Two weeks before Christmas, my heart stopped.
My wife, sitting next to me in a congregation meeting, sees me close my eyes and lose heart. A few seconds later, the old ticker comes to life providentially “by itself”. This happens four times during this meeting. Maybe I’m just too inactiveI think. Maybe if I get up and walk around a bit, my juices will flow and everything that is going on will become clear.
As I pace the church lobby, one of the elders says he doesn’t think I look right. I call my doctor and he recommends that I go to the emergency room for an examination. I won’t drive myself.
In the emergency room, the surgeon hooks me up to a bundle of wires and asks a whole series of questions to diagnose what’s going on.
“Are there any heart problems in your family?”
“Yes, my father died of a heart attack at 60. His father too.”
But do you feel pain?
– Are you dizzy?
“Not really. The room didn’t rotate. I didn’t feel sick.”
– Have you lost consciousness?
“Not quite. I could still hear, sort of.
What do you mean by “sort of”?
“It didn’t interest me, like it was background noise.”
– Are you awake?
The surgeon is confused. Maybe he’s dealing with a hypochondriac.
While he goes into another room, it happens – another episode. Before passing out, I look at the monitor: my pulse shows a big giant zero; I have exactly. A few seconds later, as I “self-consciously” wake up, a surgeon rushes in from another room, thinking he might have to do CPR, or code blue, or something like that. He exclaims: “Your heart is completely has stopped about eight seconds!
I don’t have a heart attack from clogged arteries that cause oxygen-starved muscles to die of pain. It’s just that my internal cardio circuitry is taking a break. That he would do five more times this evening in the hospital. Pacemaker, here we are.
Sitting on a gurney, I say to Vicky, my wife, “Maybe I’ll see Jesus before Christmas.” We pray. We cry. She claims to know where all our important papers are. She adds, “If you go, I’ll be right behind you.” Suddenly worried, I ask, “Why? Are you also a medical crisis? Then she says something untrue, but very affectionate: “I can’t live without you.”
When your heart fails
Since the word heart occurs over nine hundred times in our English Bibles, the heart seems to be of great importance. It is well known that heart has more than one meaning. It’s bad if your physical heart fails, like mine. It is worse if your spiritual heart fails. What does spiritual heart failure look like, and what can you do when, as some biblical writers have experienced, you feel like your spiritual heart is at zero?
I know this pain (or dark numbness, as it may be). If our heart has failed, it is useless to deny it. We can also recognize this. And we should expect heart problems. It is a sad and painful aspect of living in a fallen world that sometimes our hearts fail even if you are more stable than most. Even Superman meets his kryptonite. Heart failure is nothing new or strange, so don’t be caught off guard.
Even the mere recognition of spiritual heart failure is a step in the right direction. As Paul says,
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will more willingly boast of my infirmities [like a failed heart]May the power of Christ rest upon me. So for Christ’s sake I’m content with infirmity [like a failed heart], resentment, deprivation, persecution and disaster. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Spiritual heart failure can take several forms. Let’s consider three.
heart failure dejection
Hearts can fail when obstacles seem too impossible. Big adversity leaves big holes in our little buckets of courage. For example, the heart of Saul’s entire army could not stand being taunted by a giant (1 Samuel 17:11, 32). The spies returning from the promised land were discouraged when they thought they looked like grasshoppers to their enemies (Numbers 13:31–33). David’s heart stopped when “evil seized [him] without number” (Psalm 40:12).
Mountains of foreboding gloom looms large—war, insomnia, bad genetics, bad diets, relationship pressure, natural disasters, financial hardship, and even ordinary weather. Our hearts are not immune from such blows.
heart failure false feelings
Doubt sends confidence down the drain, turning into miserable fear. Like weeds, the seeds of doubt sprout in the thought life and multiply, overtaking the feelings, giving rise to a vague feeling of aching guilt and that God has turned away from us. Wrong faith and theological confusion can make me feel like God is against me. Keyword: Feel.
Feelings make a bad leader, but they often speak in the loudest voice. They can be, and usually are, short-sighted and short-lived. They demand that satisfaction be immediate, and when satisfied, they make new demands. Instead of listening to the siren song of the senses, wise souls listen to a more reliable, still voice: the voice of the Spirit. A fallen heart needs faith, and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) sometimes comes from the mouth of a wise Christian friend.
“Ask God for the mercy that allows you to do what your senses tell you that you cannot do.”
A failed heart is helped to do what it won’t do Feel like to do. Get up in the morning. Practice (tell your senses to go camping—literally). Direct your eyes to the pages of the Bible. Ask God for the grace to do what your senses tell you that you cannot do. Then perform a miracle. Say with Jesus, “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then be a doer and not just a listener (James 1:25).
Heart failure wasting
When your heart fails, no one can say, “Stop!” Suffering, turmoil and persecution tire and exhaust the heart. You’ve run out of gas. Sleepless children have completely exhausted you. The sun rises, and you sit, bent over, motionless lump.
But when your heart is failing, think of Jesus.
Think of the one who suffered from sinners such hostility towards himself, so that you do not get tired and weak. [that is, lose heart]. (Hebrews 12:3)
Watch in Jesus (for a model of courage), and look to Jesus (for allowing grace to endure). God has not left you. For example, he gave you enough grace to read this sentence. Where it came from, more grace.
Accordingly, do not do anything radical. Don’t quit your day job. Don’t get carried away with something unfortunate. Slow down. Rest where you can. When Elijah despaired of life and asked him to die, some ordinary ordinary sleep helped him (1 Kings 16:5).
The strength of my heart
When your heart fails, do a simple self-examination. A spiritually weakened heart may indicate that we value the wrong subject. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
“My heart may break, but the heart of God will never break.”
What do I really love? Do I value what is most valuable? What did I expect? How biblical are my expectations? Do I really perceive reality?
Whatever the reason, my heart may break, but God’s heart never gives up. Asaf put it this way:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 72:26)
God loves His children whether their hearts prosper or fail. Remind your tormented heart that your sins were completely blotted out on the cross where Jesus took them.
That night in the emergency room, although my physical heart was periodically failing and reviving, my spiritual heart was rushing forward. One day I expect my ticker to stop ticking altogether. And when my physical heart finally stops completely, I expect my other heart to rejoice in Jesus, the One who will continue and complete what He started.