Our modern society is saturated in the self-serving motto, “Just Follow Your Heart.” It’s pretty much the theme in every Disney movie ever made. It’s in all our popular music. The words are heard by thousands all over the world lying on the office couches of professional therapists and sitting across tables from dear friends offering counsel. It’s a lovely, appealing concept because it feels good. It feels good because it basically just means, “Do what feels right.” That’s why so many apply it to their own lives and decisions.
Everyone has done this sometime in life. Every devastated teen who finds out she’s pregnant unexpectedly after thinking no one would find out. Every woman who finds herself in an abusive marriage because she chose to ignore the signs before the wedding. Every man who can’t believe he’s inadvertently traded a loving spouse, a home, a family, for a reckless fling that meant little or nothing. Every celebrity who compromised Christian values in order to obtain his or her dream of fame. Every political leader who chooses what he knows will be the most popular rather than what he instinctively knows is right.
Indeed, I remember times in my own life when I “followed my heart”. Like the time when I impulsively jumped in the Mediterranean with all my clothes on while in Greece (okay, that wasn’t so bad). Times in college when I chose to sit with friends in my comfort zone rather than pushing myself to sit with those who were alone. Times when I chose to go out with the popular guy rather than the godly guy (obviously, I chose right in the end on that one!). Times when I found myself believing I could help to change an abusive boyfriend.
But “following our hearts” isn’t just a modern mistake people make. Its billions of deceived go back to the very first man, who followed his heart when he listened to the beguiling voice of his dazzling wife as she advised him to eat the forbidden fruit with her. That same faulty state of mind was inherited by Adam’s firstborn as he reasoned, “surely God would accept my gift, since it comes from my heart.” That same reasoning is seen in so many other Biblical figures who believed God would accept anything from the heart, such as the “strange fire” created by Nadab and Abihu, and the impulsive jerk reaction of Uzzah when he reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant with his hand. Most people today use the same logic (or lack thereof) when they reason, “Surely God will accept the worship that comes straight from my heart. The minute details aren’t what matters.”
Did you know that the Bible says an awful lot about following your heart? For instance, when the world says, “Go with your gut,” God says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). When the world says, “Do what feels right,” God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Obviously, the heart is a faulty source of direction for our lives, however right it may feel.
You see, God never intended for us to be led by our hearts (our feelings). He wanted us to be led by His Spirit—the will and testament He left for us when he sacrificed His Son on the cross (Romans 8:14). God made it possible, through that sacrifice, for us to be led by divine wisdom rather than fleshly emotions. Focus on these words from Galatians 5:24-25: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” But I have such passion, such deafening profundity in my feelings! Am I to just disregard how I feel about everything?! Fortunately, God gives us an alternative—an answer for what to do with our misleading hearts. He doesn’t tell us to ignore or disregard our feelings. Instead, He tells us to redirect our feelings toward Him, allowing Him to form them.
My favorite solution for this quandary is found in Proverbs 4:23, where the inspired author writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” If we value our dreams and earthly desires more than we value what God has in store for us, we can easily be led astray from what truly matters. Jesus knew this when He said, “…whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Our Lord made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross—He gave His everything for us, and He expects us to, in turn, make ourselves living sacrifices for Him. I have to remind myself: If God asks me to give up something that I care about, it’s because He has something better in store for me.
I may not be all the way there yet, but I believe that, as I grow older, I will, with God’s help, also grow in wisdom. With that growth, I believe that what’s in my heart and what God has planned for me will grow more and more one in the same—that my feelings and God’s plans will become more aligned as I learn to trust Him more. That’s my prayer anyway. May it be your prayer as well—as you face the tough decisions with which all of us female soldiers are faced every day.
And remember to
follow your heart do what feels right “trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).