also.

When the disciples decided to follow Jesus, I wonder what they thought their lives would be like. If I were walking, in person, with the son of God, fully knowing that He picked me to be on His team, I would have felt invincible and probably a bit prideful. I would’ve taken Psalm 118 verse 6 to an arrogant level. Someone mock Jesus in front of me? Watch out because God is on my side so what could the mocker possibly do to me? Well if you’re familiar with Jesus’ and Peter’s crucifixions, as well as the number of times many of the disciples were imprisoned for their ministry, I would say, our enemy can and does do a lot to harm us and our families. The bigger a threat to him that we are, the harder he fights to interfere with God’s plan and purpose for us. When God calls us to step out or move in faith, even when He asks for faith the size of a mustard seed, He does not call us into a faith that arrogantly believes, but to a faith that is fearless in believing.

Although the disciples believed Jesus was the Messiah, they doubted Him over and over again. This is evident in not one but at least two different storms they find themselves in while in a boat out to sea. The first storm is in Matthew chapter 8. It occurs after Jesus and the disciples have left a large gathering and are traveling by boat to their next endeavor. The storm happens upon them suddenly and while the disciples go into panic mode, Jesus is asleep. The storm doesn’t wake Him up. Frightened disciples do. If you’ve ever been on a boat during a storm, you know how tumultuous the experience can be. The boat and all it is carrying, including its passengers are tossed to and fro. But Jesus was not bothered by the din or thrashing movement of the storm.

The disciples’ doubt and professed lie is what woke Jesus. Professed lie you ask? How did the disciples lie? When they woke Jesus, they yelled; “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25 NIV) They did not say, they feared they might drown, they professed that they were in fact going to drown. It’s one thing to profess things we fear might happen, it’s another to believe our fears will happen. Followers of Christ, with Jesus physically with them, at the first sign of trouble, believed they were going to die. It’s no wonder some of us have so little faith when life storms disrupt our lives. I wonder how quickly we get God’s attention when we speak lies of defeat into our circumstances? Unfortunately, fear and doubt can be so noisy and consuming that we cannot hear Him rebuke the enemy,

When Jesus awoke, how did He respond? With a calm assurance that told the disciples, “I’ve got this.” Jesus rebuked the storm and mother nature quieted right down. He then asked His disciples why they were so afraid? Where was their faith? But the disciples don’t answer Him, they just marvel at what had just happened and question who He was. They witnessed Jesus perform many miracles firsthand, and yet they still did not always believe.

The first four books of the New Testament give four accounts of Jesus calming a storm. Three of those accounts have similar details, which makes me believe Matthew, Mark and Luke are all recounting the same experience just through a different lens. Interestingly, where Matthew and Luke declare death upon them all, Mark asks Jesus’ this question: “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38b). Questioning God’s love for us is another natural response to fear and doubt. When we are in crisis mode, it’s easy to panic and not only doubt God’s deliverance but question His care for us also. After all, if we interpret Jeremiah 29:11 literally, then we presume only good and prosperous things come from God. So if life (or the devil) is throwing some pretty heavy and hard stuff at you or your family, it must not be from God, right? If you can’t see or feel His presence and especially if it feels He is just asleep or silent, it’s natural to ask Him if He even cares about what’s happening. But in each instance, Jesus rebukes not only the storm, He also rebukes the disciples’ lack of faith. It’s almost as if He is saying, “Why are you so rattled? Did you forget who I am? Have you no faith at all?”

John’s account of a storm is slightly different than the other three. Jesus was already in the boat in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s stories. But in John chapter 6, we read that Jesus was not with the disciples when they got hit by a storm at sea. It also happens at night whereas there is one mention of the other storm occurring during the day. When the high wind begins to blow, we don’t read that the disciples called out to Him or professed death over their situation. Instead we read that after they rowed three to four miles, Jesus approached them. How you might ask? He was walking on the water. Once again, the disciples are afraid. But this time, it’s not the wind and waves that scare them, it’s the sight of Jesus walking on water. Still lacking faith in His power, they actually think Jesus is a ghost. They have already seen Him perform so many miracles, yet in their humanness they cannot fathom He would have the ability to walk on water too. Isn’t that true in our own lives? How many times have we seen God move mighty mountains over our circumstances and yet, when He shows up again, we doubt it’s really His hand working? How many times have we given someone else the credit including ourselves because we doubted God would actually come through. Notice the disciples didn’t even cry out for Him this time. They tried rowing themselves out of this storm. How many times has doubt led each of us to say,” God’s not showing up this time, I’m just gonna have to handle this on my own.”? How many storms does God have to rescue us from before we fight our natural instinct to doubt and fear and instead develop a habit of just believing?

Thankfully, Jesus’s response in John chapter 6 can encourage us that even when we doubt that He is not with us, He shows up and says, ““It is I; don’t be afraid.” (verse 20) Just as the disciples were willing to let Jesus in their boat and they were immediately delivered to the land they were traveling to, God promises to deliver us too. Once we let Jesus into our circumstances and believe He will calm the storms of life in His time and in His way, He will take us exactly to the places He wants us and our families to be. Although He delivered the disciples immediately, God’s deliverance in our life storms are seldom instantaneous. So don’t lose heart when you invite Him into your circumstances but they don’t change right away or inevitably get worse before He makes them better. Keep in mind also, that Jesus’ only demand is that we be not afraid and just believe. If you’re wrestling with the crashing waves of fear and doubt, I encourage you to rebuke this in Jesus’ name, call out to God Himself to save you and your family. Invite Him into your circumstances and trust that He will, in His time, rebuke the enemy’s hold on your family, saying “Enough! Be still!”

In the mean time fight your battles through prayer. As you pray, when the devil asks if you’re up to the fight and tries to tell you that you can’t defeat him,, tap into the Beth Dutton depth of your faith and tell the devil he is the trailer park and you are the tornado. Should fear and doubt still try to over take you, as they did to Dorothy, when, in The Wizard of Oz, her entire house was caught up in a tornado (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MGM, 1939), hold on to your faith, and cling to Jesus, for He is holding on to you and your family throughout every inch of these storms. Always remember, when we walk by faith, not by sight, and the devil rages an ugly storm, we can fearlessly look the devil square in the eye and say, “You are the trailer park, I and my God are the tornadoes!”