Posted by: Jo | July 26, 2013

Softening The Hardened Heart

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert…”” (Hebrews 3:7 – 8)

image Anybody who loves to bake will recognize my cry of distress, “Oh no I have no brown sugar!”, while I was in the middle of baking a favorite coffee cake, and discovered the container where I keep the brown sugar was empty. While I was bemoaning this fact I remembered that quite a while back I had bought brown sugar sealed in a plastic bag and realized I must have left it way back on the shelf in the pantry. More cries of distress as I picked up the plastic bag to find that the bag of sugar, lying so long in my cupboard unused, had become as hard as rock. Now useless, it’s sweetness locked inside, no good for anything. It suddenly occurred to me that this bag of sugar was a very graphic example of the hardened heart the writer of Hebrews was cautioning his readers about.

Our hearts, once they are filled with the Holy Spirit and dedicated to following our Lord, can become soft and sweet, available to spread the sweet aroma of Christ to others around us, but if we allow them to stagnate like my bag of sugar, slowly they become calloused and hard so any sweetness is locked inside, no longer of any use to spreading the good news.

So how do we guard against that ugly hardening? The verse in Hebrews has a key phrase , “if you hear his voice”, if we allow other voices to blot out what our Lord is saying to us, or if the persuasive words of the worldly kingdom override his commandments, we will become as ignorant as those Paul was talking about in his letter to the Ephesians;

“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of their ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18)

image But God’s powerful words have an amazing way of sweetening our natures, unlocking the hardness in our hearts, allowing us to be productive and useful if we are prepared to spend time with him and absorb his words deep within our beings.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! “ (Psalm 119:103)

The other interesting phrase in that quote from Hebrews is, “in the time of testing.” Have you noticed that the very time you are being called upon to have sensitive and compassionate hearts, is the very time you seem to be surrounded by all sorts of pressing problems or the busiest schedule you have ever had to cope with? It is easy to tell yourself, I am far too busy to listen yet again to that neighbor who is so lonely. I am far too preoccupied to look for newcomers at church. Surely they don’t expect me to help? Or perhaps the most dangerous thought that can cause hardening of the heart is; there is too much I have to get through today, so there is no time to read my Bible or pray.

The psalmists knew the importance of keeping their hearts tuned to God’s word.

“I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” (Psalm 119:30)

And again

image“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32)

I am going to try to remember my useless, hardened brown sugar the next time I feel that I am allowing worldly thoughts to creep into my mind and letting them begin that hardening process of my heart; I will remember the beautiful promise in Ezekiel; I will remember the wonderful remedy for hardness of heart lies close at hand, I just need to creep back into my Saviour’s presence.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)


  1. Thank God for hard brown sugar that led to such a “sweet” post. It made a great analogy!



  2. The brown sugar analogy is very beautiful Jo. Thank you.


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