There is a common mantra we often hear today- and that is that you should “follow your heart.” Christians even throw around this advice on a regular basis. But is it Biblical? Is it wise? Is it really what we should be doing when trying to make a decision about something?
When we do just a brief survey of Scripture, we see that our hearts – our innermost beings, the seat of our desires, affections, actions, thoughts, words, and interests – have been deeply affected by the sin in our lives. Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”
It seems pretty clear then that, because the nature of sin has affected even our hearts, it isn’t safe to always follow them. What is the answer, though? What should we do instead?
What to do Instead of Following Your Heart
1. Walk by the Spirit.
Rather than following your heart, what you want to do as a Christian is lead your heart. This means leading it into truth and the right path. In order to do this, we have to be walking by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-18 says, “ I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we are to ask God for it – He delights in providing us with the wisdom we need.
Walking by the Spirit and seeking the wisdom of God means growing in your intimacy with God by abiding in Christ, studying the Word, and communing with the Father in prayer. It isn’t formal, it doesn’t require a 10 step program or method, and it isn’t legalistic. It’s simply what naturally happens as you prioritize your relationship with God.
2. Abide in Christ.
Often finding a good, solid Christian community – where you can be uplifted and encouraged in your faith- can be hard to come by. Maybe you are living in a new town, are a brand new Christian who knows very few believers, or just aren’t sure who you can talk to about your dilemmas. In addition, as important as community is, your personal, intimate relationship just between you and God is most important. For these reasons, it’s so important that we learn to abide in Christ. This is imperative for a growing, flourishing relationship and an ability to hear and follow the voice of God.
Abiding in Christ simply means we rest in Him, remembering and meditating on Who He is, what He did, what He said while on this earth, and so on. It means remembering the gospel and its implications for your everyday life. Rather than following your heart, abide in Christ and you will become more and more aware of His wisdom, His ways, and His direction in your life.
3. Seek wise counsel.
We live in a very independently-minded culture. While there are benefits to this, one downside is that our tendency can therefore be to rely on our own wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 11:14, however, says this: “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” There is great benefit to be found in going to wise brothers and sisters in Christ when facing big life-changing decisions (and even the smaller day-to-day things, as well!) Seek other people in your life who are wise, who are grounded in Scripture. They can help you immensely.
I know it can be hard sometimes for us to let the Spirit lead instead of follow what our heart wants. Often God’s Will for us and His commands can be hard at times. But when we remember to lead our hearts with Christ’s Spirit that is in us- it will always be the best direction to follow.