Jesus sought me when a stranger;
Wandering from the fold of God:
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.
Leland Ryken sheds light on the life of Robert Robinson, the hymnodist of this well-known hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. In Robinson’s late teen years, he identified with drifters and hoodlums on the streets of London. However, after hearing a George Whitefield sermon, he converted to Jesus Christ as his identity. You and I may not find our feet wandering on the streets of London as drifters or hoodlums, but our hearts are surely prone to wander from our relationship with God.
Hosea 14:4 reveals the beauty of God and His response to our heart wanderings, “‘I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.’” Recently, I wrestled with exactly what this verse meant. I found some insightful information when I looked closely at the words in the original language. In the Hebrew language, waywardness involves turning away from a relationship or authority (I previously thought waywardness involved pursuing sinful acts). Certainly, turning away from God leads to sinful acts; yet, the beginning issue involves abandoning our relationship with God. God is able to heal us (provide a cure and make us healthy) and willingly love us (have great affection, care, and loyalty toward) because His anger has turned away from us (because of Jesus Christ’s death, “we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” Romans 5:9). So, we see the beauty of God’s response to our heart wanderings—His healing arms open wide!
How do we know when our hearts have wandered? Perhaps it shows up when someone’s unkind remark, arrogant avoidance, or belittling look crushes us. Possibly our heart wandering emerges in association with transitions—transitions like new jobs, moves, empty nest, or other new seasons in life. The familiar routines, friends, and priorities disappear. We find ourselves unstable, unfulfilled, and perhaps confused. I suggest the latter is what has happened—confused. When people’s responses to us rattle us or new life circumstances leave us grappling for stability, we are confused about our identity. If our identity is in what other’s think of us, we will be rattled when they mark us as unlovely. The truth is that Christ has marked us as lovely and belonging to Him (Zeph 3 :17; Rom 8:35-39; 1 Cor 3:23).
If our identity is wrapped up in our circumstances of life, our identity will be shaken when new seasons of life dissolve old roles. With our new seasons of life, we may lose friends that were associated with those roles. When the loss of friends associated with old seasons of life become heart breaking, our identity was tied to that role. The truth is that our identity in Christ is permanent. Confusion and disappointment occur when we view our roles as our identity. However, nothing or no one can take away our identity in Christ (Col 3:3; John 10:28-29).
What should we do in order to detect a wayward heart? Asking God to rend (break violently and abruptly) our hearts (Joel 2:13) where we have wandered is one way. Upon asking God to rend my heart, I discovered I let other’s remarks and actions determine my worth instead of God determining my worth. It is sin for me to let others determine my worth. Also, I realized my loss of friends (that were my children’s friends’ parents) revealed I had a role of mothering that had subconsciously become my identity. I didn’t have a hard time releasing my children to be adults, but losing friends in the process was a painful reality. Confession to God resulted in forgiveness and new power to live out my identity in Christ (which will NEVER go away when roles change!). I purpose to seek the Lord passionately, yield to Him, and live for His glory alone as I am anchored in my identity in Him in all seasons of life.
You and I probably are not struggling with being drifters or hoodlums as Robinson was, but we do wander away from our relationship with God (after initial salvation). Where does God want to rend your heart to show you where you have strayed to bring you back to Himself? Ask Him to rend your heart. What role have you lived in that subtly became your identity? Ask Him to reveal that to you. What do you now need to confess to God and receive His forgiveness for? What step can you take today in order to recover your identity in Christ and seek God passionately in all seasons of life?
For your consideration: Leland Ryken’s book: 40 Favorite Hymns on the Christin Life: A Closer Look at Their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning, Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2019.
Image from Gerd Altmann, “Heart Dirt Structure,” accessed January 22, 2023, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/heart-dirt-structure-floor-earth-401499/.
 Robert Robinson, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, cited in Leland Ryken, 40 Favorite Hymns on the Christin Life: A Closer Look at Their Spiritual Meaning (Phillipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 2019), 57-60.