• Kara Abernathy

Don't Follow Your Heart

Don’t follow your heart.

Yeah, you heard that correctly. I know it goes against the advice of many.

The reason why we shouldn’t follow our hearts is because they are not trustworthy. Our emotions are fickle. They skew our perceptions of situations and overdramatize details in our lives that shouldn’t have such an emphasis.

Never once in the Bible does God call us to follow our hearts. In fact, He calls us to the opposite. He warns us that our hearts deceive us. They condemn us.

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).

Our hearts condemn us. Our hearts lie to us when they convince us that our desires are greater than God’s plan.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately sick;
Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

We can’t follow our hearts because they are clouded by sin.

My heart is looking out for me, myself, and I.

The reason why the prophet Jeremiah calls the heart “desperately sick,” is because our emotions mislead us into self gratification and a boosted ego. We will do anything to protect our pride, reputation, career, and relationships. When we follow our hearts, we are often following pleasure and personal gain.

Likewise, the apostle Paul admits his struggle with his propensity to follow his own desires instead of what he knows is right. He confesses that his natural inclination is to sin. He doesn’t have to think about it; he just does it.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:15, 17-19).

Paul admits his lack of power over sin. In the instances where he simply follows his natural desires, he ends up doing what he despises.

There is something far better (and far more difficult!) than following your heart. It is following Christ.

Following Christ means denying one’s own sinful desires in obedience and faith. However, just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are instantly free from struggling with sin. It never works like that. Instead, it’s about the attitude toward sin. As Christians, we should not look at sin with the same view. Like Paul, we should despise it and repent of it.

When sin does have power over our lives, we should pray for self-control, steadfastness, and strength.

By now, we know that the advice to just follow your heart won’t work. So, let’s revisit the passage to see what will.

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).

The good news is that God is bigger than our natural tendency to sin. He is able to help us during our battle with turning away from our selfishness and turning toward Christ.

Not only is God greater, but He is also all-knowing. He knows every desire of our heart, and only He can help lead us to the desires that are good and pleasing and perfect in accordance with His plan for our lives.

It makes way more sense to follow the One who knows EVERYTHING instead of ourselves who are limited in knowledge.

Following Christ and not following my heart should lead me to three attitude shifts.

  1. A more loving mindset in how I relate to my friends and family: I should care more about their needs than my own. I should lay down my expectations and seek reconciliation during tough conversations.

  2. A willingness to act selfless when my own expectations aren’t met: I should work more on patience with the understanding that I cannot control every detail or plan for every mishap. I should offer grace when temporary circumstances are uncomfortable or unwanted.

  3. A dedication to work even when my effort goes unnoticed: I should seek to work at every endeavor for the Lord and not for human approval. I should remember that God sees me and knows me; He knows my best efforts even when others might overlook the work I’ve done.

I’m still working on following Christ. There are days where I am stuck like Paul. I feel caught up in doing the things I don’t want to do because I know they’re wrong. I am still trying to kick out the bad advice of following my heart.

On the days when I’m struggling, I am reassured when I remember that God is greater than my heart. He’s got it all figured out.

This is the second post in the "Common Sayings Debunked" series. For the first post, click here!

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© 2019 Kara Abernathy

Disclaimer: my thoughts do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of my employer.

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