Have you ever asked someone for advice, and they told you, “Just trust your heart”? Or perhaps they told you, “Follow your heart.” That sounds so encouraging, and empowering, and it makes us feel good to “follow our hearts”; but the truth is, that’s terrible advice! Sadly, I’ve probably given that advice, and certainly have followed it at times in my life. And whether it’s as a wife, a mom, a teacher, a friend, or in any other capacity, if that is the advice I’m giving or following, I am making a huge mistake.
Do some of these quotes look familiar?
“There is no set path, just follow your heart.”
“Follow your heart, and your dreams will come true.”
“Stop thinking so much and follow your heart.”
“Don’t follow the rules. Follow your heart.”
“Follow your heart. It knows the way.”
And here’s one that’s only slightly better,
“Follow your heart, but take your brains with you.”
All these sayings (and many more) appeal to our flesh, to our innate pride and desire to do our own thing and trust ourselves; however, the Bible warns us to beware of trusting, or following, our hearts. Proverbs tells us plainly, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool…” (Pro. 28:26). That goes completely against the grain of the world’s philosophies, and frankly, it goes against our grain personally. We want to be able to trust ourselves, to follow our feelings and desires, and to believe that no matter what choices we make, it’s all going to be ok because “I followed my heart.”
So, why shouldn’t we follow our hearts?
First, because our hearts will fail us. We can think that we are strong. We can believe that we are certain of what we want. The reality is that our hearts fail us time and time again. Sometimes they fail us because of fear. Sometimes they fail us because we are foolish. And sometimes they fail us because they are fragmented by suffering, betrayal, or grief. But you can be assured of this – our hearts are prone to failure, and it is hard when we discover that we are not as strong as we thought we were.
Second, our hearts will fool us. This one hurts to admit even more than the first, but God’s Word teaches us that our hearts are “deceitful and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) We think we know our hearts, but we don’t. We think we know our motives, and our emotions, and our desires, but we really don’t. It can be very confusing at times. I can’t tell you the number of women I have spoken with who have “followed their hearts”, and found themselves betrayed, broken, and bewildered.
Our hearts will deceive us, and one of the most difficult things to face is not that others have deceived us, but that we have deceived ourselves. It is humiliating and overwhelmingly painful to realize that the lie we have believed, and followed, and lived by, is the lie that we have told ourselves.
That seems like a lot of bad news! If we can’t trust our hearts, how can we make decisions and know that we are doing right? How can you and I deal with a heart that fails us and fools us?
Place Your Faith in the Word of God, Not in Your Heart
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. “ (Ps. 28:7)
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
Emotions are God-given, and are important, but you and I cannot place our trust in our intellect or our emotions, unless they are acting in obedience to the Word of God. I know that my emotions can change from day to day (even moment to moment!). My mind can change, and my thoughts are not His thoughts. God’s Word does not change. I can have full confidence in it. I can trust it to remain the same through any circumstances, in any culture, and at every crossroad in my life.
This really is the crux of the matter for each of us – who do I trust, myself or God? Will I choose to believe in Him with all of my heart, or will I believe in myself? For our eternal salvation, and for every aspect of daily life, we are faced with this decision, and what we decide determines our destiny. (Rom. 10:8-17)
Make Your Heart a Follower, Not a Leader
Submit and commit your heart to the only One who knows it fully, and will lead it in the right way. (Ps. 40:8; 69:32; 94:15; 119:10, 36; Pro. 3:5-6)
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Pro. 14:12)
“I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” (Ps. 119:32, 34-35)
Fix Your Heart on God
“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid…” (Ps. 112:7-8)
“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Ps. 57:7; 108:1)
Determine that you will love God with all of your heart. Anchor your heart to Him (Heb. 6:18-19). Set your affection on Him (Col. 3:2). Make Him your preeminent love (Mt. 22:37). Make pleasing Him your preeminent desire. Make glorifying Him your preeminent aim. Keep your eyes on Him. Keep your mind on Him.
Follow Jesus Christ. Obey His Word. Love Him with all your heart. That’s good advice!