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  • Pastor Joel Cooper

Follow Your Heart?

What could be more intimate, personal, and expressive to what we essentially are then one’s own heart? We share it, protect it, ponder our thoughts with it, feature it in poetry and above all listen to it. The ancient Hebrews from whence we get our first revelation of God, considered the heart to be the very essence of our being where we not only feel but generate our most primal thoughts about life. It is where we keep and hold what is most valuable to us. For this reason, the Scriptures caution us as to, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23 What the writer is saying is that the heart needs to be protected from that which enters it and governs in its expression, for it is what drives our thoughts, speech, and actions. In addition, the prophet Jeremiah sets forth a universal statement as to its appalling condition; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“Follow your heart” is a phrase that has been elevated as a noble quest and popularized for decades.

This was my philosophy all along growing up with my parents before it was even made popular. I always followed my heart, although my parents didn’t follow it. The result was always disappointing and painful along with time spent in my room under house arrest. So much for following my heart! One could almost say that listening to one’s heart is like following a procession of emergency vehicles speeding down the road. You don’t know just where they are headed and it’s sure to be a disaster when you arrive!

One unnamed source speaks of such direction from the heart as a language being slow to adapt to scientific knowledge, so whenever a person tells you to “listen to your heart”, it basically means that you should try to listen to your feelings and emotions instead of using reason and logic of the intellect. Here then is the thought that feelings and emotions supersede the logic of reasoning. This logic is the same logic of reasoning to which incidentally, the God and creator of this world expects of its people. “Come let us reason together, say’s the Lord”. Isaiah 1:18

Listening to and following one’s heart is unquestioningly the mantra of today. Whether by creed or by simply native intuition, all people everywhere not only listen to the heart, but are encouraged to follow it. This should not be surprising for in her book “Faithfully Different”, Natasha Crain outlines modern thought as in four simple facets: Following one’s feelings – Aim at happiness as a goal, shun those who disagree, (how dare they judge) and finally confirm one’s aims with God, whoever he might be. These views are readily transparent for as by nature, we all assume God likes what we like. We assume that He always agrees with us because after all we believe He loves us. Following your feelings is as fundamental to human nature as it gets for, they serve to point to what makes us happy. Yet here is where it starts to get dicey. My aim in life as a child was my happiness but then it did not serve to make my parents happy. What right did they have to kybosh my budding ambitions, how dare they thwart my heart’s desires! History is a sordid exposition of man listening to his or her heart and summarily making plans against the aims and counsel of others often in the name of God! The thing about the heart is that it always protects itself because the heart always loves itself, always! This is the reason Jesus said no one ever hated their own flesh but takes pains to protect it.

I would strongly warn that following one’s heart and listening to its melodies will never lead you to any real happiness, for it is insufferably imprisoned by its own shrunken borders. It will not nor can it deny its ambitions, nor will it succumb to alien judgments for it marches onward to the orders of its own god it has created. God must recreate the heart which listens to divine reason and logic; a divine logic to which the writer of Proverbs advises. A logic that protects and governs the heart to look forward without turning to the right or left, turning your foot from evil. The heart must be recreated and disciplined and set free to look forward toward God’s ideal source of real happiness and joy through His Son, Jesus Christ. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

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