How can we develop 'thick skin and a soft heart'?

(SeanO) #1

In seminary my evangelism prof always told us 2 things constantly - ‘bloom where you are planted’ and ‘have thick skin and a soft heart’. Thick skin means we can handle insults without insulting in return - our speech can be seasoned with salt even when the other person is tearing us down. And a soft heart means loving others no matter how they are treating us - not letting their misdeeds affect our heart for the world.

How do you think we can cultivate ‘thick skin and a soft heart’? How important do you think doing so is if we are to be a witness in our divided culture?

Jesus, we ask you for thick skin and a big heart. We want to love well—when it’s easy and when it’s not. Help us remember that your name is Redeemer , and that when appropriate, you will repay, you will avenge. Indeed, more clearly than we see those who hurt us, let us you —the one who cherishes us. More than we desire to see burning coals heaped on their heads, let us see you , crowned Lord of all. We can overcome evil with good only because you have crushed evil under your feet.

And Jesus, where we’re just too sensitive, too easily offended, too quick to keep a record of wrongs done to us, too slow to overlook the failures of others, have mercy on us. Free us to do the right thing in the moment—the gospel thing.

(Lindsay Brandt) #2

I think that in order for this to happen, we have to really be growing in our relationship with God, which means being committed to being in prayer and the Word on a daily basis and to be connected with and spending time with other mature believers. If it is hard to find time to be in the Word, putting up different Scripture passages on mirrors, refrigerators, planners, etc. is helpful. We have to be intentional about these things, though, because if we aren’t, the things of life can sweep us away from doing these things like a rip tide. Examining myself, I have become more intentional in my time with God, but with that, I have been more intentional about seeing that our battle is not with flesh and blood, too, and that has helped.

The way we respond to others on a regular basis is often a reflection of the state of our relationship with God. (I’m not talking about messing up on a bad day; none of us will be perfect in this.) As my mentor put it, “You can’t try harder to love people more. You have to spend time with God.” As we spend time with God in prayer and in His Word, the work of the Spirit on the inside will make the new creation that is there manifest on the outside through the effects of the developing fruits of the Spirit, one of which is love and another, self-control. Still, even the others, such as joy and peace, have their place in softening our hearts and thickening our skin.

It’s funny you should bring this up today, because I had a 50-year-old guitar teacher call my six-year-old son evil yesterday because he was acting like…well…a six-year-old, and as a mamma bear, that was probably one of the hardest tests of “thick skin, soft heart” that I could have been put through. But praise be to God, I was able to handle it better than I could have ever expected or imagined that I could. It is because the work of the Spirit within me as I have been making sure I am more committed to to praying, the Word, staying connected with fellow mature believers like yourselves, memorizing Scripture, and intentionally praising God while I am driving, doing the dishes, or doing other things that would normally make me a little grouchy. Doing these things has helped my perspective to be more in line with God’s, and in turn it has helped me to see people at least a little more through God’s eyes.

(SeanO) #3

@psalm151ls Great thoughts! I’m glad you were able to respond with grace in the midst of a trying situation - Jesus in us is amazing!

For me personally, I’ve really been challenged recently by this verse in Colossians. I’ve known it since I was a kid, but I definitely don’t always do it. So my challenge to myself is - what if I really did this? What if I really did everything like I was serving Jesus? Man - that would infuse my life with another level of joy. Pray for me that I might walk it out!

Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…

(Lindsay Brandt) #4

I responded to this via email today, but it has not posted for some reason. We have been having problems with our internet connection. I’ll post it here, and if another pops up, you’ll know the email one went through, ha.

Sean, that is a great verse, and I think that is one that is a huge challenge for any Christian. It would definitely keep our focus on the Lord more! And, yes, of course I’ll pray for you!

I have to tell you, that verse always reminds me of Jacob’s son Joseph and how even when he was in prison, he served well. For me, it always helps to keep those examples in mind. “Seeing” someone who has actually lived out the thing I feel challenged to work on helps me quite a bit. Of course, Jesus did it best!

Like I said, I’ll be praying for you, and know that you’re not walking in that challenge alone. Currently I am a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, and I definitely am not the personality type to be a stay-at-home mom, so working to do everything as I am doing it for the Lord has been almost overwhelmingly challenging. I’m sure, too, that there are plenty of other people on here, too, that are wrestling with that challenge!! You’re in good company!

(SeanO) #5

@psalm151ls Prayers appreciated! I think you have me beat on this one - may Christ grant you patience and joy as you serve the ever present needs of kiddos with His love and grace :slight_smile:

Joseph is indeed a great example of patient endurance and mercy. I think that when we face that Sehnsucht in our lives we often want to attach it to some earthly thing - like a career goal or relationship or other unfulfilled longing in our lives - even for fruitful ministry. But the reality is that such longing cannot be satisfied by any earthly thing. It is so overwhelming because it is the longing for God Himself and while we walk in these shadowlands that longing will often be frustrated, for we are not yet home, though we have been given a foretaste.

And when we do attach it to some earthly thing, the result is idolatry and going astray and tyranny and ultimately disappointment. We must indeed guard our hearts carefully!

For C.S. Lewis, the acclaimed Christian apologist and author, a permanent sense of longing characterized his deepest held beliefs about Christianity. He identified this feeling with the idea of s ehnsucht , a German word meaning “longing” or “desire”. Sehnsucht appeared in many of Lewis’ favorite works of literature, including Norse mythology, the poems of Wordsworth, and the children’s stories of George Macdonald. It was “that unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End , the opening lines of Kubla Khan , the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”

Another way of putting it? Sehnsucht is a feeling of nostalgia that faces towards the future. It appeared repeatedly in Lewis’ writing—in his fiction, scholarship, and apologetical works. In one of the most beloved passages in Mere Christianity, Lewis uses the concept as an argument for Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” The desires that spring up in us—those for love, safety, security, belonging—are never truly satisfied here in this life. Rather, they are pointers to another place, somewhere inaccessible to us now. Like the “forward-facing nostalgia” of s ehnsucht , this feeling points us toward the heavenly home for which we were created.