Guard Your Heart

Since early on in my ministry, the Lord has been taking me on a journey to learn to cope healthily with the expectations of others. On a daily basis we deal with expectations from people, our culture, ourselves, and even God.

And to set the record straight, not all are bad. If it weren’t for expectations, I might not ever get out of bed in the morning. I need some to motivate me to get going and even to pursue my love relationship with my God.

But some expectations can become heavy burdens. They can lead us either into self-reliant determination or into building walls of protection around our hearts, hardening them so they become calloused. As a result of either response, we retreat inside ourselves and become bitter or we burn out. Our focus in life becomes protecting ourselves from being hurt and our outlook on life becomes harsh, bitter, or depressed. But God loves us too much to leave us in that state.

In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus tells us to “take My yoke upon you.” What does that mean? A yoke is something that couples or binds two things together. Animals that are yoked together each have a collar that is connected to the other by a rod or piece of wood so the combined abilities of the animals can more easily perform a particular task. Many times a more mature, trained animal is yoked with an untrained one. The mature animal teaches the younger to stay on the straight path.

I believe that Jesus is saying, “Be yoked with Me. Be tied to Me. I want to do this with you.” In the same passage He also says, “learn from Me.” Jesus is the mature One. I am the untrained one. If I lag behind or start to go the wrong way, Jesus will bring me back to that straight path.

When we take on the expectations of others, this “yokes” us to them by virtue of the control we allow their expectations to have over us. Their yoke might be one of oppression, subjection, and servitude—the yoke of Christ means subjection and submission to Him, not oppression.

Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 23:2–4 when talking about the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Jesus realizes that when we take on the weight of other people’s expectations, they are heavy loads to bear.

While expectations can suck the life out of us, the expectations of God are life-giving. When we take on the yoke of Jesus, we are binding ourselves to the life-giver Himself. I want to briefly share three expectations I believe God has for us.

Expectation #1: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

I see this as running as hard as I can, nothing held back, straight into the arms of God and into the life that He has for me. I am not held back by the heavy weight of expectations or a calloused heart because I can trust the Him. He has no tricks up His sleeve and His will is always for my good!

Expectation #2: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12).

Our struggle is not with people! But Satan would love for us to think it is. He wants to get us caught up in those struggles and stirs our hearts into a caustic mess.

Expectation #3: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

This doesn’t mean God wants us to build a wall around our hearts. Philippians 4:6–7 explains well how God expects us to guard them: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

What will guard our hearts? The peace of God!

When I am loving my God with all of my heart, soul, and mind; loving my neighbor as myself; and allowing the peace of God to guard my heart, there is no room for any burden.

When we allow ourselves to be yoked with Christ, the protective wall that we have built around our hearts can be broken down. And because His peace guards our hearts, we are no longer under the control of the expectations of people. My heart belongs to Him, not anyone who intentionally or unintentionally throws arrows of expectation at me.

So, I have a question for you…Whose yoke are you wearing?

Ruth Smith

Ruth has served in the C&MA alongside her husband, Terry, for over 41 years. Together they have ministered via churches, district offices, and the National Office. They have 2 married sons and 5 beautiful grandchildren. Her greatest delight is ministering as Jesus leads her and loving on her family.

Ten Responses to “Guard Your Heart”

  1. Thank you Tassie and Luanne. I have been on this expectation journey with Jesus for most of my ministry life. I am so thankful for His gracious prodding and teaching. He is good!

  2. Ruth,
    Thank you for the good guidelines on expectation management. It is probably the number one need in healthy relationship building and self awareness. I need it everyday day!
    He is so willing to guide me in this area.
    Blessings to you.

  3. This is such an enlightening message! I have never thought through the use of the yoke. This perspective gives me a sense of inner peace just understsnding what Jesus used this demonstration for–helping me to simply “let go and let Him guide.” It also deepens my apologetics for helping others to understand! Thank you!

  4. Thank you Ruth for this article. I love your explanation of the yoke. I could visualize it but really didn’t understand it’s functionality. I have always valued the idea of coming along beside someone rather than directing them.
    When I first saw the necklace my thoughts were, yes we must guard our hearts but the aspect of the hardening of the heart never crossed my mind. I want my heart soft and moldable. So now I will be aware of guarding my heart in a new way.

    Thank you for the enlightening this beautiful morning. Just what I needed.

  5. Thank you, Ruth, for this article. I love the comparison you made between healthy and unhealthy expectations. This is a struggle we all deal with in life and ministry and you have given helpful and wise stepping stones in applying this scripture. Blessings!

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