It’s safe to say my daughter may be in love with the worship pastor at our church… He was over one night last week, and to my horror I heard her ask him, “Want to play doctor with me?” I was by her side in about two seconds, watching to make sure her version of doctor was NOT the version that is so popularly regarded as the first steps towards opening the mystery of males and females for her little mind. I was relieved she was actually only imitating the doctor who gives her and her baby brother check-ups. I was impressed to see she remembered every step. She checked eyes, ears, mouth, heartbeat, and even reflexes. (She may be a child-genius. Or I may be an overly indulgent mother.) Either way, she had a routine she had seen and she performed it quite well.
My mom used to drag me to my yearly physicals with much groaning on my part, but it always turned out to be the same old questions and tests. My only regular appointment these days are at a different kind of doctor, whose waiting room is usually full of pregnant bellies and glowing faces.
I know that as women, we tend towards hypochondria. Or at least the women in my family do. I can’t tell you how many women I meet who have symptoms that are sending them to the doctor sooner or later. We all do it, and we all get anxious about little symptoms. Sometimes with good cause. But then again, Psalm 37 tells us that we’re not supposed to fret about anything. But I was realizing lately how I don’t tend to my heart with that same amount of attention. What is the health of my heart? Am I manifesting symptoms that something has gotten off? Am I speaking words that show that on some level, my heart is a little bit under the weather?
Just like we have physical symptoms of what’s internally off kilter, we have spiritual symptoms too. It’s good to tend the garden of our own heart regularly, to make sure the weeds haven’t taken root and are now working to displace what the Father has painstakingly cultivated within us.
What’s the sign of a healthy heart?
I think it’s found in Romans 8:6: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
If I find in my heart places that aren’t fully alive and fully at peace, then I’m going to need some Holy Spirit help and medication. And truly, He’s always got patient-specific dosages for our internal healing. He knows what works, and He doesn’t cost us anything.
I’ve been trying to get better at giving myself little heart check-ups. You know, just to see if there are certain things that need attention. So I thought I’d write out a few questions that might be helpful for you to journal out in your alone time, and invite the searching light of the Holy Spirit into your heart.
I love how Proverbs 20:27 says, “The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being.”
We need that light being shed on our inmost being, and God is always faithful to point out the stuff that ends up snuffing out our life and peace.
A Spiritual Heart Physical for My Heart
So here are the two main questions to ask based on Romans 8:
1. Do I feel fully alive? Is there any portion of my heart or life that feels like it’s being snuffed out, strangled, choked, or cut off? Do I feel hope rushing like blood to deliver the oxygen my spirit needs coursing in me, or do I feel dread marching steadily towards me? Do I have an expectation of life in my heart?
2. Do I feel at peace? Is there any portion of my heart that is anxious, stirred up, bitter, upset, unsettled, afraid, ashamed, etc?
If you answer negatively to any of these questions, (and hello, we all probably will), then we can ask some deeper, more probing questions to unmask the issues. Every time we go to the pediatrician for a sick visit, they ask what symptoms my kids are manifesting. Coughing? Wheezing? Runny nose? What color snot? Regularity in eating and pooping? So many invasive questions, but they all lead up to a better understanding of the real issue.
These are some questions that reveal the symptoms we are manifesting:
1. Is my mouth right?
Have I been getting angry really easily and lashing out at my kids or my husband? Have I been complaining about every single thing that comes my way? Have I been gossiping about a friend lately? Have I been rattling off the nineteen things I’m most dreading about the summer? Have I recently been sarcastic and rude to the people I care about?
Jesus tells us plainly in Luke 6:45: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
If my words are good, my mouth is good. If my words are sarcastic, caustic, mean-hearted, abrupt, unkind, ungenerous, or unforgiving, then something is up with my heart.
I love how Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 14: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
Grumbling and complaining are the key symptoms of the Israelites who wandered in a wilderness for 40 years, only miles from their Promised Land. They weren’t thankful, and they missed the promise. Grumbling and complaining cut off our promises today as well, keeping laughter and lightheartedness at a stiff arm’s length.
2. Is my mind right?
If the thoughts in my mind were music, would they be in a minor key right now? Would they be playing during the suspenseful scene of a movie, all tension and no relief? Does my mind feel clear and alert, or is it foggy and distant? Am I racing around in it all day, bouncing like a pin ball in one of those old pinball machines from one topic to the next? Are the walls of my mind colored green with envy? Have I been obsessing mentally over all of the failures in my life, while envying the favor on my best friend’s life? Is my mind hostile right now? Do I hate myself? Hate everyone else too? If my mind had a sky, would it be piercingly blue, or would it be shrouded in angry, swollen clouds?
Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I’m really grateful that Paul tells us to keep being transformed by the daily renewal of our minds. We need it all the time. I am constantly having to readjust my mind. My kids have this little scooter they love to ride, but it never runs true. The minute you push it away, its veering too far left or right. It never rides straight, and I like to think my mind is like that. It needs the Father’s gentle correcting touch to go straight.
Sometimes it’s good to look at a thought and hold it up against Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Is that thought true, and if it’s true, is it noble? Is it right? Is it pure? If it isn’t, dismiss it. My pastor in Texas always said that you can’t keep birds from landing in the tree in your back yard, but you can keep it from building its nest there. Same with our minds, we can’t always help what thoughts flit past. But we can sure as heck make sure death-bringing thoughts don’t feel at home there.
3. Are my eyes right?
Am I seeing life with its glass half full, or half empty? Am I looking at images that line up with the call of Christ on my life? Or are my eyes scanning the horizon for someone else to help and encourage? Are they squinting critically at everyone around me, or are they marked by laugh lines? Sometimes social media, TV, magazines, and books can cloud up our vision with unhealthy things.
And we grow dark, just like Jesus warned in Matthew 6:23: ” But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
4. Are my relationships right?
With God: Do I feel like He is on my side or against me? Please read Romans 8 if you feel unloved by Jesus. He loves us so dearly. And I have to routinely read this chapter to feel convinced of it. He doesn’t just tolerate you. He likes you and loves you too.
With Others: Is there anyone I need to forgive? Sometimes I can’t actually talk it out with someone, but Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I can always make peace in my own heart, and forgive someone without having to actually announce it to their face.
With Myself: Self-hatred is a mean and vicious foe to our spiritual health. It will eat up our insides and leave us without any love for anyone else. Remember that verse we just read for our mouths? If we store up self-hatred in our hearts, it will manifest in how we treat others. But if we store up love in our hearts, the love of God for us, we will have an overflow of love to share with others. If you aren’t receiving God’s grace for yourself, you won’t extend it to others.
It’s like when my son had a bad cough, and our pediatrician swabbed his throat and sent it to the labs to determine if he had strep throat or RSV. Sometimes we need to do a deeper search than just concluding: I don’t have peace. These questions are the diagnostic tests for our hearts. If we aren’t experiencing life and peace, usually it’s because we have a bug. But there is always a remedy with God. So let His Spirit search your heart today, and set you on the path of life again!
Copyright © Charis Freije, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved