The Case for Following Your Heart
The heart is where the dirt and divine collide in mystery and splendor. It is often that most tangible way we can sense the spiritual while still confined to the realm of the natural. Even so, the heart sometimes gets a bad rap. The messiness of the human heart has led many to believe pursuing its inmost desires is wrong.
I have wrestled with these thoughts for a long time and have come to this conclusion. Your heart is not evil. Following your heart is not only a good thing; it is how God guides us through life.
Let me explain by covering five misconceptions about following your heart.
5 Reasons to Not Follow Your Heart
Don’t Follow Your Feelings
I often wonder when people say it is a bad idea to follow our hearts if they really mean, “It’s a bad idea to always be led by our feelings.” Of course, living that way would be a disaster. It is why I have to explain to my three-year-old that not wanting to take a bath is not a good reason to not take a bath.
Caving into what our impulses tell us we want in the moment is not the same as following our heart. Following your heart always requires doing things you don’t “feel” like doing to achieve the dream God has given us.
Don’t Give in to Sin
Could it be that when people say we shouldn’t follow our hearts, they mean we shouldn’t follow the desires of our flesh? If that is the case, then again, I would have to agree.
Pursuing the desires of our most authentic self (healed and lead by the Holy Spirit) gives us a reason not to sin; not an excuse to sin. Our hearts, what God draws to Himself, speaks to, and places desires in, is not the same thing as our sinful nature. Following our hearts is not the same as giving in to sin.
Don’t Be Deceived
Maybe you have heard that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” But what about this verse:
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT)
Is it possible that this “deceitful and desperately wicked” heart is describing our condition BEFORE being redeemed by the grace of God? Couldn’t we describe every part of our lives in this way before Christ entered the picture?
Check Your Heart
I also know the phrase, “I’m just following my heart” has been abused. It has been used as an excuse to ignore common sense and do foolish things. Sometimes this a way for people to state they don’t want to be questioned about something they have already made up their minds to do. But that’s not following your heart. Taking directions from temporary feelings rarely lead us anywhere worth going.
This distortion is nothing new. God addresses this twisting of truth in Jeremiah 23:36.
“But stop using this phrase, ‘prophecy from the Lord.’ For people are using it to give authority to their own ideas, turning upside down the words of our God, the living God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Jeremiah 23:36 (NLT)
Cross Over Fear
There is one more reason why we may not follow our hearts, fear. Just because you are afraid, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your heart. You will always have to cross a bridge a faith if you are going to obey God. The argument that you shouldn’t follow your heart is just an excuse to avoid doing so.
In actuality, a lot of the idea of not wanting people to follow their hearts is based on a misunderstanding of semantics. Following your heart is not following your feelings. That is an oversimplification. It is not permission to give in to your sinful desire or an excuse to ignore wisdom and wise counsel. In fact, following your heart involves the opposite of these things.
Following your heart is having the courage to follow the dream(s) God has planted deep into your soul until it blossoms into something that benefits others. It is not self-centered. It is being true to yourself in a way that benefits others.
Following our hearts require we…
Listen to our feelings, but also be able to say no to things that bring temporary pleasure at the expense of our long-term God-given goals.
Trust God’s strength instead of our own, because we will never accomplish the dreams He places in our hearts without His help.
Seek wise counsel and take on more responsibility; not less.
Be willing to wait instead of having our desire met now. Following our hearts will never conflict with producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Have the courage to overcome the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, the fear of change, and other fears that would keep us in our comfort zone away from crossing the bridge of faith.
Keep our eyes on pleasing God even if it means making those around us unhappy by becoming and pursuing something different than what they had imagined for us.
I know for many; this will not be enough to justify following our hearts. While I wish I had more time to discuss this, here are a few scriptures that help make the case to follow our hearts.
“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'” Jeremiah 31:33 (NLT)
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
“You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.” Psalm 21:2 (ESV)
“They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” Romans 2:15 (NLT)
If Christ has come to live in us (Galatians 2:20), has given us a new nature (sit on the throne of our hearts Ephesian 3:17), then why are we still saying that we cannot trust our hearts. It just doesn’t make sense.
Guard Your Heart
You may notice none of these verses permit us to follow our hearts without any thought about the future or consequences. There is a tension that exists between liberty and responsibility. We are free to follow our hearts, but we also have an inherent obligation to maintain the condition of our souls.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)
There are many different ways to “guard your heart,” but one of the most important is often the most overlooked – follow the peace.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
What often accompanies following God’s will is a sense of peace despite uncomfortable circumstances. God wants His will for us more than we want His will for ourselves. We must trust that God loves us enough to still be pleased with us when we pursue His will with a limited understanding.
Your heart is not evil. Following your heart is a good thing and is often how God guides us through life. Have the courage to follow it.
Here are a couple of books I recommend about following your heart.