26 Jan God, Chocolate, and the Heart
I have been vindicated! Imagine my delight when I randomly opened a magazine last week to discover this headline: “57 Percent: That’s how much less likely you are to develop heart disease if you eat chocolate 5+ times a week.” I knew it!!
The health blurb went on to advise that “Dark chocolate is the experts’ ‘go-to’ because it’s high in antioxidants that can help prevent damage to blood vessels. Look for chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cacao and limit it to 1 ounce.” They had me hook, line, and sinker until that last phrase, “limit it to 1 ounce.” Still, woo-hoo!
This little health tidbit was included in an article calling attention to the fact that heart disease is the number one health risk for women. With headlines dominated by Covid-19 over the past year, physical health has certainly been uppermost on our minds. But what about your spiritual health? What is the state of your heart spiritually speaking?
There are some beautiful verses in scripture about the heart:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1).
So we do not lose heart [for] even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Let us not lose heart in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Scripture is clear that the state of one’s heart is of vital importance. And just like with our physical heart, spiritual heart health does not happen by accident but requires attention and intentionality. A healthy heart doesn’t happen instantly but needs disciplined, consistent action over time.
Doctors remind us that the heart is a muscular organ made up of muscle tissue. Like other muscles in the body, the heart needs to be fed and exercised and taken care of. Just as physical habits directly impact the condition of the physical heart, so our spiritual habits directly impact our spiritual health.
On Sunday we heard the soaring rhetoric of Isaiah 40 invite us to re-examine our habits of news and social media consumption to think seriously about the impact those habits are having on our spiritual health. Are there other habits or attitudes that need to be examined as well? Anger, defensiveness, and carelessness can all damage the heart’s ability to be compassionate. Pride and selfishness can blunt the heart’s willingness to feel the pain or empathize with the brokenness of another.
The Apostle Peter reminds us that “God knows the human heart” (Acts 15:8). Nothing is hidden from God, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for us to acknowledge the ways in which our heart is hardened or closed to the person who is different from us, or who has hurt us, or who we deem in some way “lesser than.” Friends, let us use this opportunity to attend to our heart health with confession and repentance. I’ll take an ounce of dark chocolate on the side with that, as well.
Yours for the Kingdom,