God spoke to us through Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked. How is this seen in our lives? Here is one example. When I am overwhelmed by worries and fears, then my heart has fooled me, since it is making my imaginary troubles greater than the Savior can handle. The heart is also desperately wicked in these circumstances, for in choosing to deal with the problems apart from God, I have put myself in the place of God.
There are consequences. If a person addicted to drugs or other things says that she can handle it or stop at any time, then she will hurt herself in the long run. She also won’t seek help. So it is with the Christian who has convinced herself that she can cope with her anxieties on her own. There will be consequences. Our joy in God’s promises, person and purposes will fade. We were designed for peace with God, not peace without Him.
If we use the wrong tool for the job, then we could damage the tool. So if I need to start a hole in the wall for a screw, I use an awl and hammer, for the awl is designed to accept the stresses applied by the hammer. A cheap screwdriver is not so designed; used in place of an awl, the tip could warp or the handle crack.
God has a tool to take care of every worry that passes through our minds, while still leaving us fit for His purposes. It is the cross. Every time we are so overwhelmed by the things of this life that we lose sight of God’s glorious blessings, we are operating in flesh mode.
These stresses are wolves nipping at our heels, and no matter how much we run, we can’t escape. Without a Savior in the picture, we are fooling ourselves; we are running needlessly. Now see these same worries as wolves taking a wide path around us because we have a very big Savior carrying a very big club.
If this latter picture reflects how you view your troubles, then you will be able to acknowledge the promises in Romans chapter 8: God is for us. There is no condemnation. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. We know that all things are working together for good.
If these passages are not subjectively true to you (you don’t have a positive conviction about them because you are reeling under the weight of your fears), then you are the struggling person in Romans chapter 7 who says: I find it hard to do the good I want to do. I keep doing the wrong I don’t want to do. O wretched man, that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
How do we deal with a deceitful heart? Overcome the deceits of the sinner’s heart with the truths of God’s promises and the powerful and loving person of God Himself. So when you lie awake with the enemy’s fangs nipping at your heels, break out of deceit mode and into truth-telling mode with the cross and God’s promises.
How do we do this practically? You recover the way of faith by assenting to the truth that you have been deceived. Acknowledge in prayer that you have piled up these worries so high that you can’t see a great Savior. Name all of these worries. Say that you can’t handle them on your own, but God can.
Then recover the greatness of who Jesus Christ is. By His goodness, He is not waiting for you to get your act together but waiting for you to turn everything over to Him. Turn to the promises you’ve marked in your Bible (or look through a Bible promises app) and see that God is mightier than your fears. These promises are certain to those who believe them, while the fears may never really happen to us – they are imaginary. Go over how God has been good to you and is faithful. If you can’t do that, go over how good God has been to the faithful men and women in the Bible.
That is how you use the tools of warfare, the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit. These tools do not “work” if applied just once; we need to keep these on hand because the enemy does not give up readily. As with soap, apply God’s truths as often as necessary. God has an endless supply of “soap” — His truths are eternal — so we are in no danger of running out.
It will take time to settle the truths of God’s promises in your mind — it won’t be a quick fix if you’ve allowed your lies to go on for a long time. Same way with soap, isn’t it? You’ll need to scrub hard and long after doing yard work for hours with your bare hands. Jacob wrestled all night with God before the matter was settled.
Now our troubles are redeemed and useful for the Savior, not things to hate or obsess over. All the worries and fears piled up (which we know are about what-if futures that never tend to happen) are of course nothing compared to the glorious things God has provided to be enjoyed now and forever.
In addition, our Savior can handle the painfully real circumstances that cause us to make desperate decisions. Are we being hammered and can’t sleep? Well, what tool is being applied to the job? A deceitful and wicked heart is good at building walls of lies that prevent us from seeing all the good that God has for us.
We must start with the truth about ourselves, that we are easily and oh-so-quickly deceived by our sinful hearts. But we must also let the reality of God’s goodness keep the way open and our life with Him fruitful.
We cannot reason ourselves into detecting a deceitful heart. Flesh cannot cast out flesh. Remember – the flesh will only protect and defend itself. Only the scriptures can expose it. Only light can illuminate the darkness.
God has promised that we will go through tribulations. We are not to fear, though, because all these trials are not to harm us but strengthen our faith and character. As often as these fiery darts are hurled at us, we lift up the shield of faith and wield the sword of truth. We have more promises than Abraham ever received. Search the scriptures, mark and use them.