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What Does God Use to Open Our Hearts?

He took 39 back-ripping lashes– five times. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned and left for dead. Three times he was shipwrecked. Then, as if all of this wasn’t enough, he had to live with the awareness that the Devil was oppressing him with a physical problem that God wouldn’t take away (2 Corinthians 11:24-28; 12:7-10).

Yet, Paul is still quoted today as a follower of Christ who, in spite of all that he endured, wrote as if nothing could separate him from the love of God (Rom 8:22-23, 38-39).

So here’s a question:

Since Paul could have assumed that his many problems were evidence that the Father didn’t care about him, what enabled him to remain so confident of the love of God?

In an attempt to answer this, my thoughts go to something he wrote in a letter to the Ephesians. There he seems to signal that to see how much we are loved– God needs to open the eyes of our hearts.

Writing from prison, Paul was concerned that his readers not be discouraged by his troubles. So he wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever” (Eph 3:13-21).

By writing that he asks the Father in heaven to help his readers see the depth and breadth of God’s love, Paul was telling the Ephesians, and us in the process, that sensing the wonder of how much God cares about us requires the work of the Spirit in our hearts (3:16-19).

At this point, Paul’s expression of dependence on what God alone can do in us raises another question:

Should we conclude then that prayer, and the Bible which assures us of the need for God’s work in our heart, are the only means God uses to show his love? Or does this same father use the timely words and works of his people to help those who are struggling to see what someday will be so apparent to us?

Seems to me that the Bible is clear: Our father also uses (among countless other things) acts of advocacy (Job 29:12-17), gifts of food, clothing, and shelter to those in need (James 2:15-16), words of encouragement (1Thess 5:14), the wise counsel of proverbs and riddles (Prov 1:1-7), and the use of medicinal helps (1Tim 5:23), to evoke a sense of his wonderful care and provision– through all of the means at his disposal.

So, here’s where I’m landing– If, like Paul, we feel as though our back is being ripped open by the whips of circumstance; if we feel we have been stoned and left to die; there is still hope in the God who raised Christ from the dead.

The Spirit of God has unlimited resources to help our troubled and struggling hearts believe what the Bible says in so many ways– that there is a Father who loves us– far more than we ever thought possible.

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27 Responses to “What Does God Use to Open Our Hearts?”

  1. brownsfan1642 says:

    Sometimes God chooses to paint our lives with dark colors. Yet, though it may seem cliche, Paul reminds us that (Rom 8:28) “all things work together for good.” He doesn’t tells us all things are good, but that our God can work them all together for good. As Joseph told the brothers who had sold him into slavery, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” One of the greatest expressions of God’s love and care is His passion to take the things that, left to ourselves, would potentially destroy us, and use them to help us become more than we could have ever been if we had enjoyed lives of ease and endless calm.

  2. desert rose says:

    What does God use to open our hearts? Let me tell you a story. I was in the grocery line when my daughtger was about 5 years old. I had taught her alcohol was bad. We had a basketful of groceries and two young men behind me only had two items. They asked if they could go ahead. I got ready to say “yes” when I noticed they were very young buying beer.

    I said very nicely, “I’m not giving up my place so you can buy beer to party with. I’m sorry.” The one boy looked at me and said “You remind me of my grandma, and she wouldn’t approve of this either. She taught me the word of God and I know this is wrong. Thank you Mam for bringing this to my attention.”

    Now, God used a small situation like this to remind this prodigal boy what he had been taught in the scriptures. God uses so many things to speak to us to draw him closer to Him.

  3. hal.fshr says:


    It is an intriguing question to ask how the apostle who faced such personal suffering could write so boldly on our being inseperably connected with the love of God in Christ. Your thoughts make a lot of sense. It’s a good reminder that we need to periodically address apparent contradictions between Scriptures and life experience.

  4. poohpity says:

    The Lord specifically told the disciples and us in John 16:33 that we are going to have troubles but be of good cheer or take heart because Jesus over came the world. I believe that we all go through things that we may never have the answers to and in those times our faith gets weak but it is OK to express those doubts because it helps others not feel alone in their struggles. The bible also says that ALL things are common to man it helps to share our burdens with each other cause we can talk them through and lean/learn on each other. We have the love of the Lord in our hearts and we can share Him with our arms, ears and sweet words of encouragement.

