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“Follow your heart” is a creed embraced by billions of people. It’s a statement of faith in one of the great pop cultural myths of the Western world, a gospel proclaimed in many of our stories, movies, and songs.
Essentially, it’s a belief that your heart is a compass inside of you that will direct you to your own true north if you just have the courage to follow it. It says that your heart is a true guide that will lead you to true happiness if you just have the courage to listen to it. The creed says that you are lost and your heart will save you.
This creed can sound so simple and beautiful and liberating. For lost people it’s a tempting gospel to believe.
Until you consider that your heart has sociopathic tendencies. Think about it for a moment. What does your heart tell you?
Please don’t answer. Your heart has likely said things today that you would not wish to repeat. I know mine has. My heart tells me that all of reality ought to serve my desires. My heart likes to think the best of me and worst of others — unless those others happen to think well of me; then they are wonderful people. But if they don’t think well of me, or even if they just disagree with me, well then, something is wrong with them. And while my heart is pondering my virtues and others’ errors, it can suddenly find some immoral or horribly angry thought very attractive.
The “follow your heart” creed certainly isn’t found in the Bible. The Bible actually thinks our hearts have a disease: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus, the Great Physician, lists the grim symptoms of this disease: “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). This is not leadership material.
The truth is, no one lies to us more than our own hearts. No one. If our hearts are compasses, they are Jack Sparrow compasses. They don’t tell us the truth; they just tell us what we want. If our hearts are guides, they are Gothels. They are not benevolent; they are pathologically selfish. In fact, if we do what our hearts tell us to do, we will pervert and impoverish every desire, every beauty, every person, every wonder, and every joy. Our hearts want to consume these things for our own self-glory and self-indulgence.
No, our hearts will not save us. We need to be saved from our hearts.
Our hearts were never designed to be followed, but to be led. Our hearts were never designed to be gods in whom we believe; they were designed to believe in God.
If we make our hearts gods and ask them to lead us, they will lead us to narcissistic misery and ultimately damnation. They cannot save us, because what’s wrong with our hearts is the heart of our problem. But if our hearts believe in God, as they are designed to, then God saves us (Hebrews 7:25) and leads our hearts to exceeding joy (Psalm 43:4).
Therefore, don’t believe in your heart; direct your heart to believe in God. Don’t follow your heart; follow Jesus. Note that Jesus did not say to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, just believe in your hearts.” He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
So, though your heart will try to shepherd you today, do not follow it. It is not a shepherd. It is a pompous sheep that, due to remaining sin, has some wolf-like qualities. Don’t follow it, and be careful even listening to it. Remember, your heart only tells you what you want, not where you should go. So, only listen to it to note what it’s telling you about what you want, and then take your wants, both good and evil, to Jesus as requests and confessions.
Jesus is your shepherd (Psalm 23:1; John 10:11). Listen to his voice in his word and follow him (John 10:27). Let him be, in the words of a great hymn, the “heart of [your] own heart whatever befall.” He is the truth, he is the way, and he will lead you to life (John 14:6).
Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight, Things Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities. This article was found here at desiringgod.org.
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