Four Ways to Prevent a Spiritual Heart Attack this Christmas
Warning Sign #3 – Pain in the Wallet
I am using the four weeks of Advent to look at four warning signs that our hearts are under spiritual attack, and how we can break free and experience a heart at peace in our own Advent journey to see the King. I am playing off the four major signs of a physical heart attack, 1) tightness in the chest, 2) shortness of breath, 3) pain in the left arm, and 4) nausea. Just as our physical heart can be attacked, throughout Scripture we are warned about the attack on our spiritual heart. This attack also has warning signs that must be heeded and immediate action taken. Just as with our physical hearts, this attack, too, is a matter of life and death.
Warning Sign #3 – Pain in the Wallet
One of the most significant warning signs of a physical heart attack is sharp pain usually in the left side of the body. It can be in the jaw, the shoulder or the back. Sharp pain is always an indicator that something is very wrong. The same is true in a spiritual heart attack. While this pain may come in many forms, in this Advent season I want to focus on one particular pain many of us may feel; a sharp pain in our wallet. Here are a few ways we may feel that pain:
- Harboring a quiet resentment over having to spend so much money on Christmas;
- Constantly worrying about what everything costs and how you’re going to pay for it;
- Frustration over all the organizations asking for financial donations and making your own donations without joy;
- Focusing on what you don’t have, what you wish you had, and envying others for what they have;
- Feeling remorse that you don’t make more money or that you can’t buy the expensive gifts you wish you could.
Advent is meant to be a time of quiet reflection, connection with the deeper more meaningful things of life, pondering all there is to be grateful for and worshiping the God of abundance who so loved the world that he gave his only son. Instead, we find ourselves bombarded by ads from every direction tempting us, cajoling us and even shaming us to buy our way into happiness.
It’s easy to get caught between the manger and the marketplace. When we do, we begin to experience a sharp pain in our wallet. It’s an indication that our heart is under attack. It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Make no mistake, the world desperately wants our heart this Christmas. The enemy will stop at nothing to persuade us to locate our treasure in any place but the nativity. Jesus warns us, “do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.” (Luke 12:29)
If you are experiencing a spiritual heart attack due to a sharp pain in your wallet, here’s the good news. Jesus came to set you free, to relieve your pain, to wipe away your anxiety and replace it with his deep peace. In this frenetic season of Advent, we are reminded of the words of the adult Jesus spoken to his disciples as he prepares to go to the cross. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
With this promise of peace ringing in our ears, here is our Advent challenge. First, surrender your finances back to him. They’re his anyway. He has granted you the resources you have in order for you to steward them wisely and invest them in the kingdom. Stop pretending you’re the owner. You’re not. You’re only a steward of what your loving and gracious God has committed to you for your care.
Second, diligently seek after his will for how you should invest those resources this Christmas. You may be surprised. He may ask you to give away more than you thought you could, and perhaps to spend less on yourself than you usually do. He may challenge you to replace financial gifts with more meaningful expressions of love like time and relationship, words of encouragement and a commitment to consistent prayer.
Finally, ask daily for him to fill you with his peace that passes all understanding. Only the Holy Spirit can do this, and the Holy Spirit desperately wants to! That’s the amazing thing about Advent. The truth it foretells is not a casual invitation or one possible option among a spiritual smorgasbord of offerings. Advent prepares us for God’s headlong rush into the world, claiming us back before we even know what’s happening. He came to bear our sin, die our death, defeat an enemy against whom we are powerless, rise victorious for us, and take us with him into eternal glory. All he asks is that we open our spirit and let him pour himself into us. All he desires is for us to experience the abundant life he came to give us. That’s why Christmas is the ultimate gift. If we are to open our hearts and be ready to accept all that he has for us, we must name the pain, surrender it back to him and be ready for him to fill the void that it leaves with things of eternal value.
They call it Black Friday for a reason, it’s the color of the hearts of those who become consumed by it. It is the ultimate spiritual heart attack. Refuse it, flee from it and pursue an Advent with a heart of peace as you make your way to the manger this Christmas.