What does it mean for someone to be heartsick? When someone feels emotions of disappointment or uncertainty, how do we handle that or help them?
The heart of a person can’t be expressed with an emoji and it’s far more complex than the outline of a heart made with two fingers and thumbs.
When we talk about a person’s heart, we speak of a person’s inner being. It’s deeper than our emotions but certainly affects us emotionally in ways that are good, bad, or indifferent.
Indifferent is worse than bad. Indifference to emotions indicates an emotional blankness—what psychologists call a flat affect—having no response to external stimulus or situations. It can indicate shock, numbness, or even clinical depression for example.
An indifferent nature is far worse. When a person is indifferent to others, it often indicates anti-social behavioral tendencies. Being sick at heart indicates a profound sadness and a sense of hopelessness—a human spirit that’s crushed.
One Cause of Being Heartsick
What causes someone to be heartsick? According to this verse in Proverbs—a delayed hope. A hope that is set aside by circumstances beyond a person’s control. It’s more than unfilled expectations. It goes deeper.
This type of delayed hope comes in many ways. A refugee in a worn-torn area longs for peace and safety. When someone longs for a marriage partner or having a child, they also can become heartsick.
Obviously, some life situations are more dire and pressing than others but a person who is sick at heart focuses on whatever hope seems most important to them.
This proverb goes on to say, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life. This isn’t the longing of a selfish desire, it’s much deeper.
When refugees find peace and safety, it’s certainly more fulfilling than a good meal or gaining any possession. When we witnessed adoptive parents uniting with the child or children they were adopting through our ministry, it was a sweet and emotionally fulfilling time.
A Change of Heart and Focus
The key or cure for those who are heartsick is a change in what they’re focused on. This is indicated in the following verse—
but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Prov 13:13b GW)
The fear of God isn’t a state of anxious fear but trust—a personal trust in God. I heard an interview of a journalist who was kidnapped by Muslim pirates and held several years for ransom. He hated his captors and longed for freedom.
When he heard a religious leader speak of mercy and forgiveness, he began to change his view of his captors by forgiving them.
He said it began to change his attitude towards his captors and seemingly hopeless situation. His heart and outlook lightened up. He acknowledged it required discipline. He had to work at forgiving them each day. Eventually, the day came for him to be freed—a longing fulfilled.
Are you sick at heart because of a longing in your heart or a hope that seems to get pushed back over and over again? The cure is a change of focus.
This is similar to what King David and the Lord Jesus said—
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)
Set the eyes of your heart on the One to whom nothing is impossible. Not just once but daily, even many times within a day, until it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart.
Set your heart on the Lord as your primary focus—not on what you are heartsick for or about. Do this so it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart—and trust whatever you are longing for to God.
Learning to trust God in a deep way requires commitment and discipline in prayer. Prayer is the lifeline for communication with God—to share what’s on our hearts and to spend time to wait and listen for Him.