  5. BruceC says:

    Paul had a Damascus road experience and therefore had met the risen Saviour, so what he told us was the Truth and because of that we can say with confidence that nothing separates us from God’s love. Now I don’t think we all need the same experience to believe because the Lord said blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. God and therefore His love is with us at all times. He is all knowing and all powerful and can use situations and circumstances to show Himself and “get His point across” so to speak. We are told that in this world we shall have tribulation and it shall be so until He returns.
    I’m not trying to butter you up with this example Mart; but the wife has often said that one of the things that led her to Christ was seeing my mother(who was suffering from cancer)read her Bible and do the “Daily Bread” devotional. She asked my Mom about it and Mom gave her the answers that helped her “get started” on the path. Yes, God can and does use many things to get the attention of both believer and unbeliever. And I for one am thankful for that.

  6. paul bishop says:

    My belief is that our perception of Love and the length
    and depth of it is determined by how much we’ve been
    forgiven. He that is forgiven much will love much…..
    He that is forgiven little will love little……..
    Another factor of our purity ( spiritual ) is measured
    by our wants……..The man of God is not in want of
    any good thing! This is because ( in my estimation )
    he already has it. Simplify, simplify simplify.

  7. daisymarygoldr says:

    Mart, I also believe that God always uses unlimited resources to “open our hearts” i.e. get our attention and to show us His love. Once the problem gets solved and sorted out, life becomes normal again. The next time I face those same (or maybe different) set of problems and if for some reason (will know it in heaven) He chooses not provide me with all His unlimited resources, then I will_____
    A) Search for God in nature- cannot find Him
    B) Listen to all kinds of music- the pain comes back once the music stops
    C) Take anti depressants- too many deleterious side effects that have not been tested in women
    D) Turn to counseling- feels good when they say I’m perfect the way I am and that God loves me but I don’t have the money to do it over and over again
    E) Make an appointment with my Pastor- he will say I have sinned which I didn’t
    F) Read the Bible- the proverbs and riddles are not making any sense to me
    G) Pray and cry out to God “How long”- He is not listening and there is no answer

    Instead of things getting any better they are turning from bad to worse…have lost everything- (spouse, home, job), nobody loves me and even God hates me and I hate myself…I want to kill myself . It is “dark night of the soul”…and I really don’t know what to do… please, help me out by filling in the blank for me…
    BTW, this is not concocted by me; it is a real life situation!

  8. pegramsdell says:

    Exactly Paul, we want too much, that’s for sure. I am so thankful that I am forgiven. If I think God is not being fair, it’s because I’m thinking of myself.
    Not my will, but thine, Lord.

  9. Mart De Haan says:

    daisymarygoldr, I’ll try. My most honest answer to fill in the blank would be, “ask God for the grace to trust what he has already revealed about himself in the face of the present mystery”.

    Because you have raised such a difficult “real situation” let me see if I can recall how we got here.

    We got to this point after a conversation about one of our friend’s disappointment with God, and after I posted something about The Shack, indicating that I had been pleasantly surprised, and deeply moved, by how reading this popular fiction had helped me think through what the Bible says about the kind of pain and suffering that is unexplainable from our point of view.

    At that point, several who had not read the book suggested that looking for help outside of the Word of God is not the way to go for a follower of Christ. One concern was for the person who did not have enough knowledge of the Bible to read fiction like “The Shack” through the lens of Scripture.

    Now you have followed up with a very difficult scenario that lists assumptions about incompetent counselors and doctors, judgmental pastors, misleading emotions, and a God who is not taking the initiative to reveal himself to us through Creation– as he did to Job (also Psalm 19).

    If God, by his Spirit, does not take initiative to reveal himself to us, then we will also not be able to find him even in his Written Word– since it too is unable to open our eyes without the work of his Spirit in us.

    (What Hebrews says about the “living Word of God” (Heb 4:12) seems in context to be a reference to Christ).

    This is why, to fill in your blank, I would combine the prayer of calling upon God to help us to trust what he has already revealed about himself through creation and his Word (Psalm 19).

    As you know so well, the story of the Bible is filled with people who had to live for long periods of times without understanding of secrets God has kept to himself (Deut 29:29). In those times many lived and died in their faith (Heb 11).

    This is why I have indicated in past posts that when faced with unexplainable situations, the wisdom of the Scriptures calls us to seek “multiple counsel” in knowing how to live by faith in a God who has revealed so much about himself– while withholding enough to test our faith in him.

  10. daisymarygoldr says:

    rdrcomp, Thank you for your prayers…they were much needed! Its not just you, I myself am very guilty about being preachie or academic… so don’t apologize. It was indeed my intent for all of us to think about what it means to be a body of Christ but I should have presented it more delicately taking into consideration the age, circumstances and other factors of others on this blog. So, I am really very sorry! You have provided the perfect answer to the problem I posed in my comment…the scriptures and other examples are simply great, but listen…will this help or make sense to me if I am terribly sick and writhing in darkness and unbearable pain?

