If your doctor told you today that you had an enlarged heart, this would not be good news. Cardiomegaly, as it’s officially called, can lead to all sorts of problems, including congestive heart failure. So, when it comes to your physical heart, you do not want it to be any larger than it is already.
But that’s not true when it comes to your spiritual heart, your inner being, your soul. Here, enlargement is quite fine, at least according to the Westminster Larger Catechism. This classic seventeenth-century teaching tool asks the question, “How are we to pray?” (#185). It answers this way: “We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon him, with humble submission to his will.”
Notice, we are to pray with “penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts.” I would suggest that the juxtaposition of “thankful” and “enlarged” is not accidental. Gratitude enlarges our hearts, making us more open, more thoughtful, more loving. Consider Psalm 9:1, for example: “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Notice how thanksgiving and wholeheartedness go hand in hand. We give thanks, not just with part of our inner being, but with all that we are. When we consider all that God has done, when we acknowledge him with gratitude, not only does God receive the honor he is due, but also our hearts become unified and even larger.
Consider the people you know whom you’d think of as big-hearted, people who love well, who enjoy life, who share themselves freely, who are always open to what God has for them. I expect you’ll find that they are grateful people, people who are aware of how richly they have been blessed, people who speak and live gratefully.
I want to be one of those people. I expect you do too. So, if you want an enlarged heart, why not begin by thanking God for all of his marvelous works!
P.S. You can find more of my writings on Thanksgiving at this link: Thanksgiving: Not Just a Day But A Season.