Exercises for the Heart

Pick up any health magazine and you will likely see an article about the importance of exercise, diet and eliminating stress to maintain a healthy physical heart.  But what about our other heart – the non-physical one that the Bible talks about so much?

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”   The abridged concordance at the back of my NIV Bible shows 75 references to the use of the word “heart.”  None of them seem to be talking about the physical organ that is the center piece of our circulatory system.  The following are just a few examples:

  • “Serve the Lord your God with all your heart” (Dt. 10:12)
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5)
  • “Love the Lord God with all your heart” (Matthew 23:32)
  • “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22)
  • “Where your treasure is there is your heart” (Matthew: 6:21)

Some of these verses come from texts that go back more than 3000 years.  None of them are referring to our physical heart.  All of them seem to be searching for a way to express that mysterious interior part of our existence that determines who we really are – our attitudes, our propensity to love or be selfish; our inclination toward joy or depression; our motivation, courage and thirst for life; the source for many of our daily choices. 

Since we can’t physically see or touch these non-physical aspects of our existence we use words like heart, soul, spirit, and inner self to describe them.  Although separate from our physical being, they take up residence there.  If our physical being is destroyed, God promises that our heart, soul and spirit live on.  That’s why St. Paul says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Co. 6:19)

Since our non-physical heart is so instrumental to all of our overall existence, are we treating it with the same care as our physical heart?  What are we feeding this “other heart?”  How are we exercising it? Is our diet primarily one of pop culture that includes mostly R and X rated movies, comedians that love to use four letter words, busyness that leaves no time for daily prayer, the reading of God’s word or the serving of someone other than our self?

Fill this “wellspring of life” with: a dedicated and exclusive time of talking with and listening to God each day; reading the Bible and other spiritual books; serving a spouse, child, colleague or friend; seeking God’s will in all things; and this other heart will be sufficiently nourished and exercised to realize Jesus’ promise in the sixth Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34) May we nourish our other heart with similar food.   

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