Every day brings with it a hundred decisions for which we are responsible. Most of them we make without much thought, like getting dressed, making breakfast, wiping noses, or driving the same route over and over again. But then there are decisions that we need to make that take much thought and prayer. We agonize over some of them and often rely on the counsel of others. In the midst of these big decisions we receive one terrible piece of advice. You know it well. “Just follow your heart.”
I know following “your heart” sounds wise. People have the best intentions when sayng it. It’s like telling someone to do what they believe is most important. Or encouraging someone to do what they love. This is the stuff of romantic stories that end happily ever after. But since we all live in the real world, and not in the land of make believe, we need to stay away from the storybook advice of following our hearts. Why? Because it assumes that our hearts are worth following.
Following our hearts is such a bad idea is because our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). The heart can be so bad that it is deadly, especially when it says “that there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). More than anything else our heart is wicked and evil. Mark 7 21,22 tells us about all the nasty things our heart can crank out.
Sometimes the corruption pours forth like a flood, like when we lose our temper, lie, cheat or hurt someone. At other times the sins found there are more subtle, trickling out without much notice by passers-by. Follow your heart? Only a fool follows one he cannot trust.
Following your heart means that you somehow know what is best, and do not need the wisdom of others. Following your heart means that somehow you have become the ultimate authority, and no longer need to hear “Thus says the Lord.”
Some may be might be quick to point out that as Christians we have new hearts, given to us by God. You may even think I’m being overly negative and pessimistic in my view of humanity. The image of God shines in all people, including the wicked. Christians have received new hearts that beat with love for God. Yet sin remains with us, and it will do us no good to look to our heart, even our new heart, to lead us in the way we ought to go. Instead we must always look to the Lord in whom our heart trusts.
How do we do this?
When we are faced with important decisions we should be quick to pray, to seek wisdom in God’s people, and truth in God’s word. In fact we must be careful not to listen to the whispers of our heart until we have first measured everything against the word of God. Know God’s word well. As disciples it is our calling to submit ourselves, our hearts, and our decisions to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This is a very important lesson to teach to our children. To help them understand and see that our feelings are not always accurate and that our hearts can, and will, lead us in the wrong direction. God word is the only measure for what is right, true and pure (Psalm 19).
Do not follow your heart, but the Maker of your heart. As Rich Mullins sang,
They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He’s the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him.”