Follow Your Heart?
by Tiffany S.
from Virtuous Daughters, October 2007~Volume 7, Number 7
Follow your heart and your dreams will come true . . . We’ve all heard it. And it does sound reasonable, right? It leads us to believe that we can truly rely on feelings to guide our daily lives… As a result, we’ll be happy and successful. I’m not sure who thought up this quote, but we can be sure he maintained a fervent belief in himself and in his own will.
When a new idea (or even an old idea) is presented to you, what is the proper action to take? Pull out the Word of God and see what He has to say about it. Our Lord’s infinite wisdom and authority is the only instruction that should dominate the way we live our lives. Thus said, when we hear the “follow your heart” notion, we should retreat to the Bible and see if this is a Biblical truth.
I did this, and found that the Scriptures clearly contradict sole belief in personal emotions and desires:
“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhibit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”—Jeremiah 17:5–10
Quite a comparison, isn’t it? The man who believes in himself (his heart) stands in stark contrast to the man who solely trusts in God Almighty. What about this Scripture? “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”—Proverbs 16:9 And lastly, take a look at Matthew 15:18–20 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man . . .”
Some time ago I had the opportunity to listen to [a message that] challenged young people to not rely on their feelings. Do you know why we must not “follow our hearts”? Obviously God did not give us emotions blindly. But Jeremiah 17:7, 9 is firmly clear: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the Lord is. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” [Emphasis added.] Our hearts, more times than not, deceive us into taking the path that God did not intend for us.
I appreciated the speaker’s statement: You follow God’s will and let your heart and emotions follow you! By keeping our focus on God and allowing Him to lead us, we can avoid numerous miseries.
So the Scriptures say that our hearts are deceitful. What does this mean? Following are some interesting synonyms: false, fraudulent, insincere, dishonest, deceptive. If we girls follow our hearts (which we are prone to do!), we may be pursuing lies and wickedness that God obviously does not will for us! Many relationships are based on deceptive emotions, and ultimately, the end result can be broken marriages. The speaker shared that the Bible teaches to love the one you marry, not necessarily marry the one you love.
He also shared the story of a man who came to him for counsel. “My wife and I do not love each other anymore,” the man said, “We have no choice but to break up. What else can we do?”
His response was “Love each other.”
The man said, “No, you don’t understand, we don’t love each other.”
All he could say was, “Love each other,” because that was all there was to say. That was the only option. The only option is to do what’s right and eventually the heart and emotions will start to follow along. Someone has rightly said “Love is a choice, not an emotion.” True love chooses to love forever.
One day our family was discussing a vacation. It had been a long year and all of us were ready for some exciting adventure. As opinions were voiced, I listened intently while thoughts rolled through my mind . . . A hotel and visit tourist attractions? That sounded nice. Back to Colorado? That sounded even better! Wait a minute—camping? Who made that suggestion? No way! Camping? You’ve got to be kidding? You want to pay to sleep in the dirt, cook in a fire pit, and wash dishes in a dirty bucket of water?
For some reason, when that idea was voiced there seemed to be excitement about it. I quickly spoke up. “No, I don’t think so. We want to relax, not work in the grimy dirt. We want to enjoy ourselves. Just think about going to the beautiful camp in the breathtaking mountains—we’ll get three nice, hot, delicious, homemade meals every day, served to us, we could get…” My array of expressive adjectives were of little use; no one seemed to be listening.
A vote was taken and I seemed to be the only one who did not favor the camping idea. I decided, after a gentle reminder from my mother, that I would make the best of the trip and make myself have a good time. That might sound difficult, but in reality it’s not. Even though camping wasn’t exactly the ideal vacation to me, I have learned that I can have a blast pursuing even an idea I was not originally fond of. But I must tell myself “I’m going to make myself have a good time,”—and then do it.
Choosing to be content in this situation will bring me joy and the feeling of happiness will likely follow. I once read this convicting truth: “If you cannot realize your ideal, then at least idealize your real.”
A joyful heart should always accompany obedient actions, regardless of how badly one did not want to obey.
Some people say that God wants everyone to be happy. But that is not true. Happiness is a feeling; joy is a choice. Happiness comes and goes; joy should be steadfast. Happiness is a result of circumstances; joy is a result of knowing Jesus and acting in obedience to Him. I’m happy when I get a Nestles chocolate crunch bar; I’m joyful whether I get one or not. Do you see the difference?
