Nurture a Tender Heart

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Although I was unable to visit my mother for Mother’s Day, I had the opportunity to see her and my daddy the following week. The trip was long and more expensive than usual but it was worth the effort and cost to be able to spend a few days in our hometown. It always saddens my heart to see the physical decline that my parents are experiencing, yet I consider myself greatly blessed to still have both of them at this point in my life.

Included among the good things that Gale and I received from the visit was plenty of good food. Even though she moves slowly now, my mother maintains the same tender heart that I have seen her nurture over the decades; it is a tender heart that still drives her to care for her family. She was insistent that she prepare a huge meal while we were there, so with the help of one of my sisters, we had a huge spread that we shared with my parents and my three sisters and their spouses—only our youngest brother was unable to be there. I am sure it took a toll on my mother physically but all the labor was from the heart and it brought her much satisfaction to be able to serve her family. Watching her tender heart in action makes an excellent example for us to follow.

Sadly, hearts do not always remain tender; they can become calloused and hard. That brings to mind an old fellow that I visited years ago. He was in a care facility in the closing days of his life. I had talked to him previously and he had shared some things with me about his relationship with his daughter and his former wife. On one occasion not too long before he died, I asked him if there was something that he would like to do before his life ended. I was hoping for an answer that would demonstrate that he had a new outlook on what was left of his life. It was pretty encouraging when he began by stating that he would like to go to his wife’s grave, but as he elaborated on his reason for wanting to go there the pitiful condition of his heart was too evident. There was no sign that he desired to have a forgiving attitude. It seemed that his heart had become cold and hard. I am not his judge and I am grateful that I am not, but it is frightening to think of anyone leaving this life filled with the magnitude of bitterness and hardness that he expressed.

In Psalm 95 the writer refers to a time among the Jewish people when they allowed their hearts to become hardened through unbelief and rebellion. The writer warns: “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert” (verse 8, New International Version). He was referring to the time when God’s people were wandering in the wilderness on their forty year journey to the Promised Land. Through doubt and rebellion their hearts became hard spiritually, and that condition came at a high price for them. As one commentator wrote, “Instead of having hearts softened by the unspeakable power and glory of God and overwhelmed by His goodness and mercy toward them, they grew numb toward Him.”

In the New Testament, the writer of the Book of Hebrews issues warnings and urged his recipients (which includes us today) to carefully guard against developing hard hearts: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

We can avoid hardheartedness by steering far away from sin and turning passionately toward the living God. Like my elderly mother, may we all nurture a tender and caring heart that guides us to do good to others no matter what phase of life we are in.