The tender heart is the heart that has been massaged with grace. Rather than allowing the difficulties in life to either harden us or cause us to remain broken, we view our troubles, as Francois Fenelon writes, like “cures to the poison of [our] old nature.”
This has certainly been true in my own life. Every time I have allowed God to carry me through my deepest disappointments and discouragements, some residue of my old nature is extracted and left behind. Were it not for the trouble, the “poison” might not be exposed. It seems that insight into the hidden idols of my heart and the depth of my sinful nature is simply a part of the maturing process. Albeit, an uncomfortable part. Paradoxically, the more I have longed to be like Christ, the greater the realization of how far I fall short.
CS Lewis warns that we shouldn’t be surprised at such revelation of ourselves. He says God uses it to force us “on, or up, to a higher level.” Our Father presents us with situations where we “will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than [we] ever dreamed of being.” For it is his plan to transform each one of his children into someone like himself.
The Scripture also describes the process: Blessed are those who know their spiritual poverty. Blessed…because the piercing awareness of our shortcomings initiates the softening. It prepares us for grace. Like the skilled hands of a masseuse, grace locates those points of tension—those knots of stubbornness—and works to release us from the pride and self-reliance that would hinder us from entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
I pray you would be diligent in checking the condition of your heart. If you discover areas of hardness or brokenness, please don’t give up. Let the warmth of his compassion melt the coldness; let the immensity of his goodness fill the fractures. Let the gift of his grace help you resist every pull toward resentment or isolation…
…and keep your heart tender.