When people say, “follow your heart” they usually mean something like “do what you feel,” or “trust yourself,” or even “go with your instincts.” In essence they are saying follow your feelings, desires, and emotions.
Would you follow a global positioning system (GPS) if you knew it wasn’t trustworthy? Back in 2012, Apple cut ties with Google Maps and came out with their own GPS and map app.
Unfortunately, I (and everyone else who used it) found it to be quite inaccurate. It lacked objective data in the form of true details, which resulted with me ending up in places I didn’t want to be. Because I couldn’t trust it, I quit using it.
Here’s my point: for anything to provide proper direction it must be based on objective truth—truth from outside and not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice. Whatever is consulted for guidance must be based on unbiased, objective truth.
What is the heart? The Bible uses the word “heart” to refer to the ruling centre of our being, the wellspring of all desires. It is where emotions and desires begin and which drives the will of man towards action.
The problem is that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). We were born sinful (Psalm 51:5). The Bible teaches that every aspect of our being is tainted by sin—our heart, our bodies, our minds, and our will. Jesus elaborated on this when He said, “… out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:21–23).
It is because the natural heart is this way that we need a new heart. That is given when we are born again (Ezekiel 36:26).
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
But even though believers are given a new heart and have new desires, we still have a sinful nature and habits and minds that are affected by sinful ways of thinking. There is still that element within us where our hearts are inclined toward selfishness, sin, and immediate gratification.
“The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17). On top of that we still have to deal with the world around us with all of its temptations.
Feelings and emotions arise in response to what we think and experience. They are not a reliable guide for making decisions. Feelings and emotions, because they are responders, are constantly changing. A phone call, criticism, and traffic jam all impact our feelings, and should they be followed we would be all over the map and making decisions with the wrong motives. Blinded by these desires the consequences aren’t weighed, the long-term impact isn’t considered, and short-term pain for long term gain is avoided. Following your heart leads to acting without benefit of logic, analysis, and reason.
Another problem with this is it’s a self-centred way to approach things. Usually when we are making decisions, there are other factors and responsibilities to consider such as bills to pay, mouths to feed, and children to clothe. To just follow your heart is irresponsible.
If we are not to follow our heart what should we do?
We should commit our hearts to God (Proverbs 3:5–6) and follow Jesus—His Word and his Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that man is to follow God. He declares, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).
God has perfect knowledge of everything (1 John 3:20). He is aware of all events that have ever transpired, are currently occurring, and will ever happen (Isaiah 46:9–10) and this extends to thoughts and intentions (John 2:25; Acts 1:24). It is not just all this knowledge that makes God a perfectly reliable source of guidance. That, combined with His love and goodness, enables God to give the best possible direction for people to follow.
Whenever we are wondering “What do I say? What do I do?” the Holy Spirit within us encourages us to follow God’s will over our own desires. He leads our heart according to the truth of God’s Word. Even as He’s constantly shaping and moulding our hearts through the power of His Spirit and His Word, we are to follow Him.
So instead of following your heart, follow the Lord and His Word.