The Hardened Heart

“This is what I told them: ‘Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Do everything as I say, and all will be well!’

“But my people would not listen to me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward. From the day your ancestors left Egypt until now, I have continued to send my servants, the prophets—day in and day out. But my people have not listened to me or even tried to hear. They have been stubborn and sinful—even worse than their ancestors.

“Tell them all this, but do not expect them to listen. Shout out your warnings, but do not expect them to respond. Say to them, ‘This is the nation whose people will not obey the Lord their God and who refuse to be taught. Truth has vanished from among them; it is no longer heard on their lips.rsquo;” (Jeremiah 7:23–28 NLT)

One day Jesus cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak, and when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed, but some of them said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He knew their thoughts, so he said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive? And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. For when a strong man is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe— until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” (Luke 11:14–23)

Come, let us worship and bow down.
      Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
      for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
      the flock under his care.
If only you would listen to his voice today!
The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
      as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
      even though they saw everything I did.
For forty years I was angry with them, and I said,
‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.
      They refuse to do what I tell them.’
So in my anger I took an oath:
      ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’” (Psalm 95:6–11)

It is tough to worship the Lord without obedience. How do we bow down and kneel before the Lord, whether physically or metaphorically, when our hearts are not right with God? How do we become fully present to the Lord when there is a wall of disobedience between us?

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone where the disconnect feels palpable? There is this unspoken wall between the two of you. Perhaps it is something that can’t even be explained, but it cripples the intimacy of relationship. Maybe there has been conflict and wounds have been inflicted, but healing cannot take place because the issue has not been resolved.

Sometimes we use words to tell someone they are the most important person to us, but our actions indicate our career or other friends or a sport or hobby is actually what is most important. When our words and actions don’t align, a barrier is erected between us and others. The longer this goes on, the more hardened our heart becomes.

The longer we behave this way, the farther down the path of disconnect we walk and the more difficult it becomes to turn back. We can no longer hear the voice of God or experience his love, and we have more difficulty discerning between what is right and wrong. If we stop to look back, we realize we can no longer see where we came from. We’ve lost sight of our home, with no idea we had traveled this far down the path.

We thought we were moving forwards, but it appears we went backwards, and we discover there was a price paid that we didn’t realize at the time. The gap is overwhelming, and now how do we find our way back home?


The way back to the Lord is through an obedient heart. The hardened heart is a divided heart, which is actually a broken heart. It has divided itself between the way of the self and the way of Jesus. Humble obedience creates the bridge (read: cross) that will lead us back home and into the heart of God. Gratitude is a practice of obedience. It is the acknowledgement of the great love of a God who sent his son, Jesus, who, in the ultimate obedient act of sacrifice, rescued us. Worship is the obedient declaration that we will humble ourselves and bow down before the Lord and submit ourselves to his Lordship. Love – the all-encompassing love of God displayed before us on the cross – is the only way to soften the hardened heart. Receiving God’s love and offering it to others breaks down walls, crosses all borders, and weaves its way into the hearts of the “least of these.”

Love is the hallmark of the Kingdom of God, and compassionate love heals even the most hardened of hearts.

—Deb Judas is a member of the Forge Canada Team and a former NAB pastor.