You can feel it… A wall coming up every time you mention a certain subject. You can almost hear the thought of, “I don’t want to hear it” being uttered in the person’s mind.
But what you have to say is important… necessary, even, to their spiritual/physical/emotional well-being. Yet they don’t want to listen! How do you melt the hardest of hearts? What about if that hardened heart is towards Jesus?
Why Does A Person Harden Their Heart Anyway?
Many people had a personal relationship with God, and attended church… in the beginning. Most are believers- or at least they started out as such. Yet something happened that forced them to turn away.
It isn’t backsliding into sin that caused the rift- nothing quite that subtle. It was a deliberate decision that they wanted nothing to do with God. You find that if you mention something remotely to do with God- even if it’s a testimony- or could lead to a biblical conversation, they close up. They just don’t want to hear it.
What comes across to you is that they are angry at God. They’ve turned their back, and are convinced that their decision is final. There doesn’t appear to be any wiggle room. They are closed off. But how did they get to that point to begin with? What was the precursor?
The beginning of understanding how to minister to the hardened heart is hearing the heart behind it. People aren’t going to share without trusting you first. Most people who have hardened their heart towards God or subjects relating to God are due to experiencing pain or disappointment.
It may be a premature death in the family, something being taken away from them, or a significant disappointment that they experience. They ask God why this occurred, and sometimes, they conclude that they really don’t understand.
Yet instead of trusting in God and His goodness, they become bitter because they can’t reconcile God’s Word to what they have experienced. Then there is the reality that we don’t always know why bad things happen. Others speculate, but you don’t know what truly happened in a person’s heart until you know their heart.
For example, a husband looses his wife and child in a car accident. Struck with grief that his family has been taken away from him, he asks God, “Why?”
He doesn’t understand why this happened in his life. He prayed protection over them- God should have protected them according to His Word. God should have prevented the accident. God could have rerouted them, the car could have stalled, God could have performed a miracle… God could have done anything… but didn’t. Why?
Meanwhile, well-meaning friends are telling him that it was just their time. He’s wondering how God could circumvent the plans of a young child- plans that He created. Others say that it happened so that it would be a testimony to God’s glory. But the man can’t get past his grief. Nothing makes sense.
“I’m a good person. I follow God. I believed in Him wholeheartedly. How could this have happened?” He asks himself. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Behind his back the whispers and speculation continue. Maybe the man had sin in his life so that his prayers for protection weren’t heard. Maybe it was the wife? Maybe there is more to this story… Did she look a little drunk to you, at times? Sin. It must have been sin.
But you don’t know…. You can’t judge what the reason is, nor should you. But you do need to be there for the man who lost his wife and child. How can you be there? Sometimes it’s simply saying, “I don’t know. But I will help you through it.”
This circumvents the anger turned into bitterness, turning into the hardened heart.
De Andrea Matthews delves deeper into how to minister to the hardened heart and discusses how to break down their barrier to both you and Christ. What is preventing them from turning to God? What tragedy happened to force them to walk away? How can you help them?
This feature and more in our next issue on Love- But Not Like You Think appearing on April 26, 2019.