August 14, 2022The Frailty of the Human Heart

The Frailty of the Human Heart

August 14, 2022


Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life. [1]


What is the heart? We talk about our hearts quite often, but do we know what it is? Usually, when people speak of the heart, they refer to the emotions. As far as how Scripture uses the term, this is not completely incorrect. The emotional aspect of who we are is included in the human heart. But our heart is more than this. It is really the seat of our mind, our emotion, and our will. If we would examine this word, heart, we would see that it is used as a synonym for each of these aspects of our being: our mind, our emotion, and our will. In that respect it is almost a synonym for the soul. Therefore, when I use the word “heart, ” I mean our mind, emotion, and will.[2]


God created our hearts. Because he has, he not only knows how they work, but he knows what our hearts need to be healthy and happy. It is important to know this and remember this.


The human heart is a frail thing. It is easily hurt. It is easily damaged. It is easily wounded. Because it is frail, we must protect our hearts with all vigilance. These are the words of Solomon. If we do not guard our hearts then we will discover that our hearts become despondent.


In our natural state, before we are damaged by sin, our hearts are frail and tender.  The hearts of young children testify to this.


At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [3]


Humility, of course, is a condition of the heart. The hearts of children are humble and tender. This is the kind of heart we need to be considered worthy to enter the kingdom. Remember, not all genuine Christians will enter the kingdom. Only those whose hearts are worthy (Luke 20:35) will enter. Only those whose hearts have been transformed. Justification is one thing and is totally and solely at the discretion of the Living God. Justification is monergistic. That is a fancy word that simply means it is completely the work of God’s Spirit. We did not choose Christ. He chose us. Sanctification is another thing and is synergistic, that is, it depends upon both the Spirit of God and us. This means that our sanctification is partially dependant upon us, that is, our cooperation with the Spirit. As the apostle says in Philippians:


Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. [4]


The salvation to which Paul refers here is our sanctification, not our justification. He is writing to those who are already justified. The life of a disciple is a life of enjoyment. I was never as happy as an unbeliever as I have been as a follower of Christ. But, it is also a life of fear, in particular when we sin.


We must work towards our sanctification. We must apply ourselves. We must be vigilant! Remember Solomon’s words!


So, we begin life with tender and frail hearts. But, because we sin, our hearts become “stony.” We lose our tenderness. Sin hardens our heart. For this reason alone we ought to flee sin in every form. In Ezekiel, when the Lord is promising the restoration of Israel to their homeland, he says:


And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, [5]


It is not just ancient Israel that took on a heart of stone because of their disobedience. It is the experience of nearly all people on earth. It is your story. It is my story. But the Lord has mercy on some and gives them a new heart! Thank you, Lord, for a new heart!


When we come to Christ in repentant faith our hearts begin to become tender again. (Yet, even most sinners have a measure of frailty to their hearts that comes to light when they deviate from God’s ways.[6])


Because God created our hearts, he gave us commands that keep our hearts healthy and happy. When we deviate from God’s directives, we experience pain because our hearts are frail. Sin overturns our frail hearts! Consider David’s wife Michal. Michal was the daughter of King Saul. David fell in love with her and she with him. At first, because of his jealousy, Saul was not willing to give Michal to David as a wife. He gave him an almost impossible task – the killing of 100 Philistines – thinking that David would die in the effort. But the Lord was with David and gave him the victory! Saul remained true to his word and gave Michal to David as his wife.


When Saul’s hatred of David increased, he tried to murder him but failed. Then he took Michal and gave him to another man as a wife. This was against the law of God. Marriage is for a lifetime by God’s design. There is more than one reason for this. But one reason is to protect the hearts of those in the marriage.


The man that Michal then married was Paltiel. King Saul died and his son, Ish-bosheth, took the throne. Ish-bosheth then gave Michal back to David as a wife:


And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.” 13 And he said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned. [7]


Those who have had the person that they loved leave them are familiar with the anguish that Paltiel experienced in losing his wife. He followed her to a distant city, weeping all the way. Lost love is a terrible pain of the human heart. God cares about our hearts. This is why he designed marriage to be for a lifetime and this is why he demands fidelity within the marital union, both physical fidelity and emotional fidelity.


It was sin that brought about Paltiel’s misery. King Saul sinned by abusing his authority as king in dissolving his daughter’s marriage and giving her to another man. Paltiel sinned by receiving her as a wife contrary to God’s law.


Michal’s heart was damaged also. This is evidenced by her great love for David before they were betrothed. She loved him so much that she risked her life for him. But after her unlawful marriage to Paltiel, she despised him (2 Samuel 6:16). Ostensibly, she despised him because he uncovered himself when he danced in public and the servant girls honored him. But it was more than jealousy that caused her to despise David. Jealousy and hatred are not the same thing. You can have jealousy without hating the one you purport to love. Her heart was corrupted because, although she accused David of uncovering himself, she was actually the one who uncovered herself to an unlawful husband.


