“Follow your heart,” we like to say. That is common advice for us to give someone who is trying to make a tough decision. What we are really saying in that moment is that the person should choose whichever option they feel is best. “Do whatever you feel,” we might as well say. Is this good advice, though? Should we be doing whatever we feel? Should we actually follow our hearts? Will our hearts lead us in the right direction? Let’s examine Scripture to see!
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
God, through the prophet Jeremiah, says that a heart is deceitful above anything else and desperately sick. That is quite the compliment! Does that make you excited to follow your heart? Imagine that you had a friend who God would describe as deceitful above all things and not just sick, but desperately sick. Would you trust that person enough to follow him or her? Absolutely not! Why, then, do we trust our hearts enough to follow them? I do not believe that our hearts will always lead us astray, but I do think the deceit blinds us more than we may realize.
Perhaps the biggest evidence of a heart’s deceit is our extreme sensationalism. In other words, we take our feelings and circumstances and give them more equity than they often deserve. “I feel like I should do this or that,” we say. When we have a high emotional experience or randomly feel excited about something, we automatically assume that God is calling us to something new. In this mindset, we feel that every verse we read in the Bible was handmade solely for us. We assume that everything that happens to us, or every conversation we have, must be divine. “It must be a sign!” These are not always bad thoughts, but they can be very deceitful.
Here is why we cannot trust our hearts and simply follow what we feel. The ISIS member who is killing women and children may say, “I feel like God is calling me to this.” The crazy thing is that he may actually mean that. The Mormon who is trying to earn God’s love might also say, “I feel like God is in Mormonism.” He or she may believe that statement with all of their heart. If there are multiple beliefs who all say that they feel God calling them to something different, how can you know who to believe? This is why we must follow the truth, instead of our hearts.
You must know that God will speak and He will reveal things to you in conversations, circumstances, and certainly through Scripture. However, we must be quick to test our heart feelings with truth in Scripture. I have had times where God spoke something very specific to me in Scripture. I have also had times where I had a high emotional response to a verse and wanted to make a rash decision based on that feeling. I quickly found out that my emotions were not God’s leading. It is in moments like that where we see just how deceitful our hearts really are. We will feel thousands of different emotions every single day, and if we follow them all, we will end up going around in circles.
Maybe the aspect of our hearts that make them the most deceitful is the good intentions behind how we feel. “I feel like God is calling me to quit my job and start a non-profit.” That may be completely true, or that may stem from a discontentment in your current job. You are ready to leave your job so your emotions tell you that God must be leading you elsewhere. Good intentions are not always a sign of God’s presence. Let me give you an example in Scripture. David had an emotional rush that was backed up with very good intentions. God, however, had different plans.
“Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’” (1 Chronicles 17:1-2)
David had a thought. He had a light bulb moment. “How can we leave the ark of the covenant in a tent, when I live in a house?” That seems like a very pure thought, doesn’t it? David wanted to build a house for God’s presence to live in, instead of keeping the ark in a tent. “Why should God dwell in a worse place than me?” David had very good intentions. Nathan told him to follow his heart because God was with him. Even his friend thought that David’s good intentions were a sign of God! However, God thought differently. David’s emotional rush was not a sign from God. According to Nathan, it came from his heart. And remember: a heart is deceitful and desperately sick.
“But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in.’” (1 Chronicles 17:3-4)
David was not meant to build a house for God, even though it seemed like a good thing for him to do. His son, Solomon, would be the one to eventually build the house for God to dwell in. God had to correct the heart intention of David. This is extremely important. We must be quick to distrust our hearts. In the same way you would not follow a deceitful friend, be careful with following your heart. Not all feelings are signs of God. Not all circumstances are signs of God. Sometimes it may be your heart at work, doing what it does best…deceiving.
I want to leave you by encouraging you to absolutely follow God’s leading in your life. Treasure the moments when He gives you a truth of Scripture that turns your entire day or life around. I will gladly cheer you on as you give your life away for Gospel-centered endeavors. However, I simply want to warn you away from blindly following a desperately sick deceiver. Christians should never follow their hearts. That is when we start being okay with divorce because that’s how we feel. That is when we become okay with lingering sin because we feel okay about it. That is when we become numb to the broken world around us because it doesn’t affect how we feel. Christians should always follow Christ. He is not deceitful. He is not desperately sick. He is the only roadmap to true life.
“Follow me,” Jesus says. He will always lead you where He wants you to go. Your heart may fail you, but Jesus never will. Deny your deceitful heart. Trust in your faithful, truthful Savior. Be quick to turn from the poor advice of following your heart. Then, be quick to trust in the invitation of Jesus to simply follow Him.