On the surface it seems like the best advice to tell someone making a big decision in their life. One suffering in grief. One anxious over a job situation. One in the midst of their first attraction to a member of the opposite gender. One fearful of how decisions today will effect tomorrow. So we say, “Just follow your heart!”
I’m old enough to have learned a few things and one is that the heart is filled with feelings and feelings can be deceiving. I’ve also come to understand that as a Christian faith is not always logical. This means I’ve learned one more thing, to seek the answers in the place I know the answers are honest and steadfast – the Word of God.
My NIV dictionary tells me that the heart (for modern usage) is the seat of the affections (Gen. 18:5; Ps 62:10) and the seat of the intellect (Gen 6:5) and of the will (Ps 119:2). According to Genesis 6:6 it also signifies the innermost being. The word heart is used over 900 times in the Word, almost never literally with the exception of Exodus 28:29.
As Christians we encourage and seek people to “let Jesus come into their heart”. We use the analogy that Jesus is knocking on their hearts door waiting to come in. Faith, we know, often defies logic – for that is the wonderful and freeing part of faith. And of the 900 plus references to the heart in scripture I found:
- Mans heart has got him in trouble (or her) since before Noah. Genesis 6:5-6 “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (NIV)
- Deuteronomy 4:29 reads, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
- The Lord doesn’t look at how we look outwardly but at the person we are on the inside in our hearts. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:29)
- Proverbs is rich in instruction about the heart including 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
- Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 and in 15:18 “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things make a man unclean.” as well in 22: 37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
As believers in Jesus we can’t “just follow our hearts” alone for clearly a heart out of sync with God is going to lead us to decisions that are outside of His will. To keep a heart capable of knowing and acting upon the word of God we must fill it with the same. That means not merely giving lip service to Him but having a RELATIONSHIP with Hm and yielding to His guidance. We also can’t approach our faith life from an intellectual viewpoint alone either.
Faith defies logic. Faith says wait when our hearts say go. Faith holds on in the storm when our hearts seek the first possible refuge whether it is of God or not. Faith is walking the other road when society walks another. Sometimes our faith conflicts with our heart and it is those times we must cling to our faith-based on what our heart knows and not on what our minds tell us.
I’ve gone through such a faith crisis many times and I once wrote, “Faith is walking into the largest, darkest room with your fear because you know there is a light on the ceiling and a switch on the wall. But I got 1/2 way across the room and simply can’t go any further. It’s not the absence of God it is the absence of me.”
Had I listened merely to my heart’s emotions I would have given up. Had I listened to logical thinking I would have given up. But in listening with faith in my heart entwined with God I found myself belly crawling across that dark room until I reached the wall and though I floundered, God guided my fingers to the light switch.
To each of those who stumble through a faith crisis I urge them to not stop seeking God’s answer in His Word. I remind them that God can handle our questions and our doubts.
What about you? Where does your heart and your faith meet?