    Note aside: wish I could give you and Mart 10/10 for your answers but this is too serious a situation that cannot be jested about!

  11. daisymarygoldr says:

    Mart, Thank you, for taking the time to address this real-life situation! You did trace this to The Shack but it goes even beyond that to when we started talking about sickness and pain. Your stand since day 1 has always been- “Prayer and Bible” is not the only solution and that God uses unlimited resources outside the Bible to provide for our needs and to show us His love. However, your answer “This is why, to fill in your blank, I would combine the ‘prayer’ of calling upon God to help us to ‘trust’ what he has already revealed about himself through creation and his ‘Word’ (Psalm 19)”, suggests- ‘Word’, ‘prayer’ and ‘trust’. You are absolutely correct and let me tell you why…

    “Multiple counsels” and using God’s unlimited resources is for the ‘cure’ or to open our hearts. When we get sick, we do try all kinds of available “gifts of God” to get ourselves treated. Once we get restored to good health do we still keep using those “gifts” to maintain a healthy life? No. We nourish our bodies with good food to build a good healthy immunity and also seek ways to prevent getting sick again, because “prevention is better than cure”.

    Good spiritual food is the Word and we feed on it daily to nourish our souls. If we turn to it when we are sick…our sick souls will not be able to stomach it, hence my question above to rdrcomp. It will not be appreciated or taken as being helpful if one is not familiar with its truths and this is the reason people react when scriptures are quoted or when the Bible is mentioned.

    Books like “Pilgrims progress”, “The Shack” may bring people back to God but they cannot substitute for The Word. A person living within unreached areas of the Amazonian forests will have no excuse because He can sense God in creation, not the guy living in concrete civilizations with The Bible in his hands!

    The Spirit reveals Spiritual things and The Word- is ‘Spirit’ and Life (John 6:63). The Word is the true light that dispels the foggiest darkness of human perplexities, speculations and cunningly crafted fables. Sermons, devotionals, commentaries, parables are helpful tools to understand The Word- which alone is the “milk and meat’ that nourishes our souls and strengthens our spirits.

    Is it only the Bible? Yes, because that is the only source for Jesus Christ- who was Word since the beginning, who became flesh to reveal His persona and we know that The Word is God. To know Christ is to know God and to know God is faith that deepens our relationship with Him to an intimacy that ultimately leads us to TRUST. It is a process that involves a lifetime and does not spring up all of a sudden in times of need let alone in times of despair.

    Then when we are facing a situation when everything and everyone else fails including God, i.e. dark night of the soul (for some reason I’ve fallen in love with this phrase), we’ll fear no evil…our hearts do not panic and we remain comforted and rested in the hope of The word that we have hidden within our hearts. BTW, God drives each one of us to that dead-end point where nobody (family, friends, pastors, counselors and even God) and nothing (medicines, counsel, prayer and Bible) will be there … except for our blind ‘trust’ and ‘faith’ in Him even when He remains hidden and silent.

    So, today when we have the written word that revealed everything about God (Luke 24:27) available in all possible languages and translations why should we search for Him elsewhere? It will be cool to see Him as a pillar of fire and cloud or hear his thundering voice but He has chosen to reveal Himself in the person of Jesus who is only found in the Bible, right?

    The scenario is not a set of assumptions but real facts that ‘trying to trust God’ and thousands of others are facing in this real world today. Kaliko88 wanted to know how to distinguish ‘wounded pride’ from ‘brokenness’…people who have shared about their pains keep wondering WHY God has allowed such things into their lives when it wasn’t their fault.

    Will there be confusion if we were educated and knowledgeable? Will it not help prevent… if we were daily feeding and following the Word? Are these wrong questions or merely a figment of by overreacting mind? “Been thinking” too deeply to the point of agony about the lack of true knowledge (Hos 4:6)…

  12. 4everwealth says:

    I have been married for 4 years now and we haven’t concieved. Now, as christians, this confused us and it still sort of does. But through it all we know God is with us and has a divine plan for us. My husband and I are on different stages of faith in God through this but God himself keeps us in Him.

    How does God open our heart? It is through His faithfulness in other areas of our lives and most importantly, through His work in us. Let’s not forget that it is God who is working in us to make is willing and able to do of His good pleasure(Philippians 2:13)

    My not having kids yet has made me question God sometimes but the truth is in my quest for answers, I have come to know God in a way I hadn’t before.

