Above my writing desk there is a shelf. Perched atop it is a small, spiral journal with memory verses scribbled on it with the best handwriting I can muster. Each day as I face my daily work, this journal faces me. I'm confronted with truth from Scripture that sometimes encourages or strengthens me, but often makes me terribly uncomfortable. Most recently, I'm confronted with the truth about what my heart is.
The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable–who can understand it?
Every day as I sit down to write and to work, I am reminded at the intrinsic condition of my heart. It's a rough truth to swallow; it drags and scratches my throat like those too-big horse pills you have to take when you're a sick child. But Scripture, like that too-big horse pill, is good for me. I may gag and try to cough it up, but it is necessary. I need to know the condition of my heart. I need to know that I can get better, so that I can know God and His intents for me.
Our hearts are incurably deceitful. Yet, society expects and encourages us to be led by them. So too we often relent and sink into this thinking. We resolve to follow the appetites of our hearts and are thereby relishing in our deceitful, sinful nature under the guise of authenticity or a free spirit. We regularly follow our heart–we do what is "laid" on our heart or we say what is "heavy" on our heart or we act on what our heart "calls" us to. Perhaps some of this is just verbiage, and inaccurate way of communicating things that our minds are actually convincing us of rather than our hearts. But perhaps some is the leeching of imprudence into our spiritual lives. When we follow our hearts, we abandon wisdom. When we follow our hearts, we're liable to be deceived. We ought to be led by God, who is Truth Himself. He is in no way deceitful; He does not lie nor change His mind. He is steady, constant, steadfast. He is not swayed or caught up by the whims of each day. He is prudent. Wise. Firm.
None of this is to say that emotions are bad. Emotions are good and God-given. They serve a purpose. But that purpose is not to lead us or tell us how to behave or what actions to take. Part of the trouble with our deceptive hearts is that we expect them to do what they were not destined to do. Our hearts don't provide us wisdom. Our hearts don't provide us temperance. Our hearts don't provide us stability. Our emotions were never meant to bear these burdens. We cannot expect the heart to do what the mind was meant to bear, or vice versa.
Our emotions serve us. They lead us toward the Father. In fact, the fragility of our emotions serves to prove this point. When our hearts are weak, deceptive, and unpredictable, God is our haven in His strength, truth, and stability. When our very real, very warranted emotions hit us, we are taught to run to the sufficiency of the Father. Our feelings are not worthless, but they were never meant to instruct us on what God's will is. Our emotions are not "bad", but we cannot rely on them to accomplish what the mind was meant to accomplish. When we feel sadness, worry, depression, anger and the like, these emotions all have value and they are real. But they are not our compass, and we cannot expect them to be.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
We know that God designed us purposefully. Emotions are not a result of the fall; they are not inherently sinful. God always intended for us to have emotions, to have hearts. But the deceitfulness of the heart came into play when sin did. Deuteronomy paints a vivid picture for us on the purpose of all of our faculties. We are to Love God with our whole self. We love him with our full being, our emotions, mind, and strength.
Our hearts are not totally senseless, but they can lie to us if we aren't careful. They can be used to build us up in our affection toward the Father, or we can unwittingly follow their falsehoods to the brink of death. Christian, let's stop following our hearts and start following Christ instead.