“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
This verse comes from a passage where God is telling His people that He will not only bring them out of exile, but He will renew them with His Spirit. Here we see a promise that is echoed by Jesus in John 16, and fulfilled first in Acts 2, and then again in every believer who is saved by grace through faith. This is a verse we have come to throw around casually. We say things like, “I just feel like she has a hardened heart towards me” or “I’ll be praying that you have a heart of flesh in that situation.” What we look past is that a heart of flesh is more than just bringing out kind words here and there. A heart of flesh is vulnerable. A heart of flesh can bleed. A heart of flesh loves, even when it hurts.
Most people would not argue if I said that we should strive to love people. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus himself said to first love God and second to love your neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). People generally don’t fight the call to love when it’s just a concept, but when it gets real, when the call is difficult, that’s when we need the Spirit to give us a new heart of flesh. Looking back over the past year, it has been one of the most painful seasons I’ve ever walked through. There have been so many times when my heart has just hurt. In those times, when walking through pain and suffering with other people, we have one of two choices: sacrifice comfort, or build up walls. Our inclination is to guard ourselves from the pain because that is easier in the moment, but that is not the call of the gospel. The call of the gospel is to pick up your cross and deny yourself knowing that the reward is worth the pain. The call to love stands, even when it hurts. Jesus says in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NLT). I believe that the sharpest pains can lead to the sweetest joys, because I’ve seen it in my savior. Jesus was willing to suffer for my sake. He was willing to take my sin upon himself and die to pour out grace and give me righteousness. If He could go to those lengths to bless me, then as someone affected and changed by that grace, I should be willing to walk through pain for the sake of love.
I need the Spirit to give me a heart of flesh. I need His help to resist the temptation to harden my heart in times of hardship and hurt. His love is sufficient, and because of it, I can love with a heart of flesh, even when it hurts.