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Hearts of Unseen Valor and Misjudged Intentions

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Hearts of Unseen Valor and Misjudged Intentions

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The human heart is a true and enigmatic mystery. On any teeming street corner, people ebb and flow in an earthy dance of rhythm and calm and normalcy. Meanwhile, buried deep within them are hearts of unseen valor, fighting battles of epic proportion.

Untold dramas written within human flesh play endlessly to an empty arena—visible only to the eyes of their Creator. For only God can know the true and intimate struggles of the human heart.

Hidden Hearts

Innumerable volumes have been written about the heart of man and its unfathomable depths. Henry David Thoreau said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." This well-known quotation shouts of battles unchronicled and whispers of hidden tumult.

Behind smiling eyes an entire universe exists of which we know nothing—a universe whose physiological makeup repels all intrusion. It is a solitary universe and can be nothing else, for it was designed to allow complete access to only one being—the Creator God.

It is not given to man to truly know the heart of another. We cannot read it like words on paper. We cannot absorb it like sunshine on our skin. We cannot know it in the multitude of ways God gave us to discern the world around us.

At best we can make empathetic guesses as to its content, based on similar experiences. But the wonderful complexities that shape each individual are so unique and diverse that not even identical circumstances can create identical thoughts, emotions, challenges and responses. Even our closest relationships allow us only a limited glimpse inside the heart of another.

We can work beside someone every day for years and have no idea what wars within him or her on a daily basis. We can sleep beside our spouse for a lifetime, with little concept of their private demons, personal fears or inward struggles, unless he or she chooses to enlighten us. Even then, we may have less than a true picture. Jeremiah 17:9-10 warns us that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart."

Reserving Judgment

Is it any wonder God reserves judgment for Himself, or that we are so often warned by Scripture to avoid the temptation to take it upon ourselves? Because while we may correctly discern another's actions, to know with certainty his heart and motivation is simply beyond us.

Yes, there are laws that govern behavior and rightly so. God's own commandments set standards that must be upheld regardless of individual motivations or intentions. The safety, peace and ultimate welfare of mankind demand it. God has given us these laws for our good and not our harm. "You shall therefore keep His statues and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you" (Deuteronomy 4:40).

Yes, He has set in motion absolutes both right and wrong, and instructed us in them. The danger, however, lies not in what we know, but what we cannot.

It is a human temptation to assume we know the inner thoughts and motivations of another human being. The sad fact, however, is that usually our judgment of another's heart is a more accurate reflection of our own than of his or hers. How often have we said, or had said to us, such things as, "Oh, I know what your thinking" or "I know exactly why you did that"? But do we really? Can we ever?

Judging a Friend

Suppose I called a friend and found her unresponsive and seemingly unconcerned with my feelings and problems. She quickly ends our conversation with vague platitudes that leave me with a buzzing phone and wounded feelings. My immediate assumption might be that she was either uncaring in general, or disinterested in me in particular. I might even recall that our last three phone conversations have gone more or less the same. On the basis of the only data available to me, her actions, I judge her to be a bad friend and make the decision not to call her again.

Meanwhile, my friend may well be locked in a life-or-death struggle of her own. She may be battling depression or even thoughts of suicide. Perhaps she is coping with overwhelming family problems or a health crisis that is all consuming. She may be using every ounce of fortitude and valor available to simply get through each new day. Her distance and lack of response may have everything to do with her and nothing to do with me. Yet I have judged her from the only perspective available to me, which is my own. I cannot see inside her heart.

Shine a Light of Compassion

This is written to shine a light of compassion into the depths of the human spirit, and remind us that all of mankind is involved in a death match, and that each human heart is a battlefield. The war is more complex and difficult because demonic spirits often enter the fray. "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

Life is often hard, and our choices are seldom easy. Satan preaches his own message, and it is not one of tolerance or compassion. He is an accuser, among other things (Revelation 12:10). Satan assumes for himself a role that not even the other angels undertake. Jude 9 tells us that the archangel Michael, when contending with the devil over the body of Moses, dared not bring a reviling accusation against him. If the angels dare not accuse even Satan, then surely we ourselves should exercise great caution when tempted to assume we know another's heart.

Matthew 7:1-2 gives us a stern warning that should make the hair on our neck stand up. "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

Though normally used to illustrate forgiveness, the parable of the unforgiving servant is also an excellent example of this principle in use. In this story, a servant wanted forgiveness for his debt, and his master, moved with compassion, released him from it. However, the unforgiving servant would not extend the same courtesy to his own fellow servant, but rather judged him more harshly. The master revoked his clemency, and applied the same standard of judgment toward the unforgiving servant as he himself had applied towards the second man (Matthew 18:21-35).

Jesus is our Master. We should be very careful what standards we put into place in our own hearts, for they may well be reflected back to us.

Life demands discernment. Yet God forbids condemning judgment. This makes it imperative that we recognize the difference, and err on the side of caution. Maybe that scowl on your spouse's face is just a toothache, and not an ill-tempered gesture designed to put you in your place. Perhaps the minister really wasn't trying to avoid you last Sabbath, but merely failed to see you approaching.

Or maybe your assumption was correct, and for just that one second the person was battle weary or slipped up. As Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 warns, "Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others."

Often we misjudge both the actions and intentions of others. Sometimes, we really are right. But either way, we can and should have compassion, knowing that we, too, will lose some battles in our epic struggle for eternal life. But knowing also, that with God's mercy, which triumphs over judgment, we can and must win the war. UN