When is the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and asked – “Do I have a sweet heart or a sour heart?” You have one or the other. Which is it? Sweet or sour?
How Do You Know If You Have A Sweet Heart OR Sour Heart?
- What do you do when life treats you badly?
- How do you respond when another person or group mistreats you?
- If you find out you’ve been slandered or maligned, what happens in your heart?
- What is your first thought when you lose a career promotion or business arrangement?
- How do you handle a severe loss?
- If you experience a broken relationship, what goes on inside you?
- Maybe your health takes an unexpected plunge. What then?
- How do you respond to tragedy?
- Or you just might be stuck living, long-term, with someone that is sour. What do you do with that?
Those questions reveal your defaults when life hands you a lemon. Did you land on the “sweet end” of the spectrum when you answered those questions? Or on the “sour end?” I mean genuinely – out of your heart – no faking or acting. Where you land gives you a strong indication of whether you have a sweet heart or sour heart. And what you practice is what you become.
When you are in a compromised life scenario, you might be churning inside. If you’re at the edge of a bad attitude or negative perspective, you know if you give in – you’re gonna lose. Sweet becomes sour. Still, you might feel desperate, hurt, angry, confused, afraid.
There are 3 things to focus on when you suspect a sour heart starting to form. Please know this. You can hold your ground and not give in to a sour heart. These 3 things enable you to maintain a sweet heart.
But I need to mention something before exploring those 3 focuses. You can’t do this on your own! If you try to stay sweet in your own strength, you’ll probably fail. If, however, you turn to Jesus in your up-ended circumstance, you will succeed. Jesus is never sour, and He will help you stay sweet. Ask for His strength. “Prefer” His ways above your ways in order to stay sweet.
The 3 Focus Points To Keep A Sweet Heart
A person’s demeanor is either sweetened or soured by their level of gratitude. That’s where it all starts. When you are thankful, you see good things still present in your life even when you are going through great difficulties. So, maintaining a sweet heart means being grateful. Gratitude launches these 3 practices.
To “hug” the sweet end and “shun” the sour end of heart health, you need discipline. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Discipline in gratitude produces a sweet heart. No wonder God keeps telling His children to be thankful. He knows how He made people. He knows gratitude is better than a multi-vitamin for spiritual health. And He knows it takes discipline to be grateful.
Fabulous Gratitude Scriptures:
- “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) This takes discipline.
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6) This takes discipline.
- “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” (Phil. 3:1) This takes discipline.
- “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:16-18) This takes discipline.
Seems gratitude and discipline are strongly intertwined!
Note: Most of these verses were written in adverse conditions as Paul underwent his own training in gratitude. He chose a grateful heart through discipline, even when he didn’t feel like it. Most of these verses were written while he was in prison.
Launching from a platform of gratitude, perspective is something you have absolute control over. A godly perspective follows hope. Hebrews 12:2 says to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
Why is intentional focus on Jesus so critical?
Jesus is the example – the model – of perspective while suffering. And Jesus lives inside joy. He is named: Man of Sorrow and Man of Joy.
But, how could Jesus be anointed with the oil of joy when He suffered so much? Jesus knows godly perspective builds hope with a harvest of gratitude. Sweet demeanor requires perspective.
How Hope Helps Heart Health
Hope is not a feeling or desire. It’s a chosen outlook you latch onto with all your might by fastening yourself to God. Hope connects to perspective through 5 action steps:
- Manage your heart with deep trust in God.
- Thank Him for what you learn during hard times.
- Practice what Jesus practiced in His life.
- Roll up sleeves and resolve to walk with God as you solve life problems.
- Simply refuse to give up!
- Believe God is working in your difficulty.
- Pour out your heart to God. Tell Him you need His help, strength, and wisdom.
- Practiced resolve morphs into perseverance.
- As you build this pattern, you’ll find you are becoming stronger, more balanced, peaceful, confident, and credible.
- You are developing Christ-like character.
- The more you become like Christ, the more powerful your life becomes.
- Real Hope grows in your heart as you trust the Lord.
- Finally, you – and everyone around you – can enjoy your sweet heart, not a sour heart.
Perspective Means Give And Take – The Exchange
When you have perspective, you believe Jesus will do some pretty awesome exchanges for you. (Is. 61:3) This is what helps you have perspective.
|God Will Give||God Will Take|
|Crown of beauty||Your ashes|
|Oil of joy||Your mourning|
|Garment of praise||Your spirit of despair|
But to receive what God gives, you must let go of losses. To be truly sweet takes what God gives. Again, consider Jesus. He has perspective and hope. Jesus is sweet. Go after Him with passion as your first, most, and best! Adopt His perspective.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participate in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death.” (Phil. 3:10)
A sour person is never sincerely grateful. Again, you start from a platform of gratitude. This happens from trusting God’s goodness, wisdom, love, and strength. When things look terrible, when it seems God is not there, when it feels like your prayers hit the ceiling, responding well takes faith.
1 Cor. 10:9-10 identifies two incorrect attitudes that offend God (and He is NOT easily offended):
- Testing Him
These do not reflect faith in God. Do you ever do these things?
For our discussion, we will focus on grumbling. These are defining points of grumbling:
- Lack of gratitude.
- Not believing God cares.
- Concluding God is not doing His job good enough.
- Refusing to expect God will intervene.
- Not wanting God’s way.
Lack of gratitude blocks your ability to recognize God’s provision. It makes you blind to possibilities. And it’s a subtle form of pride. A person who is not grateful is never happy, never content. They often grumble. And they don’t practice faith.
Conversely, when a person is genuinely grateful, they find it a lot harder to sin. It’s a kind of “auto deterrent” for sin. No wonder God repeats His message through Scripture – “be thankful, praise the Lord, have a grateful heart, give thanks.” This is the best way to represent your faith in God.
God formed the human heart. He knows its design. He wants to:
- Keep your heart sweet.
- Help your heart function in faith.
- Restore balance to your heart rhythm.
- Help you side-step character lapses – those things that make a person sour.
- Enable you to find joy in seasons of sorrow.
- Have you partner with Him in the process of transformation.
- Re-connect you to Himself AND to the person you were created to be.
To maintain a sweet heart and prevent souring, practice gratitude. This requires discipline, perspective, and faith. 2 Cor. 2:15 says you can have the sweet aroma of Christ in your life every day in every life circumstance.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) Since this is true, ask yourself some questions:
- Do I sincerely trust God? Do I love Him with all my heart?
- Is it more important to me to please God or to have my own way?
- When I examine my heart, is it sweet or sour?
- What do I need to change to be more like Jesus?
- How will I practice more gratitude? (be honest and practical)
- What specific choices can I make to practice patterns of discipline, perspective, and faith?
Skip SOUR! Stay SWEET!
* Much of this post was an excerpt from my book Reach Back: Intentionally Reaching Back to God. To purchase this book, click REACH BACK.