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Symptoms of a Hard Heart

Posted on February 6, 2024

When you see a commercial for a drug, they always list the symptoms. While the drug can be helpful for a person, the company must admit that the drug could also cause certain problems. These symptoms are the side effects of the drug’s potency. It could negatively affect a person’s nervous system, or bladder, or even cause worse problems like tumors or death. 


The Bible talks about a certain heart condition: a hard heart. This simply means that you have become hardened toward God or the things of God. Such a condition does not happen over night. But the question is, How do you know if you have a hard heart? Here are some symptoms that will clue you in to this fatal condition. 


You push against God’s commands 


The first symptom of a hard heart is that you rebel or push against what God has commanded. This is exactly what Pharaoh did in the book of Exodus. While it’s true that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart several times (which He is just in doing, see Rom. 9:18), it is also true that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 8:15). He did not want to submit to Israel’s God, and in the end, his entire nation was destroyed because of his rebellion. 


The Children of Israel also rebelled against God because of hard-heartedness. Many times in Scripture God called them “stiffnecked” (Ex. 32:9, 33:3, Deut. 9:6, II Chron. 30:8). This word literally means “to be hard, harsh, cruel.” God’s own people became hard for God to deal with because of their rebellious hearts—hearts that went after idols. When God sent prophets to His people, they were often ignored, hated, persecuted, or worst of all, killed. 


Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If you do not want to keep the commands of Scripture—if you find yourself pushing them away or trying to ignore them—then you have a hard heart. 


You are living in sin and think it is okay


Another symptom of a hard heart is that you think it’s fine to live in sin (perhaps not all sin, but a certain sin that you think is okay to commit). Notice what Scripture says: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-13). 


A person with a hard heart excuses their sin because they have been deceived by it. One common example today is cohabitation before marriage. Hebrews 13:4 is clear that God is against this, and yet many Christians today excuse this sin by saying, “We have to find out if we are compatible in the bedroom.” Unfortunately, many couples who do this never get married, but just live together until they grow tired of each other or until they find someone else. 


Perhaps you find yourself with an addiction—drinking, smoking, pornography—and at first you knew it was wrong, but over time you have come to excuse it. “One drink won’t hurt.” “Smoking makes me feel better.” “Porn helps me to cope.” What actually has happened is that your heart has become hard and your sin has deceived you. You need to “awake to righteousness, and sin not” (I Cor. 15:34). Stop making excuses, and recognize your sin for what it is. 


You have forgotten what God has done for you 


In Mark 8, the disciples had forgotten to take bread with them on their journey, and when Jesus mentioned the “leaven of the Pharisees,” they thought He was referring to physical bread. This irritated Jesus because He knew that they had completely forgotten about the miracles He had performed—the feeding of the five thousand, and the feeding of the four thousand. He said this to the disciples: “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?” (Mark 8:17). 


Hard-heartedness will make you forget what God has done for you in the past. It will cause you to doubt what God can do presently. And it will ruin your effectiveness for God in the future. This symptom was also seen in the Children of Israel. Psalm 78:42 records these somber words: “They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.” Do you remember the wonderful things that God has done for you? If not, it is probably because you have a hard heart. A hardened heart focuses on the problems of today and forgets the blessings of the past. This can quickly lead to sin, as it did for the Children of Israel. 


These are the symptoms of a hard heart. I hope that you desire to have a tender heart towards God. The Lord cannot use a hard-hearted person. In fact, hard-heartedness angers the Lord (Mark 3:5), and here’s where such a person will end up: “…he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Pro. 28:14b). Worst of all, you might never recover from that fall. So confess your sin and ask God to give you a tender heart, a heart that yearns to know Him more. 

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