Soulbook: The Soul and the Whole Person – Heart
Mark 12:30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” While on Earth, we experience life in several different ways. We have sympathy and empathy through our emotional selves. We understand our spiritual selves through a relationship with God. We train our intellectual selves to understand the world and people around us. We also nourish and care for our physical selves. So, how do these different parts of us coordinate with the Soul, the part of us that is the real us? In this chapter, we will look at how all of these parts of the human interrelate and overlap. Sometimes, we read the verse above and assume that these are simply four different human properties, but they are more like four conjoined attributes that work together and change as the person on whom they operate changes. Through a better understanding of how these characteristics operate, we can more fully understand ourselves and how we tick.
So many times in the Bible we read about the heart. We don’t have a perfect grasp on what the heart is, but it could be defined as the emotional part of us that reaches out to other people and to God. This attribute has a great deal to do with how you feel or your emotional self. Today, when we think of the heart, we conjure images of the thing that beats in our chest. When it races, we are excited or maybe infatuated. When it aches we are sad. But, the society of Jesus’ day looked at the heart more from the perspective of what we would call the “gut” today. Sometimes, we get a “gut feeling” that indicates a perception or an instinct that guides us in a direction. Either way you view it, the heart is something within a person that is not entirely tangible and leads one through an emotional understanding.
An understanding of the heart of a person as it relates to the soul is best understood from Scripture. Your soul and heart are tied to each other and complement each other in many different ways. In some instances, the heart and soul are even referred to interchangeably. For instance, Ezekiel 36:25-27 indicates that a heart can be changed and that the spirit is renewed with a change of the heart. Through the changing of a person’s heart, the emotional and volitional part of that person has a transformative effect on the soul and spirit of that person. If you have ever heard someone say they have “had a change of heart”, you understand this to mean that they have made an important change within themselves that sets their whole self in a different and significant new trajectory. The change of a soul as the result of the change of a heart is a growth process that may only be understood from an inward perspective.
The intellect or mind of a person is also guided and affected by the workings of the heart. Ecclesiastes 10:2 says this well: “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” Some might look at this today as a political statement, but of course it really refers to a person’s intellect. Basically, this passage indicates that intellect has a part in guiding the heart. Through the mind and the consideration of various logical and intellectual components, someone can see the truth of something such that it affects a real change in their emotional understanding of that subject. This happens every time someone obeys the Gospel. They learn what Jesus did intellectually, then they come to an intellectual understanding of what they must do and how they must live in order to have that salvation. Once they have accepted this understanding, their heart motivates them to do what must be done. There is a real, emotional understanding and metamorphosis. This is where the heart and mind join.
The health of the soul is tied directly to the heart of a person. Proverbs 15:3: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Have you ever been so depressed that your heart ached? Did that feeling seem like it would never pass? There are times in life when we all have this sort of feeling that overwhelms us and makes our soul feel like it’s drowning. The emotional center of a person is tied to the soul in this way. Fortunately, the joy we have in God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit can cure the heartaches we have and sustain us through the difficult times, allowing our soul to breathe and heal and be whole once more.
Our strength is also joined to the heart. It comes from God just as the heart comes from God and allows us to have the physical endurance we need for service and growth. The relationship between human emotions and human physical ability can be seen well in the Psalms. David experienced this connection on many occasions and depicts the relationship well. Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” As David knew, his own heart and strength were joined through a connectedness with God. Through this connection, God allows us to feel strong or weak in our own physical body, indicating a close tie within human beings between their heart and body. We have all felt this connection when our heart was aching or afraid or sad and we felt weak or tired. We also feel triumphant and energized through our heart sometimes, allowing us to take on challenges we never imagined we could face. So it is with our heart and strength.
The heart is an integral part of the person and must be treated with great care. Without a healthy emotional center, we can be lost within ourselves and this lostness can eventually lead us to be alone and lacking in many other ways. Consider what happened to Pharaoh’s heart over and over again in Exodus and what it cost him and the Egyptians. Exodus 10:1: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them.” Our hearts can also shut us off from God and our soul, mind, and strength as Pharaoh’s hard heart did to him. If we do not guard our hearts carefully, we can end up being separated from God just as Pharaoh was. The emotional/compassionate part of us must be in step with God’s will in order for our soul, mind, and strength to maintain their health.