Love the Lord with All Your Heart
Your heart contains your feelings, emotions, will, and [I believe] it’s also the place that houses your mind and contains your thoughts. It’s your inner place where you devise your “way” and, ultimately, decide to do something or not. Often, it’s where you pre-determine and assume how things will go, what and who you’ll like, and why.
Sometimes our heart (our emotions and feelings) tries to take control of how we behave and react to situations. Old and familiar feelings can surface up, which you’ll eventually have to deal with. For example, as we get older, we wonder and wish for things to “go back to how they used to be” or we constantly question ourselves, “why do I feel [still] feel this way?”
But it says in Ecclesiastes that it is not wise to wish for such things (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Then again, throughout the epistles, Paul encourages the churches to “put off the old, and put on the new,” because it’s easy to go back to old, familiar feelings that our heart has remembered, and possibly memorized. In psalms, David wrote and asked God to create in him a clean heart (Psalm 51:10), because he was aware it is the most deceitful of all (Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 4:23).
Your heart is the hidden, inner place where no one except for God can see. (1 Samuel 16:7).
Jesus gave us the best example. He didn’t allow His emotions, feelings, and thoughts lead his way. He didn’t gratify the desires of the flesh, which are birthed in the heart (Romans 13:14), but set His mind on things of the Spirit and the Father. John 5:19 says that He can do nothing by Himself, but only by what He sees the Father doing.
He experienced emotions and feelings on every level, as we do every day, full-stop, but that didn’t dictate his behavior. He didn’t get swayed and become double-minded. Of course, it’s because He’s Jesus! But He gave that same authority and self-control to you, too.
Loving this way
Create the habit, an inner trigger, to turn to God when you face emotions and feelings that seem far from the truth. We often struggle with thoughts like “well, I know this in my head, but my heart feels…” this or that. And this isn’t good. To love God with your heart, your entire heart, means to surrender and turn to Him when these emotions/feelings arise.
Love the Lord with All Your Soul
The soul contains your identity and your belief systems. I believe the spirit is the part of us that is alive in Christ, but the soul is where our thought process, our values and principles, and our “default” settings are located. To love the Lord with all your soul is to fully embrace the identity He’s given you and to live from Him, as I often say.
Honestly, it’s very easy for me to feel rejected. If I dwell on the feeling long enough, I end up believing it’s part of my identity. But this is something I’ve worked through, and continue to when it comes up, by reminding myself of who I am in Christ. My husband and some friends and family members have helped reinforce God’s love and perspective of me when I go down the rabbit trail of wrong beliefs. The word reminds us we’re a new creation, and this is something Paul talks about constantly.
Paul is a great example. He went from persecuting to getting persecuted. He grabbed hold of what it means to love the Lord with all his soul (along with heart, mind, and strength). He faced various trials yet didn’t budge in his faith, from what we read. He encouraged and edified the churches to imitate him because he took on Christ’s identity, yet he still called himself the chief sinner of all (1 Timothy 1:15). Not because he didn’t believe God changed him, but because God DID change him. The contrast was so vast; it humbled him enough to give him godly confidence for his identity.
And again, Jesus took on the identity as a Son of God, and He lived this out through the way he talked about his relationship with the Father. And He was very bold about it! We see this especially in John 14-17. He even asked the Father that we might have the same union as he has with the Father, and that’s because His soul was unabashedly devoted to the Father.
Loving this way
Write out daily or weekly affirmations that you can meditate on. Not just dilly dally phrases, but actual truths of who God says you are. We often struggle with our identity because we don’t fully believe that we’re actually new to Christ. We must continue to remind ourselves who He says we are!
Love the Lord with All Your Mind
Though your heart is where your “thoughts live,” your mind encompasses the entire inner narrative. Whether or not you notice, you have an inner narrative, a process, and a filter through which you intake information. Not only that, but it’s constantly going.
Like many millennials, I’ve experienced “spiraling,” which is a series of negative thoughts that can feel overwhelming. It just takes one negative thought, one negative headspace, or attitude, and it’s easier to think of more negative, debilitating thoughts that can lead to anxiety, depression, and unnecessary overthinking.
The Bible says we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Not only that, it also says to be transformed by the renewing of the mind SO that you can prove what is good, acceptable, and perfect within God’s will (Romans 12:2). When you’re spiraling, or going on thought tangents which do not align with truth, it can seem very difficult to get back on track. But it’s important to detox those thoughts by fasting, taking breaks, reading the word, and praying. It’s possible to create “thought-habits” to generate new thoughts when the wrong ones seem to take control.
In the desert, Jesus combatted with his own thoughts and attacks of Satan by quoting scripture. He came against each temptation with a truth in God’s word. This is helpful because it’s not just memorizing scripture and reciting it, but actually believing what the word of God says and letting that ground your mind, become the firm ground in your heart, and the cornerstone within your soul.
Loving this way
Faith comes by hearing. If you want to take control of your thoughts, take an inventory of what you’re saying hour by hour or daily. Listen to yourself talk. If it’s the surrounding people, you may need a detox, or a complete change of relationships. Reading the word is a game changer, so that you can build your faith and learn to love God with all your mind.
Love the Lord with All Your Strength
Last but not least, strength can represent a lot of things. I want to describe it as the ability to withstand great force or pressure, like resilience. Sometimes that’s all a person can have to keep going. I think this one ties in the other 3 because if you’ve lost the ability to control and lead your emotions/feelings, your identity and belief system, and your thoughts, there’s this part of you that contains strength to keep pushing forward when nothing else makes sense. This is the part of you that can dream, see an end, believe for more, even when you’ve lost all hope within.
This past summer, my cousin’s baby girl got diagnosed with leukemia. As I talked with him, I recognized this strength in him. Despite the emotional roller coaster, he and his wife held on (and hold on) firmly, with all their strength, that God will carry them through this. Their courage and resilience stood out so much, it helped me overcome a few personal things I dealt with. It reminded me that sometimes all it takes is to be grateful and to show up for the people you love, and that’s enough.
There’s also the physical aspect of it, where you present your body as a living sacrifice to God, holy and pleasing (Romans 12:1). In Galatians, Paul also encourages to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). There’s more to it about the physical aspect, but if all you can do is show up and do good, I think that’s enough for the Lord.
Jesus needed all the strength he could muster up to make it up to the cross. He pushed, pursued, even cried out that this cup get taken away. Yet He submitted and said “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). This is how He loved you with all his strength.
Loving God this way
Write at least one thing you’re believing in God for and write at least 3 things you’re grateful for. Get around the people you love and those who love you (Proverbs 17:9).