David Brainerd was a missionary to Indians in the 1700s. Having suffered from emotional stress, he would frequently remind others, “Do not trust your feelings. Rely on God’s promises in the Word of God.” Mr. Brainerd’s brother also became a missionary, leaving him with some advice about how easily “people can be fooled by relying on their feelings or emotions that they really believe in God and serve Him.” He wrote, “Let me tell you, it is the ‘the devil transformed into the angel of light;’ that always springs up with every revival of religion and stabs and murders the cause of God, while it passes current with multitudes of well meaning people for the height of religion. Set yourself, my brother, to crush all appearances of this nature, among the Indians, and never encourage any degrees of heat without light.”
Jonathan Edwards specifically appreciated the way “David . . . based his salvation not on personal feelings and sensational experiences. His personal piety was based upon the Bible, the Word of God, and his sole aim in life was to glorify God. That was why he could be a singular example to others.”
Many years ago, I had a courageous desire to be a missionary. I wanted to serve God—regardless of the cost or sacrifice! As a young child, I honestly believed that after graduation, I would be laboring in a foreign country, telling others of His love and leading them to Christ. One morning as I read my Bible, the Lord showed me this verse: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”—Proverbs 16:9 “Does this mean You may not lead me to be a foreign missionary?” I prayed with hesitation. I was not sure, but I began to feel that possibly it was my own desire to go on the mission field and God may want me home. I accepted that if God had other plans for my life, I would have to reconcile my heart's desire and yield to God’s will.
Although I still have a burden for the lost, I clearly see God’s direction concerning my life, and at the time being it is not to witness on the streets of a foreign field. However, I have learned that while my heart desires something (even if it is a “good” thing), God may have different plans and I must cheerfully take up my cross and follow Him. His will is always best.
Your heart may lead you astray from God’s ways—then don’t pursue it! If you have an idea, desire, or wish, pray about it. See if it is your desire or God’s desire. As you follow God’s will, your heart will join you and the feelings will tag along.
Carrie’s heart wants to play a game that is against her parents’ approval. What should she do? If she obeys their authority cheerfully, she will quickly find that joyfulness—and even happy feelings—accompany obedience.
Amanda’s heart wants to get straight to her agenda in the morning rather than having personal devotions. What should she do? If she heeds the prompting of the Holy Spirit and willingly spends time in the Word of God, she will quickly find that much wisdom is to be gained from spending quality time with Jesus Christ. And true wisdom reaps true success.
Nora’s heart tells her that there is a certain young man she thinks is “the one.” What should she do? If she quiets those thoughts and trusts in her parents and the Lord, He will one day reveal who He has chosen to be her husband and that His plans are beyond her greatest dreams.
Betsy has formed a bad habit and her heart is resistant to breaking it. What should she do? If she exercises self-control and self-discipline, she will quickly reap the countless benefits of godly character and worthy habits.
Sue’s heart is saying, “Why should you clear your conscience and ask forgiveness of your mom for such a silly little thing? That really isn’t even much of a sin!” What should she do? If she chooses to humbly make restitution, she will soon find the peace that comes from a clear conscience.
Elizabeth’s heart wants to dress in a manner that is accepted by the world and her peers. What should she do? If she remembers that the outward should be a reflection of inward beauty and humility, she will soon find that God is true to His Word and honors those Who honor Him.
Doralinda’s heart wants to “get out in the world” and “do” something besides be of service to her family and friends. What should she do? If she learns to meekly view the mundane tasks as God’s way of teaching her character and service to His people, she will soon find fulfillment in being where He intended her to be—home!
I recently heard the following statement: “‘Your actions will determine your emotions.’ . . . Do you want to feel good doing right even if you do not like it right now? Just do it anyway! See how much it changes the way you think and feel.”2
Never forget it, girls. Our hearts can be deceitful. Put your trust in the Lord Who made you and knows you better than you know yourself. You may confidently follow His will for your life because it is in the center of His will that you will be safe and joyful! (And if you do it willingly, happiness will often accompany your obedience too!)
As you abide in Christ and seek His will, the things which you are supposed to do will be revealed to you. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”—Matthew 26:41
Clarification: We all have heard people say that “so and so” really has a heart for the Lord. This can be very true of that person. But he has chosen to direct his heart toward the ways of God and to follow God’s will. This simply means that this person, while his fleshly desires still battle with what is right, has been strong in the Lord. The fact that he has a “heart for the Lord” is a way of saying that his entire being has been devoted to the ways of his Savior.
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