This past weekend, my husband and I took a day trip to hike along some mountains. The ground was covered in deep, icy snow. Piled layer upon layer, neither the winter sun nor rain could completely thaw the iciness of it all.
Gazing around at the terrain, I realized that my heart could sometimes feel this way. There was a coldness to my heart in approaching God's Word that I didn't know how to shake. I would read the words and feel nothing. I would close my Bible and numbly admit that I didn't get anything out of what I just read.
In Psalm 119, the psalmist writes again and again how he delights in God's Word. In speaking about the arrogant people around him he states, "Their hearts are hard and insensitive,
but I delight in your instruction" (Psalm 119:70 CSB). But what if it was my heart that was hard and insensitive? How was I supposed to delight in God's Word when I felt this way?
A cold heart can offer two types of responses. The first is to persevere and continue reading the Word despite what you are feeling. The second is to allow the feeling to lessen your desire in approaching God's Word all together. You can become resolved in your mind that nothing is going to thaw the iciness of your heart and so there is no reason to keep trying. Admittingly, the latter seems the easier of the two options. Giving up is easier than persevering. But the reality is that the further we remove ourselves from God's Word, the colder our hearts become.
You see, if you are a believer, having a cold heart doesn't mean you are less of a Christian, but it does mean you are a greater sinner than you realize. Our hearts do not have a natural propensity toward God. Romans 3:10-11 speaks to this reality: "There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God."
Jeremiah 17:9 also writes, "The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it?" There is no one who understands...who can understand it? Well, God can. God designed our hearts to belong to Him. He molded our hearts to long for Him, to delight in Him. But chasing after our own desires led to sin taking its hold around our hearts. In doing so, instead of seeking after God joyfully, we have become self-seeking creatures finding joy in desires leading us away from God rather than toward Him.
But God didn't leave us this way. In Ezekiel 36:26, God promises, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." This promise would be fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Through His death and resurrection, He would conquer the sin that entangles our hearts and restore our hearts to their desired end.
But while we look forward to the day when sin will be eradicated for good, we still battle between delighting in God and delighting in ourselves.
Because our hearts were made for God, removing ourselves from His Word is not the answer. Abandoning it and choosing to fulfill one selfish desire after another only leads to the formation of layer upon layer of ice. But even the iciest of hearts is no match for the power of God's Word. Hebrews 4:12 states, "For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The sin of selfishness and pride may become layered in our lives, but God's Word pierces through, breaking those layers of ice that cover our hearts.
The proper response when struggling to delight in God's Word isn't to abandon the struggle but to invite God into the struggle. It involves humbling ourselves in front of the Lord, admitting our need, and asking for His help. The psalmist may have proclaimed his delight in God's Word, but he still asked for the Lord's help by asking God to incline his heart toward His testimonies and away from worthless things (Psalm 119:36-37). Before God, we shouldn't be afraid of admitting our need for Him. In the times I struggle to delight in God and His Word, God isn't by my side ready to chastise me but pour His grace over me. He is not surprised by my heart but fully understands my heart. When we approach His Word, God is ready and willing to help us delight in Him; we just need to ask.
When our hearts feel numb toward God's Word, we also need to remind ourselves of what God has done for us. When we feel our sin begin to ice over our heart, we need to warm it with the fire of the gospel–with the truth that we find in God's Word. We must not allow ourselves to become numb to the glorious gift of grace that Christ has extended to us. He has rescued us from our sin and shame. He has reconciled us to Himself. He has given us a new heart and the ability to fight the sin that seeks to capture it. A heart full of gratitude for the grace it has received will stay warmed. But we must remind ourselves of this goodness again and again.
So, while the ice may remind me of my sin, it also reminds me of my great Savior who says to me, "Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).