Watching a movie the other night reminded me of how we are bombarded by media with the message to “follow your heart.” For example, a popular Disney movie has the song that says “if only I knew what my heart was telling me,” and portrays it as the basis on which decisions should be based.
On a more subtle level, here are some examples of ways this message sometimes comes across or gets adopted into our thinking:
- You can rely solely on what you experience or feel to determine the validity of your spiritual condition. For example, you can rely on a warm feeling or experience of happiness for assurance of salvation instead of anchoring your assurance on what God says in His Word about salvation through repentance and belief in His Son. Or you can assume if you don’t “feel” close to God, you’re not.
- You should make decisions based on how you feel–marry someone if you feel in love; divorce them if you don’t.
The problem with following our heart or feelings is that the Bible tells us our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9)! It’s not an accurate gauge to follow.
We need to follow the Truth, which our Maker has shown us in His Word, instead, knowing that He is the One before whom we will have to give an account (Hebrews 4:13) and that His Word is right and true (Psalm 33:4).
The story below illustrates how silly it would be if we applied this same follow-your-heart thinking in ordinary life decisions. I hope you’ll smile, and that the story will help be a reminder to you to live life by God’s Word, not feelings.
P.S. For more on this topic, here’s an excellent podcast by Revive Our Hearts addressing this topic of living by the Truth, not our emotions.
Evelyn decided one morning to live life by following her heart. She woke up with her alarm, and turned it off. Her heart said she needed more sleep. Never mind the fact that she would miss work—she didn’t really feel like working anyway.
When she finally got up, she went to make herself a nutritious smoothie like normal, but then decided her heart longed for sugary cereal instead. So that’s what she had to eat.
After breakfast, she normally exercised, but not today! Her heart certainly said no to that! So she sat and watched TV all morning instead.
A few weeks later, her friend Amelia found her still sitting on the couch. She hardly recognized her dear friend. Evelyn had gained weight to the point that she no longer fit inside her clothes. She was crying when Amelia walked into the room, as she just found out she’d been fired from her job, as she had missed too many days at work.
Evelyn sobbed on her friend’s shoulders. “What will I do? How will I pay my bills?”
Amelia tried to comfort her friend. “What happened?” she asked. “Why didn’t you go to work?”
“I was just trying to follow my heart,” Evelyn sobbed.
Amelia shook her head. “Our hearts don’t make good guides. You have to live life by the truth, Evelyn.”
“I see that now,” Amelia sobbed. “Oh, what do I do?”
Amelia was firm, but kind. “You do what you should have done from the beginning: stop following your heart and live by the truth. Come on, let’s start by getting you cleaned up. It’s going to be a hard road of change, but there’s no time like the present to start.”
With that, Evelyn got up off the couch.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (kjv)