In my part of the world, usually around this time of the year, the same scenario occurs regarding the safety of our children and their relationship to the environment. Temperatures end up dipping drastically, stay well below freezing, resulting in soft, mushy snowballs becoming deadly rock-solid weapons in the hands of most. This snow usually arrives around December, falling lightly and leaving a soft, pillowy covering on our lawns. Sled grooves are created, snowmen are constructed, and forts abound. Yet, by mid-January, those grooves become walking hazards, snowmen become grotesque in their features, and forts are now highly fortified bunkers. Through repeated exposure to the cold temperatures, our once enjoyable snow becomes impenetrable, and anyone who didn’t clear off a surface back then has no chance of doing so now.
Repeated exposure to a harsh environment can harden even the softest of surfaces. Musicians, through repeated use of their hands on their instruments, develop callouses that build up over time, hardening their skin until the they have little to no feeling in that area. Hardened steel, a process where metal is exposed to extreme heat and then resists bending and warping, can be used in the creation of machinery. Individuals can also become hardened through repeated exposure to harshness from others. With the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, tell a person something enough times and they will eventually believe it and become that way. Tell a child he or she is stupid and will never achieve anything academically, and sure enough, that child will be failing classes shortly thereafter. People who reside in poor living conditions surrounded by poverty and crime quickly lose the hope they once had for getting themselves out of their situation, and even the best become hardened themselves, often times succumbing to committing the crimes that once plagued them as victims.
And a hardened heart is just the beginning. The result of a hardened heart frequently leads to further complications, heading the individual down a continuously wrong path. The author of Proverbs 28.14 writes about these complications with, “Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.” According to the verse, not only does a hardened heart lead one towards further destructive issues, it also denies that person God’s plan and blessings. A hardened heart can block what God’s love intends for you. However, the verse also provides a way out for the hardened individual, a means for that person to receive His gifts: humility. If we are able to come before God and acknowledge His sovereignty, the result can be nothing other than a thawed and softened heart. Recognize Him, and your path will be corrected.
In a month or so, the spring sun will begin to melt the hardened winter snow, and what was once impenetrable will become soft and accessible. Much like the penetrating rays of the warm spring sun, God’s sovereignty can penetrate even the hardest hearts, a fact that gives hope to us all, whether on a personal or global level. For ourselves, we can seek Him in prayer at the foot of the cross, humbling ourselves and accepting His love, allowing it to wash over us, resulting in a thawed heart filled with understanding and kindness. However, we are also living in a time where entitled, proud world leaders unwittingly criticize everyone who seemingly goes against them, and then with hardened hearts, move forward with their plans, regardless of how it affects others, barely taking into consideration the human ramifications beyond themselves. For them, much prayer is needed, that they too would see God not as a tool for achieving an end, but as the Heavenly ruler over all of us. Now, more than ever, we must be praying for them and their paths, that their decisions be guided not by hardened hearts but by the humility that comes through knowing and worshiping Him. Amen.