When the Heart Shuts Down

Whether you want to or not, your heart experiences the pain of life. As uncomfortable and excruciating as it can be, those seasons of heartache, heartbreak and suffering can actually produce the greatest jewels in our life.

But we have to be willing to face the pain.

This is where people lose the health of their hearts the most. They have avoided pain so much and have opted for shutting down as a solution.

This is understandable . . . life gets hard. And there is no sign that life is getting easier.

But shutting down our hearts is the number one way we can disconnect ourselves from experiencing spiritual and emotional health in our lives.

Too Much to Bear

The pain of life becomes so intense. We don’t know how to overcome. We’ve not been given the tools, nor is there enough emphasis around us on how to live free from the heart.

So in the pain, we feel left to ourselves to figure things out.

Within this dilemma, too many feel that the only option is to shove the pain down. They may rationalize this by thinking they don’t want to spread the pain to others. But quite often, the biggest reason is, the pain seems overwhelming.

This pattern of shutting down conditions us to run from anything that’s painful and uncomfortable. We end up running to comfort and pleasure too often, and it weakens our heart’s ability to grow during turbulent seasons.

If this pattern of shutting down continues, you will become worn out, numb and cold.

Going Through the Motions

You are tempted to shut down when you feel you have reached your threshold of experiencing pain. The problem is that we learned the shut down mechanism so early in life, we never had the ability to flex our heart muscles to grieve and heal from the pain we have faced.

So we just “get on with it” while we ignore deep lacerations from life that are becoming infected underneath the band aids we’ve put on them.

The “shut-down” is conditioning people to live more like zombies than humans that are alive. The deception is when you think you can actually function with a shut down heart. It can seem that no one notices, but over time, the hardness will creep through.

When you are shut down in your heart, it may not always be outwardly visible right away. You can go to work, pick up your kids, make dinner, attend church and go to the gym, all with a heart that is shut down. You can even participate in ministry. But deep down inside, there is a numbness and coldness that is enveloping.

Over time, there becomes a disconnect to have true heart engagement with God and others. Your relationships lose depth. Your connection to God seems distant. Your marriage moves into roommate syndrome and you feel disconnected from your kids. Cynicism and bitter roots grow and there becomes a hardness to life and hope.

Hitting the Breaker

When we shut down, we are first deceived into thinking that we can only shut down the breaker in our heart that deals with pain. We then scratch our heads as to why we cannot connect to the emotions that we want–joy, peace, love and hope.

This is because in the heart there is only one breaker. You shut down because of one area and you trigger a chain reaction that shuts down the whole system. If this pattern continues for a long time, we can end up struggling to turn the breaker back on.

Yet millions hit the “shut down breaker” and attempt to carry on without dealing with anything.

Using Intellect as Protection

One of the classic ways people remain shut down and avoid heart healing is by becoming highly intellectual. We pursue knowledge and present a sophisticated and erudite persona that can impress people. Yet deep down, we are broken and hiding behind a mask.

It’s easy to rely on knowledge alone for your sense of safety. You don’t have to deal with brokenness or vulnerability. Just focus on information and data. It can help you grow big businesses, organizations and even churches. Yet deep down inside, there is a heart disconnect.

The number one cry of discomfort for Christians that come to me is they know about God’s love in their minds, but they recognize they are disconnected from it in their hearts.

This reveals our dysfunctional response to pain. We are avoiding the gems that are found through facing pain and inviting God into those places.

Shut Down Heart and Intellectualism

Shut down hearts that choose intellectualism can win arguments, possess impressive resumes and showcase staggering presentations. Yet their hearts are disconnected from healing truth. Their achievements of degrees and accomplishments are wonderful, but there is an emptiness in the heart that has not been touched.

Deep down, they are slowly becoming bitter, angry and cynical, yet they cover it over with cognitive processing and impressive articulation that veils their bitter roots.

After some time–if you can peel back these layers and they get honest with you, they will admit to understanding the things of God in their head, but lack it in the heart. There’s no flow of power to the knowledge they have, because their hearts are disconnected from it.

Healing the Heart is Where It Starts

But if we’re going to have the life that Jesus said we could, a life that overflows from the heart, we have to allow the Father to heal our hearts.

Jesus came to heal the broken hearted, not the broken headed.

Modern generations have elevated the mind so highly, it has become our protective mechanism to avoid dealing with our broken and empty hearts.

In the Old Testament Scriptures, there was no word for mind. It was all about the heart. The emphasis on the mind came about in the Greek culture, where the intellect and knowledge were elevated to high levels of status.

Modern culture elevates the mind so much, we’ve lost the experience of the heart. The simplicity of child-like faith gets clouded over.

With the mind, we have to solve everything by figuring out an equation. The problem is less about our neurological connections and more about our ability to process the life of love and how to invite God into our broken relational grid.

People are showing more signs of anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive patterns and toxic thinking, because we focus our attention on the brain. Mental illness is not going to be remedied by simply working on the brain, but by equipping people to heal their hearts and grow in the power of healthy relationship exchange.

We forgot that life flows through the heart. The brain is simply a recipient of how the heart life is going.

Truth Needs to be Experienced with the Heart

The Old Testament word for heart taught people to learn by experiencing truth and engaging it with your full self. This caused truth to be imprinted on the hearts of people. Faith was not a class you took, it was an experience with God. Mentors and friends processed with you. You learned how to walk with God as you walked with each other.

They had to experience it. They had to take time to marinate on something.

Nowadays, we just want to learn information; get it in our brain. That way we can say we possess something because we know the information. This is a high level of personal deception.

Therefore, we get puffed up in our knowledge.

Making the Change

A major part of our heart experience in life is that we need to process pain. We need to feel it, go through it, heal from it and extend that healing to others. There is little we can offer others for personal transformation if we don’t personally go through our own heart healing journey.

The problem is that too many are shut down. So they have little to offer those who are hurting and shut down around them. Therefore, the cycle continues….

Until someone rises up to face the pain and overcome.