Dealing with the burning in our hearts for God

Columnist Emily Carson says holy heartburn is a symptom of our desire to walk with God.

Holy Everything — Emily Carson column sig
We are part of The Trust Project.

Certain variations of heartburn signal spiritually significant moments. Learning to notice this sensation increases our awareness of divine presence.

There's a heartburn story in the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible. It’s about a couple of fellows who walked a whole day with the resurrected Jesus without recognizing his identity. One was named Cleopas and the other’s name was not mentioned. They were sad as they strolled down the road because a man named Jesus, who they valued immensely, had been crucified. As they journeyed by foot to a town called Emmaus, they did what grieving people sometimes do; they shared stories and attempted to stitch together some meaning from the mess.

While they were talking, Jesus joined them and asked what they're talking about. They explained that an important man had been killed; they felt disappointed because they’d imagined that he was going to be the one to bring freedom and redemption. Jesus, whose true identity was still unknown to them at the time, began to interpret Scripture with his walking companions.

After a day of traveling together, their feet covered in dust, the guys asked Jesus to stay with them for the evening. He agreed. At the very moment that Jesus blessed and broke the bread they were eating for dinner, the two men suddenly recognized him, and then Jesus vanished.

They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" Even though it was late, they then walked the 7 miles back to Jerusalem so they could tell the disciples about their profound encounter.


Cleopas and his friend had experienced holy heartburn. They were literally walking with God, and while they couldn’t initially comprehend it with their minds, they felt it in their bodies. It wasn’t until after Jesus’ identity was made clear that they were able to connect the dots between the sensation in their chests and the divinity of their walking buddy.

Luke first wrote his telling of the story in the Greek language. “Hearts burning” in its original Greek form was “kardia kaio.” Kaio can be translated to mean “giving light” or “burning.” In our lives today, sometimes “kardia kaio” feels like a gentle sensation in our hearts that leads us into deepened wisdom about how to handle a situation. Other times, “kardia kaio” feels like an unmistakable, burning of our heart as God intervenes with a divine disruption.

Holy heartburn occurs in all kinds of environments. God can share clarifying wisdom through conversations, books, worship, meditation and nature. Our invitation is to notice “kardia kaio” when it arises, and then respond.

The two people who walked with Jesus had experienced a burning in their chests hours before they recognized the significance of the sensation. Once they realized what the feeling meant, they couldn’t wait to share their experience with others.

Take a little time to reflect. When have you recently felt your heart burning, and what did you do in response?

May we all learn to recognize holy heartburn as a divine light source. May its presence serve as a reminder that God is close at hand, and we are never traveling alone.

"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website .

What To Read Next
This week, gardening columnist Don Kinzler fields questions about planting potatoes, rabbit-resistant shrubs, and how to prevent tomato blossom end rot.
Trends include vegetable gardens in raised pods and a continuing surge in using native plants and grasses.
With its soft and gooey center surrounded by a crisp exterior, kladdkaka is the perfect cross between a brownie and a molten lava cake.
Becky Montpetit runs the resource website, and also keeps tabs on the goings on in the Twin Cities.