Nancy Guthrie weighs in on this common piece of advice: “Just follow your heart.” How should a Christian think about this kind of counsel?
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When we are struggling with something difficult in the midst of grief and loss, anxiety, fear, what happens? There’s a voice inside us. There’s a voice inside us that’s telling us things. Maybe this voice inside is saying, “You’re never going to be happy again.” Maybe the voice inside is saying, “You know what? I don’t think God is worthy of trusting.” Or in the midst of fear, maybe fear in parenting, we’re expecting the worst. We borrow so much on the future and this voice inside us feeds us with fears and lies, confusion. So, we simply cannot listen only to this inner voice.
We simply cannot think that we can live the Christian life by following our hearts because our hearts will lead us astray. I love, in the book of Psalms, especially in Psalm 42 and 43, the Psalms are really a whole book given to us to shape and direct our hearts. The Psalms are divine words that direct our hearts toward godly ends. But right in the middle of the Psalms, in Psalms 42 and 43, there’s one that especially does this.
The Psalmist says, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for the living God.” But he’s in a difficult situation, so he says, “My tears have been my food day and night.” Well, he could just stay there in tears. There’s nothing wrong with tears. But we do tend to hear this voice in the midst of tears, and it’s giving us all kinds of desperate thoughts. But what does the Psalmist do over and over again in Psalm 42 and 43? It’s like he looks into the mirror, and instead of just listening to himself, he talks to himself and here’s what he says. He speaks to his own soul. He says, “Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God.” You see, we can’t just listen to ourselves. We have to speak back to ourselves.
And with what words are we going to use to speak back to our own souls? We’re going to use the Word of God to speak to every thought, to take it captive, to correct it, to shape it, and to propel it toward God. We must move toward trusting God, toward depending on God rather than only following our own hearts which tend to want to take us away from God. We must move Godward rather than following our own thoughts which may be in opposition to God. This is why we speak back to our hearts and our thoughts, and we say, “Hope in God.”