A gentle spirit leads to gentle actions and words. Some people might say that this is not their personality, and that they are not wired in that way, but one of the evidences of the Holy Spirit working in our lives is that He is changing us into the image of God who is gentle. Gentleness is related to tenderness.
We are warned in God’s Word not to harden our hearts. The writer of Hebrews quoting from Psalm 95:7-11 says plainly, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8]. There is nothing worse than to have a heart that is hard towards God and men.
I recently met someone who had spent much of her life as a full-time Christian worker, and had recently married for the first time at the age of sixty-nine. She and her husband are living in a house owned by his daughter, who is a well-known Christian gospel singer. This daughter has taken a strong dislike to her step mother-in-law, and has told her that the day her father dies, she will evict his wife from the house. That is hardness of heart!
I know a man who faithfully sought to serve the Lord from his early years but has suffered much illness and today is bed bound. His wife, unable to cope with his illness that hindered her plans, divorced her husband and has recently become a minister in a well-known Christian denomination. That is hardness of heart! I understand this man’s heart when he is confused about how his former wife can conduct a marriage service and take a couple at their wedding service through their marriage vows.
It is impossible to have godly gentleness if your heart is hard! In Ezekiel we read, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” [Ezekiel 36:26]. Stone is hard and flesh is soft and tender! The soft heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” [Ephesians 4:32].
One of the loveliest pictures of tender-heartedness in the Bible is in the story of Ruth. Ruth saw the loneliness and hurting heart of her mother-in-law Naomi. Both Naomi’s husband and her two sons had died. She had no one to care for her, and she was beyond the age when she could expect to remarry. Ruth had a tender-heart and chose to forsake her own ambitions and look after her mother-in-law [see Ruth chapter 1]. In making that decision she could never have realised how God would honour and bless her, and that she would become the grandmother of king David!
Why do you think that people have hard hearts or harden their hearts?
What do you think is the relationship between coming through difficult trials and pain and tender-heartedness? One of the evidences of having a tender-heart is empathy. What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?