Do you mistrust your heart? Do you dislike your heart?
If so, then you may be suffering from a common but often undiagnosed disease: Heart-attacking.
It is a malady I know well. I’ve even infected others through what I’ve told them about their heart. If the heart is the place of our deepest longings and feelings, then that’s the last thing we want running our lives, right?
A man once said to me on a retreat, “I don’t trust my heart, and I really don’t think I should. In Jeremiah 17:9 it says the heart is ‘deceitful’ and ‘desperately wicked’.” Far be it from me to contradict an Old Testament prophet!
A non-Christian challenged me with a similar criticism: “I’ve read the Bible and the emphasis seems to be on how sinful we all are. How can you Christians ever have healthy self-esteem?” Good point! I’ve wondered about that too.
And sometimes when I hear Christians give advice on decision-making, they also propose we reject our hearts. The reasoning goes like this: “You are sinful, and your desires are sinful; therefore, doing what your heart wants is sinful. Find and follow God’s will, not your own.” I have to admit, that advice does sound a lot like Jesus when he prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done”.
So … attacking our hearts seems like the “Christian” thing to do.
At least, that’s what I used to think. Then I discovered I had a huge misunderstanding that changed the whole picture for me. Though it is true an unregenerate heart is often deceitful, the Bible repeatedly and forcefully teaches us to value our hearts once they are redeemed. As a recovering heart-attacker, I now bite down on this small bit of scriptural aspirin when I need protection: “Guard over your heart with all diligence; for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).
Guard your heart, don’t kill it.
Listen to your heart, don’t ignore it.
Your heart is the source of “the springs of life” and is a gift from God to be treasured, not stifled.
I did a quick scan of the word “heart” in the Bible a few years ago, and I was shocked. I have a master’s degree in theology, mind you. But to my surprise, my study turned up only a few verses that mention sin in the context of our hearts. The overwhelming majority of passages instruct us to connect with, listen to, protect and follow our Spirit-filled, Scripture-instructed heart.
Here are just a few examples:
- Wisdom is enshrined in an understanding heart… (Proverbs 14:33)
- Good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20:5)
- As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person. (Proverbs 27:19)
- And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart… (Mark 12:30)
- …The Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” (John 7:38)
- I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. (John 14:27)
I also found another reason to value my heart: If I want to know what God wants me to do, the place I should look (after I’ve prayed) is my heart. In seeking God’s will, the question I ask myself now is, “What do I want more than anything else?” Once I know my deepest desires, I’m likely to find God’s.
Here’s the paradox: I might be missing out on what God wants because I haven’t got a clue what I want. Next to the Bible, my heart is the most reliable source of direction for my life — yet it won’t help me if I’ve snubbed it through suspicion or contempt. Such mistreatment does not honor God or his design.
- I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. (Psalm 40:8)
- I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. (Psalm 16:7)
- O Lord, do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you. (Psalm 125:4)
- May he grant your heart’s desires… (Psalm 20:4)
- A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart…(Matthew 12:35)
- Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desire of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
I can now say this to all my fellow heart-attackers with confidence: Your heart is good; and what your heart longs for is good. You need your heart. The world needs your heart. God wrote your mission on the tablet of your heart. What is the best about you and what you do best flows out of your heart.
Next time you feel chest pains because you’ve lost touch with your heart, put this biblical remedy under your tongue: guard over and listen to your heart, for from it flow the springs of your life. It’ll save your from your next heart-attacking.
– By Judson Poling
Judson met Greg Huston (The Crucible Project’s founder) in 2002 and staffed his first initial weekend the following spring. Judson is a founding board member of The Crucible Project and co-developer of The Crucible Project’s four second-level weekends. He also served on staff of Willow Creek Community Church for 29 years. Judson is now a best-selling author and President of Cambia Resources, LLC, doing consulting, coaching and freelance writing.