Embedded in our culture is the proverb to “follow your heart.” The idea is that we are what we are, what we are is basically good, and we should let what we are take us wherever it leads. This way of living is thought to be authentic and true to oneself.
On one level, there may be some wisdom in following your heart. When choosing a career, it seems best to try to find something that you like to do, as opposed to doing something you think everyone expects you to do. And, it is perfectly ok to have likes and dislikes based on your personality, and to choose accordingly. My wife and I follow our hearts down different paths when we stand at the counter of our favorite ice cream shop.
On another level, following the heart is the worst thing we can do. The heart, understood as the Bible speaks of it, will lead us down a road that may in the short-term seem good and true to ourselves, but in the end will be far away from God and life as it is meant to be.
The heart is the Bible’s term for the core of our being where we hold values and make choices that determine what we do and how we live. In the Bible, the heart is the inner place where we relate to God. It is our soul.
Naturally (meaning by ourselves without the grace of God at work in us) our hearts are selfish and oriented toward sin. To follow our hearts would be to walk away from God. But God, being rich in mercy, changes our hearts. By grace we are saved. He cleanses our hearts of sin and makes them new and alive to his love, will, and ways. But, we still struggle with temptations to sin and to live in ways that look more like our lives before we were saved. This leaves us frustrated and wondering what to do with our hearts.
The wisdom of God calls us to direct our hearts. Proverbs 23:19 says, “Hear and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” The person whose heart is clean and new by God’s grace is called to direct it toward God by faith. We do not passively follow our wandering hearts wherever they lead, we actively engage them and direct them to follow Christ in his way.
The question I often hear from people is: what do I do with my heart? What do I do when I am cold toward God and people, when I wander away in indifference, when my heart is just not in it? I often find that people simply give in to the cold and wandering heart and follow it wherever it leads.
The Lord gives us a better way. He has made us clean and new, and he has given us the resources of his Spirit, his Word, and his church. With these he calls us to direct our hearts in the way of life.
This Sunday at Grace we will take up the proverb that comes from the mouth of God to direct our hearts toward him. Will you pray this weekend for the Lord to help us?