“Just follow your heart.”
It’s the stuff that Disney movies are made of. It’s about actualizing yourself and your potential; it’s about living your dreams; it’s about living happily ever after. It’s also a terrible piece of advice.
This is one of the hard parts about being a parent. As a parent, you want to see many of the above things happen in the lives of your children. You want to see them achieve their potential, chase after their dreams, and for them to be happy. But beyond that, you want them to find the joy and freedom of living under the lordship of Jesus so that their potential, their dreams, and their happiness is the most true and the most real it can be. If that’s true, then we have to tell our own souls, and somehow navigate the waters of teaching our children, that we should not base our decisions in life on following our hearts. Here are three reasons why:
1. Your heart won’t tell you the truth.
I, like you probably are, am a master at self-deception. I can trick myself into thinking the best of myself in virtually any situation. The prophet was onto something when he said, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:6). If it’s happened once, it’s happened a thousand times to me. I do something, something (dare I say) good for someone else, and then in retrospect find that I didn’t really do that thing for them, but for myself. It was so that others would see me doing it. It was to garner praise from the person I was helping. It was to impressively display my aptitude or compassion for another. It happens all the time. And every time it happens, I’m reminded of something that’s as true as it is disturbing:
I cannot trust my own heart. And neither can you. Our hearts, like all other parts of ourselves, have been corrupted by sin. We have misshapen values, misplace priorities, and misguided emotions. We can’t just follow our hearts because our hearts will not tell us the truth.
2. God is not finished with you.
All of us are in process. God’s will and plan for all of us who are Christians is that we are being transformed into the image of Christ. This is not an immediate change, but instead is a lifelong process that involves all of who we are. We typically think about sanctification in terms of our behavior, and it certainly entails that. But God is not satisfied with behavioral change only; He is holistic in His desire. He is sanctifying us at all levels, including our emotions.
It’s a glorious thing to think that slowly, but surely the Holy Spirit is helping us to not only do the right thing, but feel the right thing. But again, that is a slow process, and God is not finished with us yet. Because He’s not, we aren’t yet in a position to follow our hearts. We would do well to pursue the kind of humility that recognizes this unfinished work.
3. You have something better to follow.
Our hearts are deceptive. They will lead us astray. But fortunately for us, we have something better than our own hearts to follow – we have Jesus. And Jesus loves us too much to not tell us the truth. In a world of half-truths, mostly-truths, and non-truths, we have a Word of truth at our fingertips. We have a God who loves us too much not to be honest with us. Of course, that means opening the Bible is not always a comforting experience. In its pages, we will find the Holy Spirit challenging our thoughts, our behaviors, our fears, and our doubts. But in each case, we can be confident that God is telling us the truth even if the truth is not necessarily something we want to hear.
A piece of great news here – we don’t HAVE to follow our hearts, because we have something more stable, more trustworthy, and infinitely more reliable to follow.