Follow your heart?

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is? – Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)

“Just follow your heart and you can’t go wrong.”  Have you ever heard this kind of statement before?  Maybe you’ve heard it couched in the form of well-intentioned advice from a friend.  Sure sounds right doesn’t it?  When faced with a perplexing decision of signficant importance that may have life changing implications and there seems to be no immediate answer,  how could deciding to follow what our hearts tell us be wrong?

Allow me to give you a possible reason, from personal experience, that may provide some evidence why such a sentiment may be deceptive and critically erroneous.  In 1999, I followed my heart’s desires and the tragic consequences were widespread and the ensuing heart-ache, to greater or lesser degrees, are still evident.  It is absolutely and only because of God’s grace and mercy that my determination to follow my heart, or rather what my heart told me was right for me has not ended in total destruction or ultimately death.  The sad fact is that I was so deeply convinced that what my heart was directing me to do was so right, that NOTHING any one advised me to the contrary was even remotely considered or heeded.  Because of this, I cringe every time I hear someone say, “Well, I just have to follow my heart,” in one matter or another.  And even worse, when I hear a follower of Christ say that they are hearing God tell them something that is obviously contrary to what His Word and teachings prescribe.

So, how can we discern without confusion the difference in what our deceptive heart is telling us is right to desire, and what God Himself is permitting or compelling us to pursue?  Or, in the words of a wise friend of mine, “How can we know that what we’re feeling is God and not just a bad bean burrito?”

In “Experiencing God,” Henry Blackaby’s wonderful teaching program about knowing and doing the will of God, he gives seven spiritual markers for the believer to utilize in determining that will.  The fourth of these guidelines assures us that God does speak clearly and indicates how best to know that it is His voice.  It says, “God speaks by the Holy Spirit, through the Bible [What does the truth of Scripture say…confirm?], prayer [Communication with God is two-way involving speaking our desires and hearing His] , circumstances [Are we attempting to control our circumstances or depending on God’s purpose and plan?], and the church [What kind of wise counsel are you receiving/heeding from trustworthy fellow believers/spiritual leaders within your circle of Christian fellowship?]  to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.”  If this is sound advice (and I am convinced that it is), then what is intentionally missing from it is any conclusion to simply “follow your heart,” and let the chips fall where they may.

The counsel of the heart may seem efficient for Hollywood, or Dr. Phil or Oprah or even the best intentions of Lucy Van Pelt from her sidewalk “Psychiatry for a nickle” stand, but it is not sufficient to God and not His best for us.  The only means by which we may be assured that what the heart is telling us is verifiably true, is by unconditionally surrendering it to God and having that heart replaced by His.  Feeling your heart beat?  Make sure it is in cadence with the pulse of the Holy Spirit.  Following our heart is often the easiest thing to do…following Christ’s heart seldom is.


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