If we hear the phrase “follow your heart” one more time it will be too soon! We see and hear this phrase continually! It’s all over the place. And sadly, most people go along with it. But here’s our own Confession Time: We used to fall for the sentimentality of that phrase too. That’s what’s ironic about this matter. I (Cindy) thought it romantically made sense. I love romance. We both do. So, why not follow your heart into romance? But the more I/we think about it and hold it up to the Bible—we both realize it’s childish, foolish talk. It makes sense to the world, but not to God. And if God doesn’t give it value, neither should we.
Essentially, when we’re told “follow your heart” we’re being advised to follow our feelings. And we don’t know about you, but we’ve followed our feelings down some bad paths. Children do this all the time. And where does that lead? It’s usually not good.
You might reason that we aren’t children. (Although we all have to admit that we can act pretty childish at times.) Yes, most of us have matured on many matters since our childhood. But when it comes to matters of the heart, we can be fooled. God recognizes that, and so should we. In the Bible we’re told that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, we can be fooled, and we can fool others. (Many times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it!) And then when it comes to following our heart (our feelings) into marriage, and throughout marriage, we can run into trouble.
Follow Your Heart?
“When we follow our feelings into marriage, we can also follow our feelings right out of marriage. As quickly as you fall in love, you can fall out of love. Because feelings come and go, those who build the foundation of their marriage on how they feel will certainly find their marriage crumbling. Feelings are fickle; but faith is not. It’s easy to follow our hearts, but it takes courage to lead our hearts.” (Debra Fileta)
And that’s the point we want to make here, are you following your heart, or leading your heart? What do we mean by that?
First, let’s back up just a bit to establish why we should not follow our hearts. And then we’ll go right into how to lead your heart. On this issue, Stephen and Alex Kendrick made some great points in their book, The Love Dare (in the appendix) that are spot on! They wrote:
“What’s Wrong with Following My Heart?
It’s Foolish. The world says, ‘Follow your heart!’ This is the philosophy of new age gurus, self-help seminars, and romantic pop songs. Because it sounds romantic and noble, it sells millions of records and books. The problem is that following your heart usually means chasing after whatever feels right at the moment whether or not it actually is right. It means throwing caution and conscience to the wind and pursuing your latest whims and desires regardless of what good logic and counsel are saying. The Bible says, ‘He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered’ (Proverbs 28:26).
It’s Unreliable. People forget that feelings and emotions are shallow, fickle, and unreliable. They can fluctuate depending upon circumstances. In an effort to follow their hearts, people have abandoned their jobs to reignite a lousy garage band, lost their life savings following a whim on a horse race, or left their lifelong mate in order to chase an attractive coworker who’s been married twice already. What feels right in the height of sweet emotion often feels like a sour mistake a few years later. This selfish philosophy is also the source of countless divorces. It leads many to excuse themselves from their lifelong commitments because they no longer ‘feel in love.’
It’s Corrupt. The truth is our hearts are basically selfish and sinful. The Bible says, ‘The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said, ‘Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders’ (Matthew 15:19). Unless our hearts are genuinely changed by God, they will continue to choose wrong things.”
We couldn’t have said it any better! Following your heart sounds good; but according to God it ISN’T good. Which one of us isn’t foolish sometimes? Can we really trust the reliability of our emotions? And what about being selfish and sinful? Do you find yourself fanning those flames?
Years ago, following our hearts almost lead us to the divorce court. We’ve since learned that our emotions can too often be unreliable. We continually want to do or say some things that we should NOT! And sadly, we go down that childish road. (Can you relate?) But God’s teaching us to be more intentional in leading our hearts. With “practice” we’re much better about not going down those foolish paths. And with practice there is progress. YEAH GOD!
But it takes real alertness because selfishness is an inherent part of being a human being. We all want what we want when we want it. We just have to make sure that our wants don’t go against what God says we should or should do. And we have to make sure they don’t hurt our marriage partnership.
Do You Habitually Follow Your Heart?
So, how do we get out of the habit (and it CAN be a habit) of following our heart? And how can we instead lead our heart in a godly, wise direction? Here’s a bit more insight from Stephen and Alex Kendrick from one of the appendixes of their book, The Love Dare. They wrote:
“The Scriptures communicate a much stronger message than ‘follow your heart.’ The Bible instructs you to lead your heart. This means to take full responsibility for its condition and direction. Realize that you do have control over where your heart is. You have been given power by God to take your heart off one thing and to set it on something else. The following verses communicate a message of leading your heart:
Proverbs 23:17 “Do not let your heart envy sinners.”
Proverbs 23:19 “Direct your heart in the way.”
1 Kings 8:61 “Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God.”
John 14:27 “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
James 4:8 “Purify your hearts.”
James 5:8 “Strengthen your hearts.”
How Do I Lead My Heart?
First, you need to understand that your heart follows your investment. Whatever you pour your time, money, and energy into will draw your heart.
Check your heart. One of the keys to successfully leading your heart is to constantly be aware of where it is. Do you know what has your heart right now? You can tell by looking at where your time has gone in the past month, where your money has gone, and what you keep talking about.
Guard your heart. When something unhealthy tempts your heart, it is your responsibility to guard it against temptation. The Bible says, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). Don’t let your heart put money or your work above God and your family. Don’t let your heart lust after the beauty of a woman/man. (See: Proverbs 6:25.) The Bible says, ‘If riches increase, do not set your heart on them’ (Psalms 62:10 NKJV).
Set your heart. The apostle Paul taught, ‘Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God’ (Colossians 3:1 NIV). It’s time to identify where your heart needs to be and then choose to set your heart on those things. You say, ‘But I don’t really want to invest in the right areas. I’d rather be doing this or that.’ I know. You’ve set your heart on that in the past and you are stuck in a ‘follow your heart’ mentality. But you don’t have to let your feelings lead you anymore…
Invest in your heart. Don’t wait until you feel like doing the right thing. Don’t wait until you feel in love with your spouse to invest in your relationship. Start pouring into your marriage and investing where your heart is supposed to be.”
Again, we couldn’t have said it any better. We totally agree!
Geoff Robson gave this great advice about leading your heart:
“The biblical way is to forget about following our hearts. Instead, we should lead our hearts where they need to go. We should set our hearts where they need to be. Or, to put it another way, we should spend hardly any time listening to the little voice inside us and instead spend lots of time listening to the big, clear, trustworthy voice of God in the pages of the Bible. As we do that, His Spirit will transform our hearts so that, one step at a time, they become a little less taken with the things of this world and a little more fixed on the things of God. Set your heart on things above. Lead your heart.” (From Geoff Robson’s article, “Stop Following Your Heart, Start Leading your Heart“)
So, here are a few scriptures that can help you to set and lead your heart. We continually look to and apply these scriptures in our own marriage, so we lead with God’s heart. We encourage you to do the same.
First, look to the Lord in trust and do NOT lean upon your own understanding. Go God’s way. He will help you as you walk His way—often the opposite of how you feel about a matter.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Also, when you’re tempted to follow your heart’s leading, instead pray:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
Pray, confess whatever you should, and then be quiet and listen for God’s quiet promptings. It may take a while; but wait upon the Lord. He will guide you. Make sure you daily read God’s Word—the Bible, for guidance. Continually feast and learn from all God wants to teach you. And then go God’s way. That’s how you lead your heart in the way “everlasting.” You may not think this is as romantic, but you will eventually see that it is. God is all about romancing His bride. God is love and He will teach you to love like no other!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
If you are not a subscriber to the Marriage Insights (emailed out weekly)
and you would like to receive them directly, click onto the following:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Insights