Summary: All of us get "heartburn" feelings over the questions "What is our world coming to?" and "What do I do with my life?". The risen Lord gives us better answers than we are able to develop on our own.
"Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?"
Every now and then, when you’re tired, or you’ve worked too hard, or there’s been a lot of stress ... every now and then, do you get a strange, tight feeling in the chest? Do you sometimes feel peculiar, a little nauseated maybe? Do you wonder whether maybe you are sicker than you think?
Or do you just dismiss it. Oh, it’s just heartburn. It’s just last nights’ pizzas, with anchovies, and two liters of soda, and chocolate ice cream to chase it. It’s nothing, just indigestion, just heartburn.
Well, I believe that your cardiologist will tell you not to ignore those symptoms if they persist. That cramped sensation in the chest, that shortness of breath, that tingling in the arms, that might mean a whole lot more than you think. That might mean a serious or even fatal heart attack is coming. And you don’t know. You don’t know how to read the symptoms, unless you are a physician. You don’t know how to diagnose your heartburn.
And most of us indeed do not know how to diagnose our spiritual heartburn. We do not understand our own feelings. We don’t know what is happening to us spiritually. We only know that we feel something, and it isn’t good. We only know that we have some sort of spiritual sickness, some kind of spiritual anxiety. But we don’t know what it is. We don’t know how to diagnose our own spiritual heartburns.
Two men went for a walk one day, just to clear the air, just to rearrange their troubled minds. Two men went for a walk one day, feeling tense, troubled, anxious, upset. They knew they felt something. But they didn’t know exactly what it was. They needed an interpreter. They needed someone to point them to the truth about themselves and their feelings.
These two men had seen their world turned upside down. Completely out of joint. The times had made no sense. These two men, and others like them, had pinned their hopes on a man whose life was so genuine, whose teachings so clear, whose love so wide open… they had pinned their hopes on him, and had hoped that he would have all the answers for what ailed them and what ailed their world. They had felt that now, at last, the desire of all nations had come, and there would be an end to the absurdities with which they had had to live.
But it had all come crashing down just a couple of days before. Their friend had been carelessly and cruelly put on the garbage heap. Executed, like a common criminal. Hung out to dry, so to speak, with ordinary thieves. With scarcely a moment’s notice, with nothing like a fair trial, with no due process. Just shot down, in the prime of life, and for no good reason.
It was absurd. It was meaningless. It was beyond understanding. And the feelings it had kicked up, they did not know how to deal with. They had never felt such despair, never known such distress.
Two men, on a walk, to clear their heads and to feel their feelings. But how could they? Who would interpret their feelings for them? Who would diagnose their heartburn?
And there was more. In addition to the loss of their friend, they had to deal with something else. Now there was a rumor that he was no longer in the tomb where they had so lovingly laid him. Now there was a story that in fact he was alive! Some of the women in their group had said it, some insisted they had even seen him. But what were they to make of this, these men on the road? Not only was it a question of whether they could believe it, intellectually. It was a question of whether they could handle it, emotionally. To have their feelings so toyed with, played with. To be up, hopeful, but then down, despairing – did they dare to hope again? Did they dare to expect again that anything good would come from this world? How did they know what to feel? Who would diagnose their heartburn?
As I work with people, I find that there are two burning issues that everybody raises, deep down in their feelings. There are two questions that everyone, in one way or another, raises, and raises in their hearts. These are heart questions, feeling questions, not intellectual ones. These are not issues for which we are ever going to find hard and fast, airtight answers. But they are the questions around which our lives are lived, and unless somebody will diagnose our heartburns, unless somebody will help us make sense of them, we are going to live without hope and are going to stagger around in a daze.