Follow your heart – Is this sound, biblical advice?

The advice to follow your heart is based on the belief that the heart is a trustworthy guide. The Bible does not discourage the use of the heart in decision-making—we are not instructed to follow only the intellect, for example—but the heart should not lead us, nor should we blindly follow it. Instead, we are told to "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). Notice that this proverb does not isolate the heart as the untrustworthy guide, but includes the "understanding," or the rational mind, as equally in need of God's guidance.

The Lord is good, and He is omniscient, knowing everything. He is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20). He promised to give wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5), and He gave us the Bible to guide us (2 Timothy 3:16). These are sources of absolute wisdom and truth. When we follow our heart, we are following something that is by its very nature finite. No matter how well-meaning we are, no matter how strongly we feel about a thing, the fact remains that we do not have all the information. Now, this is not to say that to follow your heart is always wrong; sometimes it is appropriate to follow your heart. The problem comes when the heart desires something that is contrary to truth.

James says "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire" (James 1:14). When desire contradicts God's Word and His commands, the desire entices us into sin. It is wrong to follow your heart when it leads you to sin. Emotions are not wrong, in themselves, but allowing them to lead us away from plain truth and common sense is wrong and dangerous. Yet, it is not always plain. Emotional situations are usually fraught with complications; it's not usually as easy as "the Bible says this and my heart says the opposite." Many times we are burdened with confusion over what to do. It is easy, in such a situation, to simply "follow your heart" and let the emotions lead—especially because our will is inextricably tied to desire. But this simple choice is not always the best.

When there is conflict or pain or confusion or strong desire, what should we do? The answer goes to trust. Who do we trust? There is usually enough clarity in any situation to either take a small step, or simply to wait. Impulsive decisions based on emotion are not advisable even in worldly contexts, and they are certainly not recommended by Scripture. "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it" (Proverbs 22:3). We should always trust God and follow Him, primarily. "If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if ... you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well" (1 Samuel 12:14).

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