The current minimalism craze has prompted many of us to clean out closets, drawers, cupboards, nooks, niches, and crannies. We’ve sorted, trashed, tried on, donated, repurposed, and recycled. And the purging has felt satisfyingly productive. But while we’re freeing ourselves from too-tight jeans, mismatched cookware, and broken-down shoes that clutter our homes, maybe we should also consider freeing ourselves from some tendencies that clutter our hearts. A precious soul saved by Christ was not meant to continue to stockpile debilitating mindsets. There comes a time to let go, because a heavy heart can weigh us down far more than lidless pots and pans ever will.
1. Let Go of Grudges
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3-4, NIV)
We all like a “good mad,” don’t we? In fact, if we’re honest with ourselves, we might be known to collect offenses against us like little boys collect toy cars. “Bring ‘em on!” we say. Each one just adds to the feel-good self-superiority we’ve come to thrive on. But of course, that feeling is contrary to God’s Word. Notice that this passage in Luke requires readers to act; to be on the alert: “Watch yourselves” when it comes to relationships. It’s as if Luke knew that we would always struggle with loving and forgiving our fellowman. Fast-forward to today and we see that he was right.
Letting go of grudges requires something more from us than passivity. It requires an acknowledgement that we bear the grudge and then the willingness to not only forgive the wrongdoer but to set them free. And when we set them free, we set ourselves free, too. See how that works?
2. Box Up Hurt
Jesus wept. (John 11:35, NKJV)
These two words—”Jesus wept”—prove, as well as any others, that Jesus truly experienced human emotions. On this occasion, He was in deep mourning. He’d just been told that His good friend Lazarus had died.
Notice that John uses the word “wept” instead of “cried.” Weeping is that deeper groaning—that gut wrench that comes from a heart that literally—physically—feels like it’s breaking. And these words “Jesus wept” continue to remind us today that Jesus understands the affairs of the heart. He also keenly identifies with your loss, your betrayal, and your heartbreak. There’s no hurt that He didn’t feel and there’s no hurt of yours that He can’t heal.
Your hurt is your hurt and no one can or should minimize it. Admittedly, hurt is hard to let go of. But could this be time to part with some of it? Painful memories? Side-swiped dreams? Broken promises? When you box up hurt, you make room for joy to move in.
3. Kick Procrastination to the Curb
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. (John 9:4, NKJV)
If you’re finally decluttering your home, you’ve already proven that you can battle procrastination. And while scaling back on possessions is a great start, there are likely more important ways you can get your house in order. John reminds us that we are charged with doing the Lord’s work because an expiration date is coming and even the savviest procrastinator can’t put that date off.
Do you need to go deeper into personal Bible study and more intently into prayer? The night is coming. Are there neighbors, family members, colleagues, or friends that don’t know Jesus? The night is coming. Has your heart been called to local or far-flung missions? The night is coming. Are you in relationships that need repairing? The night is coming.
If we’ve learned anything from recent events, it’s that we are not in control. We’ve come to understand that life is stunningly and unexpectedly short, and so there is an increased urgency to the days in which we live. So, when you send procrastination to the curb, throw out complacency with it. The night is coming.
4. Shred Perfectionism
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, NIV)
There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that we are called to be holy. The bad news is that we think “holy” means “perfect.” We’ve fallen down a slippery slope. We’ve watched and listened as the media has painted a picture of perfection and convinced us that if we only work extra hours, try harder, augment our appearance, and spend more, we too can become the perfect employee, the perfect spouse, the perfect parent, the perfect hostess, and the perfect adult child. Enough already! The world’s notion of perfection is fickle—as changeable as the weather—and we will never reach the level we seek.
Only one Person is perfect. And through the power of His Spirit living in you and your devotion to prayer and the Word, He will make you—not perfect—but holy.
5. Stop Hoarding Envy
A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. (Proverbs. 14:30, NKJV)
It’s never been easier to feel envious, has it? Today’s social platforms give us a bird’s-eye view into the lives of everyone from our next-door neighbor, to a first-grade classmate, to a former colleague. And that view—usually perfectly styled and carefully cropped—often serves up images that we perceive as completely carefree, fun, and successful. So how can your evening of leftover meatloaf eaten in a messy kitchen possibly compare? It can’t. And it shouldn’t. No one’s life is quite as it appears.
Envy never hurts anyone but you. In fact, Proverbs plainly tells us that envy is bad to the bone. Envy’s ruses will rob you of appreciating the estimable joys of your own life. With every swipe of your device, you throw envy a crumb. So, stop swiping and start counting! Blessings are everywhere! There is always something and someone to be thankful for.
6. Ditch Gossip
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)
It doesn’t matter whether you call it “sharing a prayer request,” brush it off with an “Oh, just FYI,” or claim that “Nobody ever said not to tell”—you just can’t make gossip honorable. Most of us have been both the subject and source of gossip, and we know it’s hurtful. So why would we hang on to a habit that’s obviously detrimental to us and crushing to someone else?
Ephesians offers us an attractive alternative to negative gossip. The next time you’re tempted to pick someone apart, try picking them up instead. Look for the good in that person and spread that news. Replace badmouthing with kindness. Substitute criticism with compliments. Swap jokes for grace. When you do, you’ll go a long way in ditching the habit of gossip and build up a brother or sister in the process.
7. Send Inferiority Packing
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NKJV)
When God sent Samuel to Jesse’s home to name the future king of Israel, Samuel was immediately dazzled by the impressive height and overall good looks of oldest son Eliab. Thinking this appointment was all wrapped up, Samuel nearly failed to hear the Lord’s voice. Eliab, the seemingly obvious choice was never in the running. Instead, it was the very last son and the very least son—David—that God wanted. God saw David clear to the heart.
God sees you clear to the heart, too. He sees your lovely heart. He applauds your giving spirit. He appreciates your kindness toward others. He knows your genuine concern for your fellowman. Any inferiority you may feel doesn’t come from God. Inferiority is a tool the devil uses to try and convince us that we’re not good enough. You, my friend, are “ferior!” God—the creator and ruler of the universe says so!