All the festival and fanfare of the UEFA Soccer Championships was dramatically shattered Saturday as the Denmark VS Finland game suffered tragedy. At the close of half-time, veteran Danish player Christian Eriksen dropped to the ground, dead of cardiac arrest. Instantly, his fellow players formed a phalanx around their fallen mate with grave faces and tears freely flowing. Medical staff rushed onto the field. Frantic moments of resuscitation and defibrillation did eventually revive him, but that was not known until much later.

The response was galvanizing. Fans from both Denmark and Finland stayed in the stadium, immobile, awaiting news and chanting his name in hope and support. With live television and the speed of social media, the news flashed like a wildfire. Across Europe, matches were suspended. His other fellow players and friends, awaiting games representing their own countries, were devastated.

The truly confounding aspect of the situation was that it happened against all odds. A seasoned athlete in his prime, the twenty-nine-year-old Christian Erikson was recently stringently medically vetted by several top-level organizations. He never contracted covid nor had any vaccinations. The attack was unrelated to contact play. With absolutely no warning, he was struck down in his finest hour; a graphic portrayal of the perfidy of the human heart.

What caused the seasoned muscle of this star sportsman to suddenly stop? What flaw, what traitorous pathology lie undetected? It may be weeks before professionals find the answer, but in the meanwhile, it acts as a cautionary tale.

How many times have we forged blithely ahead with our lives, thinking we knew what was best for ourselves, thinking we could take on the world, only to be stopped dead in our tracks? Only to find there are people and places that do not bring out the best in us. Some situation provoked jealousy, malice, trauma or one of a thousand other negative emotions we never dreamt could rise so ferociously in our bosom. Sure, things were difficult, but the real shocker was our own response. We’re caught out of depth and don’t know how to feel or respond. Certain people make us crazy. Certain challenges defy our internal wisdom. Our strength was not where we thought it was. Our heart was not what we thought it was.

Whoever said “You have to be true to your heart” ought, seriously, to be shot. This banal sentiment is the high-water mark of lousy theology. Have you ever set your sights passionately on some possession, relationship, achievement or other desire, only to find that the attainment of it leaves you cold? Is this all there is? What’s the big deal? Our own driving desire bitterly deceived us, or at the very least, disappointed. Sadly, we discover we can’t even trust ourselves. More often than not, “being true to your heart” is merely a rationalization for an obstinate, reckless decision that ended in a crash-and-burn. Some justification for the sinful, selfish choices that inflicted pain on others. Self-deception at its most refined.

I doubt there’s a mechanism on earth more complex than the human heart, which is why we are commanded to keep it with great vigilance (Proverbs 3:5). It is both a physical and spiritual organ which directs the flow of life in both realms. According to Jesus, it is the repository of great intent, either good or evil (Matthew 12:33-35,). What we treasure is stored there (Matthew 6:21). What we worship is enthroned there (Matthew 22:37). Every word we speak proceeds from the substance our heart holds (Matthew 15:18-19). We don’t only need a renewed mind, we desperately require a new heart (Jeremiah 17:9). To survive ourselves, we must have God’s heart.

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:17-18

The difficulty, disillusionment and desecration of life on the planet inevitably hardens our hearts. It’s impossible to emerge unscathed without serious protection. Meditating, soaking in God’s Word heals the heart on a minute-by minute basis from the daily blast. Understanding the greatness of His heart, and entering into it, keeps our own safe in a seductive world. The ardor of the Great Lover has unlimited tenderness for individuals and for all the world; a love we cannot possibly generate, but amazingly, we can share.

We don’t know where the dangers lie. Our hearts can delude and deny us in the most critical moments. Don’t trust your own heart. Trust His.

For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

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