So rend your heart and not your garments; return to the Lord your God….Joel 2:13
To rend means to tear something violently. The custom in Israel was for people to tear their garments as a sign of grief and desperation. God, however, is looking for a deeper response from us. He is asking us to violently tear away sin from our lives. He says, “tear open your heart and remove everything that stands between you and Me.” Jesus stated it this way in Matt 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”
There is nothing gentle about this process. It is personal and deep, it is painful and costly, but it brings much joy. If you hear the voice of the Lord calling you into deeper relationship with Him, you cannot be casual in your response. You can’t just pray and ask God to take away your stumbling block. He will help you, but you must initiate the process. You must be willing to look at areas of compromise in your life and be honest before God, confessing them as sin and grieving over how it has separated you from Him. God longs to be gracious to you.
Jesus tore His heart for you when He died on the cross. God the Father tore His heart for you when He sacrificed His Son. He continues to pursue you even when you are rebellious and distant. He tears His heart in this pursuit. It causes Him great grief when His children do not respond to His kindness and love. Our God is personal, not distant. He feels our struggles and our pain and He cares. He longs to bring us through into the place of safety in His heart. If you don’t understand His goodness and His kindness you will likely not come to Him. Many have experienced great rejection and judgment from others and assume that this is how God will react to them. But this is not God’s nature. He makes it easy for us to turn and run into His arms of love. Scripture speaks of His gentleness and mercy:
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. …. For He Himself knows our frame, He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:10,14
Say to them: “As I live,” says the Lord God, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Ezek 33:11
Therefore, the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. Is 30:18
But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; and often He restrained His anger, and did not arouse all His wrath. Ps 78:38
Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. Ps 18:35
When we understand His kindness, it gives us courage to repent, to tear our hearts and receive His forgiveness. He helps us to do it, encouraging us in every step. He meets our little step toward Him with open arms while running toward us. He desires us, He loves us so dearly, He delights in us. We are His creation.
If we are to be wholeheartedly in love with Jesus, then we must first go through the process of tearing away everything that keeps us separated from Him. This may produce pain, but He heals and restores us to Himself. His ultimate goal is to bring us back into covenant relationship with Him so that He can release the fullness of His blessings unto us. Let us return to Him with all our heart, for when we love Him with all our heart and all our mind, then we discover that He too, loves us with all His heart and with all his mind.