    I would like to recommend this book on Job by Charles Swindoll(A man of heroic endurance) to daisymarygoldr. Job in the bible lost it all at once and was still able to say ‘though He slays me, yet will I trust Him’Job 13:15. God’s love is all around us and in us, let it comfort you and cause you to turn your eyes to God.

    I have also come to learn that God is God and He owes us no explanattion. We should just trust in Him.
    God bless you Mart.

  13. poohpity says:


    “Are these wrong questions or merely a figment of by overreacting mind? “Been thinking” too deeply to the point of agony about the lack of true knowledge (Hos 4:6)”

    Figment of an overreacting mind and lack of true knowledge.

  14. Mart De Haan says:

    Maybe we are talking past one another. I agree that there is no substitute for the Word of God, and that it is in knowing what God has said (both in good times and in the dark nights of our souls)–that faith is born, and rests.

    My concern, is that (1) the God of the Bible does not counsel us to look only at his Word– but to look at everything else through its wisdom, and (2) the God of the Bible does not limit his provisions for our bodies, minds, and hearts only to its pages– but to the whole of his world over which he is the ultimate Lord.

    Those who see the Bible or the Lordship of Christ as being “all we need” (while being right in words)sometimes think that it is wrong for a follower of Christ to use doctors, medicine, counselors (specialists), or even life insurance.

    The result, I believe, is that such persons actually limit the scope of the provisions that can be rightly attributed to the Lordship of Christ.

    The following post (Subs are Subs Forever) is meant to say that anything other than God is a god-substitute, an idol, and a source of ultimate despair– if we put our trust in it.

  15. desert rose says:

    I usually read the blog early in its posting, but not this time and I see we have a discussion going on. I am a little confused, daisymarygoldr, and I hope you come back to this blog. Is the senario you gave real? Do you believe like you wrote? If so, how does that explain the other comments you’ve been leaving previously and why does it bother you for God to use other means to reach others for Christ other than the Bible? Or wy do you believe God cannot minister to someone in great pain with other resources? I am sure all of us want to help you but we must first understand if the situation you write about is actually how you feel or were you just having a bad day?

  16. daisymarygoldr says:

    desert rose,
    I’m so sorry for the confusion…but thanks for asking. The answer to your question is both yes and no. Yes, I have personally been through times when nothing- (money, medicines, family or friends) could help me…I did not have the strength to read the Bible or even cry out to God in prayer. In times like this it was simply my built ‘trust’ that alone helped me to endure such unexplainable circumstances. And no, this is not my personal situation but a problem that I posed after reading others life stories. It was not done to ridicule them but to point out the fact that all of us will inevitably go through a point in life when nobody- including God will be there for us.

    My comments are always directed to Mart, and I always tend to forget that others are also reading them. I will be more careful in future…I do acknowledge my poor ability to express the language but sincerely I thought the following line made it clear that this was not something that I was going through:
    “If for some reason (will know it in heaven) He chooses not to provide me with all His unlimited resources, then I will_____”. Sorry again!

  17. daisymarygoldr says:

    Mart, I also agree that we are talking past each other but that’s because I’m really not sure if “multiple counsels”, “unlimited resources” is being applied to temporal practical living (which is not wrong) or to our spiritual journeys… which are 2 different things right? It will certainly help if you clarify this because I don’t want to give people the impression of being an Amish who is hypocritically using the internet to communicate on this blog. Although I’m not scared, well actually I am… of being jumped on, it will definitely help in not being misunderstood as being discretely different within the family of God …Harmony rather than discord should lace our conversations i.e. if we don’t want to give the enemy a chance to use this to his advantage.

    The other alternative, which I’ve prayerfully decided is to keep my mouth shut when I’m not in agreement with the topic…

  18. Mart De Haan says:

    daisymarygoldr, I absolutely don’t want you or anyone else to go silent when you have questions or disagreement. The purpose of this blog is to help us be iron on iron.

    I deeply appreciate your willingness to test and disagree.

    Seems to me that we really do agree that there is a difference between physical/temporal and spiritual issues. The problem comes when the two intersect or intermingle. Then I find it important to say to a “i.e. depressed person”, if you don’t understand why you are feeling this “cloud of sadness” and if it doesn’t lift, might be good to see a doctor to see if there’s anything medical going on. That doesn’t rule out spiritual oppression. But attempting to eliminate options through checking with “multiple counsel” can be a way of prayerfully discerning what is happening.