Sin damaged the hearts of Paltiel and Michal. The story of Michal is an example of divided love. With respect to the love between a man and a woman, God designed us so that we will love only one person at one time and that is for a lifetime. In a marriage, when either the husband or the wife loves another, even if sexual fidelity is maintained, it divides the heart. There is fallout. It may show itself in impatience or a lack of tenderness. This is what happened to Michal. Our hearts are frail!


Consider another example: sexual activity before marriage. God’s word is clear. We must abstain from all sexual activity before marriage. God is not trying to rain on our parade. He is not a killjoy. He is not trying to rob us of pleasure. He is trying to increase our pleasure and sense of fulfillment. What happens when you have sex before marriage? First, most people know, even if they have not been taught that sex before marriage is sinful (because God gave us a conscience that is aligned with right and wrong), that sex outside of commitment is wrong. Thus, when they engage in it they lose respect for themselves. They will have a lower opinion of who they are. They will also lose respect for their sexual partner for the same reason.


Second, sexual union increases the intimacy and feelings for the other person. But if you do not marry that person they will always have a special place in your heart. This can diminish the quality of future relationships. But, it is worse than that. You may marry the person even if they have serious character flaws because you are overlooking those flaws due to the pleasures of sex and because it creates those intimate feelings.


Third, your future true love, once they learn of your sexual transgressions, will have their hearts hurt, sometimes deeply so, and it can cause jealousy even though the prior relationship is terminated. Why do you think the Lord places such high sanctions on such activity? The Lord commanded the death penalty for those guilty under the former covenant. When Christ came the death penalty was abolished by the Roman government so that the guilty party was not put to death. Rather, the Israelites, in order to cohere with Roman law, required the “putting away” of the party guilty of sex before marriage. This “putting away,” or “sending away,” consisted of a public trial commensurate with a verdict.


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

  19      And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned ato send her away secretly.

  20      But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.[8]


Even Mary would have been put away because Joseph thought that she had had sex. It took an angel of God speaking to him to keep him from doing it!


Sexual activity before marriage damages the hearts of all involved: the original fornicators as well as future fiancés and future spouses. Joseph was ready to send Mary away for this very reason.


The positive side of obeying God’s word on this matter is that it makes the sexual acts between husband and wife unique to each. It heightens the specialness of sexual union when it hasn’t been performed with others. The pleasure and fulfillment are increased when we wait for marriage by the very fact that it wasn’t shared previously. Pleasure is increased because it is guilt-free. Fulfillment is increased because it is united with genuine love and commitment.


We must guard our hearts because they are frail. If you don’t care enough about your own heart (by disregarding God’s word), then guard the heart of your future true love by waiting for marriage.


As a last example, consider the desire for wealth:


But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.[9]


We are commanded not to desire to be rich. Yet how many Christians pursue this? Many! See what Paul says about this desire. It causes us to fall into other temptations. But look what else: it creates harmful desires. Desires are part of our heart. The desire to be rich harms our heart. Contentment is good for the heart and seeking after riches is not.


Oh! How much happier we would be if we only listened to our Lord! His laws are for our good and our happiness!


We have only considered three examples of how disobedience to the good and healthy commands of God results in damaged or painful hearts:


  • Divided love
  • Sexual activity before marriage
  • Desire and pursuit of wealth


We could just as easily find examples for many more of the Lord’s laws and observe how they wound our hearts.


Would you like to avoid sorrow and regret in your heart? Then you must “keep it” according to Solomon. By keeping it, he means guarding it, protecting it.


How do we do that? It is really simple. We must follow God’s laws because they were designed for our happiness and our good. We must inscribe God’s laws upon our hearts. This just means to become familiar with them and to meditate upon them so that we really know them.

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,

and his tongue speaks justice.

31    The law of his God is in his heart;

his steps do not slip. [10]


When the law of God is in our heart then we will live it out. If it is in our mind alone then our wayward desires will cause us to fall into sin.


Your testimonies are my heritage forever,

for they are the joy of my heart. [11]


The “testimonies” are simply God’s words. When we enjoy them we live them out!


Let us end with this verse:


I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.” [12]


Delight, of course, is also a matter of the heart.


Who recognizes this passage? Originally it was written by King David. But, our Lord Jesus read this and applied it to himself in John 4:34. Our Lord Jesus delighted to do God’s will. When the law of God is in our heart we will delight to live it! Our hearts will be protected. We will discover:


  • joy instead of sorrow
  • peace instead of pain
  • and contentment rather than disillusionment


Choose this day to forsake every transgression and enjoy the Lord as you never had before. If the Spirit of Christ is within you, you are able.





[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 4:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] It seems as if the human spirit is also included at times when the Bible uses the word heart.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 18:1–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 2:12–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eze 11:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6]  However, the human conscience [part of our heart] can become seared [I Tim 4:2; Eph 4:19]. This is a real danger for all people.


[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Sa 3:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 1:18–20). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 37:30–31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 119:111). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 40:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.