“Follow your heart.”
Have you ever heard or said those words? Surely you’ve read that sentiment in a Dove chocolate wrapper at least, and if you haven’t, you should consider eating more chocolate! Even if you’ve never had anyone directly say those words to you or you’ve never said them out loud to others, have you ever given yourself quiet, internal permission to let your emotions or desires lead you without a second thought? I certainly have. Just this week I found myself eating chocolate because I was following my heart! Maybe my heart just goes toward chocolate because I’m a woman and we just passed Valentine’s Day, but I know we all find out hearts tugging us towards decisions both big and small.
While Dove encourage us to follow our hearts, what does God say?
I want to explore that question in a future blog post, but before I do, I need to back up and consider what God says about our hearts and how He views our hearts differently than how our culture does.
Think with me about how we talk about the heart. We “heart” NYC, puppies, our BFFs (best friends forever), our favorite Starbucks drink, a moving song or a beautiful Instagram post. We use the phrase “my heart’s just not in it” to mean we lack desire, passion and enthusiasm. If our heart is not into it (whether that be a job, a relationship, an obligation or any other sort of commitment), we justify slacking off or quitting on that thing altogether. When we really love someone, we love him or her “with all our heart.” When we experience loss and pain, we may describe it as saying we have a broken heart. Someone who seems cruel or lacking compassion we describe as heartless or hardhearted. We think of the heart as the center of our emotions, especially the positive, maybe even gushy, emotions of happiness, love (romantic and otherwise), and passion. We embrace the view that we feel with our hearts, and if someone doesn’t express the emotions we think are appropriate, we wonder if they just have a cold heart.
While the heart seems central to feelings and emotions, we view it in contrast to the mind. We tend to accept that we think with our brain, but feel with our heart. Therefore, if we’re having problems with our emotions, it’s due to our heart. Or that’s how we see it.
God does not divide the heart and the mind like we do.
In His Word, when talking about the heart, He is talking about our control center, including thoughts as well as desires and emotions. In Deuteronomy 6:6, God tells the Israelites that His commands are to be upon their hearts. He is not simply commanding them to impress His commands on their emotions, but also on their minds. In Proverbs 4:23, God says that from our heart “flow the springs of life.” The heart represents how we think, process, evaluate and make decisions and thus affects all that flow out of us. In the New Testament, we read “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matt 9:4) Jesus states that they are thinking in their heart. The biblical understanding of the heart is deeper and more robust than our idea of it as simply formulating our emotions.
When we read about the heart in Scripture, we have to understand that God is not simply talking about the source of our emotions. He is addressing or commenting on our overall control center that includes our emotions as well as our thoughts and desires.
As you read Scripture, keep an eye out for when God mentions man’s heart. How does God talk about the human heart? What does He instruct us to do with our hearts? How is His understanding of our heart (as our Creator, keep in mind!) different from how we typically think about our heart? Think through these questions and look for future blog posts that will address some of these questions and ponder if God agrees with Dove on “following your heart.”