    Or looking at your categories of “spiritual journey” vs. “temporal practical living” another way, seems to me that as we trust God (spiritual) to meet our needs (both physical and spiritual) we need to be open to the possibility that he will confirm our spiritual faith through very practical answers that reinforce our dependence upon him.

    I apologize if I’m further confusing matters…

  19. daisymarygoldr says:

    No, it is not confusing and I do see your point. After all these conversations I’m well aware of the noble intentions of your heart in helping the needy and agree that there is nothing wrong to use secular expertise or “multiple counsel” for treating depression as long as the true message of the Gospel stands out loud and clear.

    Mart, You are primarily noted for your Biblical expertise and the message coming across from you, a man of God is sometimes not that clear and this maybe due to the limitations of written communications on a blog. I’m not commenting on your writing style which by the way is very down to earth and exposes a vulnerability to which all commoners like me can relate to and respond.

    As you write about practical issues of life it will be greatly reassuring to see you tie things to the Word as this will not only direct us to a solution with an eternal perspective (instead of being left hanging in an uncomfortable state of limbo) but will also give God the due glory He deserves. This is not to advice but to simply voice my humble opinion. Thanks for listening!

  20. Mart De Haan says:

    daisymarygoldr, I hear you. Thank you.

  21. micki-b says:

    One of the things I have been struggling with this summer is what happens if you are the one that God is trying to make a lesson to when a really bad thing happens to someone else? Does that make it your fault since we serve a sovereign GOD? I know the answer to that (sort of) but still am troubled by the events of this summer in my life and the lives of my dearest friends. What if I am the cause of the destruction because I needed to learn a lesson about GOD and who He is? I know that sometimes people don’t come to GOD until something really tragic happens in their lives so how does that all play into it? (Yes, I KNOW rom 8:28 but I also know that the words “those who LOVE GOD and are the called according to His purpose” don’t always apply to the people for whom the lesson is being displayed.) This is just one of the many things that keep me awake at night.

  22. JayeBird says:

    Micki-b, That is a very heavy load to carry! Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He offers us rest for our souls, not guilt! Our heavenly Father, sovereign those he is, could never orchestrate evil events for any reason. But he does take the mess that sin makes of lives and lovingly uses it to draw us closer to him. (Please know I am not saying your friends’ sinned and brought trouble upon themselves. Not at all!) A group of my friends are studying the parables of Jesus and last night we met on the parable of the sower and the soils (Mark 4:3-20). For the seed to grow, the soil has to be ready. You said that people sometimes don’t come to God until something tragic happens in their lives. Sin can make the soil of our heart hard, but through the results of that sin our heart’s soil can become broken and open, ready to receive the seed. Pray, micki-b, pray earnestly and fervently to God and he can and will give you peace and help you understand that he hurts more than all of us do when his people (that’s all of humankind, remember!) suffer and he wants to comfort us. But first, we must learn to lean in to him so that we can receive that comfort.

  23. mrdiaz says:

    Hi Mart,

    It need such a strenght to see suffering as a way of God’s love. Though we’ve read it in the scriptures, if you personally experience such, you’ll feel like God has abandoned you. I did! I blamed Him for all the pain and suffering I had, and questioned what have I done to deserve these… each time, no other answer came from Him except – “I love you”, and I would cry unceasingly!

    After all the struggles, I learned that this life is just a passage for us to be ready for heaven. It is like a purification process-just as gold is purified and put in extreme heat to take a wonderful form. God gives us trials to strengthen us. He will never give you anything you can’t handle. Other fails because they do not trust God hard enough or maybe they think God is too busy to help them. God wants us to submit to His power – to trust Him with all our hearts. We do the work, but He makes the way.

    Paul was so blessed to have seen God’s power at work. He has seen the problems and sufferings as part of God’s blessings, and in all of them, he never failed to pray and submit to God almighty.

    In today’s world, it takes so much courage to entrust your life (and your future) to someone you can’t see with your eyes nor hear with your ears. But faith is at work with those who does – just as Paul and the other faithfuls did!

    God bless!

  24. Gena says:

    God found a way to reconcile Himself to me many years ago by way of a dream which at the time did not make sense to me. Only years later after becoming saved did I realize it was He who had touched my heart. It was by reading the Word that I made the connection when reading the book of Revelation that I saw a semblance. To this day I still marvel at God’s determination and creativity to reach out to me. He can do the same for anybody and if you find yourself pondering the mystery of God ~ follow your heart in your search for God will reveal Himself. In doing so, you will find yourself home.

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