Hard Feet and a Soft Heart

Written by Carolyn McDonough (Pennington, New Jersey)

Carolyn is on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), where she is passionate about reaching her community with Jesus through the avenue of sports. She coaches lacrosse, runs and does triathlons. Anything endurance is her cup of tea. She also loves time at the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter.

January 31, 2023

As runners, many of us know how our feet begin to get hard and calloused as we log in the miles on the trails and on the road.
Every step we take running helps our feet better handle the greater distances and terrains that we tread on.
When we look at our feet, we certainly wouldn’t think to sign up to become foot models with all of the callouses, blisters and even black toes! 

The bible talks about how God cherishes the feet that go. Moreover, He calls these feet beautiful.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

There is a quote that has deeply impacted me and I believe, it is a call for us today: “God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet. The trouble with so many of us is that we have hard hearts and soft feet.”  

Over 50 years ago, Jackie Pullinger, who said this quote, left England to go to the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong to share the love and truth of Jesus Christ with gangsters and the poor.
She saw firsthand the impact of her hard feet that went in obedience of God’s call and her soft heart that reached many.
Drug addicts were set free from their addictions and started lives anew.
More than that, many of these people who met Jesus eventually followed Jackie’s example and went out to new communities in Asia to share what Jesus had done in their lives. 

How do we then, like Jackie, grow to have hard feet and a soft heart? 

The Gospel and Seeking His Kingdom First

In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks about the different worldly concerns and needs that every person has.
Jesus radically stated after sharing how God knows our needs that we should, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (v33). 

Hard feet and soft hearts develop when we walk in God’s priorities and His gospel message.
Tullian Tchividjian, pastor and author, eloquently stated the power of the gospel:

The gospel is God’s good-news announcement that Jesus has done for sinners what sinners could never do for themselves. The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus…The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail. (Medders, 2014)

Tullian Tchividjian, pastor and author (Medders, 2014)

God’s love is poured into our hearts when the truth of the gospel seeps deep into our souls.
Our hard hearts are softened when we believe this truth that Christ came to save sinners and paid the full price for us when He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave.
Our hearts inevitably soften at the promises of God’s love.
We then confidently know, both in our minds and hearts, that the gospel is good news for everyone.

As a result, a God given desire arises naturally to go and share with others this freedom-giving, soul-delivering truth that sets captives free.
Allow the truth of the gospel of God’s love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy to soften your heart and give you feet ready to share this good news! 

Letting God’s Word Shape You and Mold You

When I run, I love to focus my thoughts on God’s Word.
As I open God’s Word daily, verses get imprinted in my heart.
God’s Word is like a fire that burns and like a mighty hammer that shatters a rock (Jer 23:29).
As we get into God’s Word, His Word will permeate our beings and change us from the inside out. 

God has taught me the power of meditating on His Word through an analogy of eating and digesting.
It may only take a couple minutes to eat, but it can take hours for that food to digest.
Similarly, as we spend time in the Bible reading His Word, we can spend hours throughout the day thinking about His Word.
That is the trick for His truth to get deep into you. 

Jesus’ brother, James, reminds us how we are not just supposed to read the Bible and move on with our day.
Instead, “be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (ESV,  Jam 1:22).

Reading the Word, meditating on the Word, and doing the Word will lead to soft hearts and hard feet. 

The Power of Prayer 

Running is also a great time to pray and commune with God.
The Bible challenges us to pray continually – always being in continuous conversation with the Lord, sharing our requests, concerns, and needs, as well as listening to His response. 

Corrie ten Boom once asked this question, “Is prayer your steering wheel, or is it your spare tire?” 

Prayer is a place to allow God to guide us where He wants us to go in life.
He also heals our hearts from bitterness, anger, unforgiveness and other things that make our heart hard.
He also helps us to then step into action, confident that He is with us.
As Jim Elliot reminds us, “A saint who advances on his knees never retreats.” 

May the Lord, by His grace and power, help us to become more like Him and have hard feet and soft hearts.
May the love of Jesus and the gospel message of how He came to us sinful, broken people, and offers us forgiveness and a new life give us great hope, a soft heart, and feet that are ready to go to the ends of the earth to share this good news.

Prayer and Reflection Questions: 

  1. How hard are your feet and how soft is your heart? 
  2. Philippians 4:19 says how God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ.
    What do you need right now that God can supply for you? 
  3. To whom or where is God leading you to go and share the gospel? 

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