The best athletes in the world compete with heart.

When the marathon runner kicks a little harder to overtake the person in front at the finish line, that’s heart. When the scrappy forward refuses to get bullied in the paint, that’s heart. When the Karate Kid refuses to quit the final bout despite having a broken shin, that’s heart.

Conversely, we’re fond of saying that people who give up, never try, and always fail have no heart.

“Heart”, in this sense of the word, is about passion and grit and verve. It’s a state of mind that says “I can do it, no matter what.”

Ever had a heart attack? Ever lose your ability to believe you can win?

In biblical literature “the heart” is a means of talking about, ironically, thinking (see Jeremiah 4:14, Matthew 15:19). But it’s a specific kind of thinking. It’s passion. It’s imagination. It’s fantasy. It’s determination to become the people God has called us to be and to achieve what God wants us to do.

Heart = passion (imagination + vocation).

When we lose heart, we call it despair. We feel like we’re losers. We think we can never win. We see no point in trying any longer. Despair manifests in lethargy, in apathy, and in paralysis.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Often when we feel hopeless but refuse to do nothing, on principle, we try to fix our heart problem by trying harder. We think we’re doomed and have no hope of winning, but we want to at least look busy so no one will blame us when it happens.

This anxiety that we’re going to lose and be blamed for losing manifests as a nervous energy that robs us of inherent joy in what we do. As a result, the very activities that once fueled our passion become the activities that rob us of life.

I had this happen with music. As a drummer, I used to love playing in every possible venue as often as I could, with as many other musicians, bands, and groups as would have me. It was fun. I won several awards and had a bunch of great experiences.

But then I was entered into a “best drummer” competition for all of British Columbia, and I got nervous. I didn’t think I was the best. My fear kept me from practicing. When I did practice, I felt like a shadow was over me and everything I did felt stupid and useless. My practice times were unfruitful and I knew I was going to lose.

About two weeks before the competition I began to panic, realizing I had squandered my time. I began practicing like a maniac to catch up, and I overdid it.

The competition came. It was in a historic venue with thousands of people in attendance. I was a nervous wreck. My entire body was rigid with stress.

I lost.

But the bigger problem was that I couldn’t enjoy the moment.

Looking back, I realize that performance should have been the highlight of my career as a musician—win or lose! But I was too depressed and anxious to enjoy it.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. Maybe the things you love have become the very things you loathe. If so, you might benefit from a heart transplant.

Begin by asking yourself when you most feel God’s pleasure. What are you doing? How are you doing it? Who are you with? What are you thinking about?

If you can’t think of anything presently that “feels” like God is happy with you, then imagine what might make him happy. Do that. And surround yourself with the joy of knowing he—at least—is pleased.

Because you will ultimately find your pleasure in his.

After all, he gave you your heart in the first place and he knows better than anyone how to get it working again.