It’s likely you’ve all come across the phrase ‘guard your heart’ at some point, always used in the context of building up a hard exterior to avoid heartbreak. But what if there’s more to it than meets the eye?
Like many people, I ‘knew’ Samson’s story from some patchy childhood memory, but I wanted see it through my own eyes, with my own experiences and some critical thinking. To give a brief background, Samson was a leader in the Old Testament who was given God-like strength to protect the nation of Israel, Judges 13 - 16. He was a huge success, a high-profile public figure and then he fell for Delilah, a woman from one of Israel’s enemy countries, and things started to go slightly haywire. Like most people, Delilah was dying to know the secret of his success, and pushed him on multiple occasions to reveal his secret.
She said, “How can you say ‘I love you’ when you won’t even trust me?”
At first Samson resisted, but eventually he gave in.
She kept at it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up—he couldn’t take another minute of it. He spilled it.
“…he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head […] If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” (Judges 16:15-18, NKJV/MSG emphasis added)
Guard Your Heart
What caught my attention in this passage is the repetition of ‘his heart’. When the Bible repeats a word or phrase, it is typically something worth paying extra special attention to. The repetition reminded me of the age-old phrase, which is often quoted:
‘Guard your heart, from out it flows the springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)
So much of how I’ve seen this phrase used throughout life is in the context of romantic relationships and protecting ourselves from heartbreak. And while this is a legitimate interpretation, it occurred to me that in light of Samson’s story that it is so much more.
Samson’s ‘heart’ was synonymous with his source of God-given strength. This brings a whole new meaning to the idea: it is a reminder to protect the skills, gifts and dreams that God has given you by nurturing them and sharing them with the right people at the right time. To be clear, that doesn’t mean we should never share our intimate secrets; living life to the full means sharing it with your community.
In Judges 14 & 15, it’s evident that Samson had a weakness for women, and entertaining his vice, especially with someone who was a known enemy, left him vulnerable. It’s really easy to avoid doing what we know, deep down, is right, “just this once" but sometimes the repercussions end up being bigger than we first expected. Let’s go back to Samson’s story:
When [Delilah] got him to sleep, his head on her lap, she motioned to a man to cut off the seven braids of his hair. Immediately he began to grow weak. His strength drained from him.
The Philistines grabbed him, gouged out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. They shackled him in irons and put him to the work of grinding in the prison. But his hair, though cut off, began to grow again.
They got Samson from the prison and he put on a show for them. They had him standing between the pillars
And Samson cried out to God: [...]
Then Samson reached out to the two central pillars that held up the building and pushed against them, one with his right arm, the other with his left. Saying, “Let me die with the Philistines,” Samson pushed hard with all his might. The building crashed on the tyrants and all the people in it. He killed more people in his death than he had killed in his life. (extracts from Judges 16:19-30, MSG)
Samson who, up until this point, led Israel as a great warrior died in humiliation, being betrayed by someone he had a relationship with. It’s a sad example of a truth we sometimes like to avoid: carelessness in who we share our innermost parts of life with can lead us to compromise way more than we bargained for. Luckily for us, we can learn from Samson’s story, and perhaps our own experiences. How can we guard our hearts daily?
Keep things in perspective by not giving in to the pressures of other people, live life with the long-term picture in mind. The Message (MSG) Bible translation makes it pretty clear, let’s avoid being distracted by the important (and not so important) demands:
“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning [shrewd, wise, thoughtful, long-sighted] as a snake, inoffensive [innocent, gentle, harmless] as a dove.” – Matthew 10:16 MSG
“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up.” – 1 Peter 5:8 MSG
This all sounds quite serious, but what is clear in life is that anything special, or worth having, requires us to be cautious and intentional about how we handle it. How many times have we found ourselves in a situation, circumstance or outcome that could have been avoided if we had just taken some time, to be a bit more thoughtful about the situation?
Sometimes I feel like I don’t know where to get this magical discretion that will keep me out of harms way. The first thing to do (as usual) is that we should simply ask God for it, after all he constantly invites us to ask for what we want.
“Ask and it will be given to you” – Matthew 7:7 NIV
How many times do we stay silent, thinking that our issue is ‘too small’ or we are ‘too bad’ to speak to God? All of the above is not true – if it were Jesus would have said ‘ask and you will receive… if you’ve never sinned and your request fills xyz category’. So just ask (more on asking in this post), after all:
“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” – Jesus in John 14:26 NIV
While it’s important to exercise discretion, don’t overthink it to the point that you stop opening up to anyone. Never be afraid to step out in faith and just trust other people. This is a huge stretch for me personally, which I am growing into with Jesus’ help. Even if it turns out we’ve confided in the wrong person, God is willing and able to turn our mistake into something positive that we can learn from (Romans 8:28). Some of you may be familiar with that verse, but are we living as if it is true? If we were, we would be free to trust and connect with others, and God too. This post isn’t about adopting a ‘me against the world’ attitude, it’s about wisely selecting the right people to ‘do life’ with. It’s a fine balance to strike, but with the Holy Spirit, I believe it’s definitely achievable – because I’ve seen it happen in myself.
Live it out
Part of this post initially came from something I had written a while ago via the Bible App. I wrote it, felt like I had learned something and then I moved on with my life – not really remembering or reminding myself of any of this. Because of this, I experienced some things that could have been easily avoided if I had lived these principles out in my daily life. With that, I encourage you to remind yourself of everything you learn on your journey with Jesus. Let’s stop simply reading blogs and listening to sermons just to be inspired and feel good in the moment; only to go back to living the same old life.
“Don’t just listen to the Word, and therefore fool yourself; live it. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not live it out is like someone who sees themselves in the mirror, then turns around and completely forgets what they really look like. But if we look into God’s Word – which brings complete freedom – without forgetting it, we’ll be blessed in everything we do” - James 1:22-25
© Noterie, 2015