There are many calls to “follow your heart” in movies, novels, slogans, blogs, and memes. Related pieces of advice are “trust yourself” and “follow your instincts.” A corollary dictum is “your heart will never lead you astray.” The problem is that none of these quips are biblically supportable.
Rather than trust our hearts, we are to commit our hearts to God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). This passage gives an explicit command not to trust ourselves. And it gives the promise of guidance to those who choose to follow the Lord.
For anything to provide proper direction it must be based on objective truth. That is to say that whatever is consulted for guidance must reach a conclusion based on objective truth and not subjective, emotional inference. The Bible teaches that man is to follow God. God declares, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7). God has perfect knowledge of everything (1 John 3:20), a trait often called omniscience. God’s knowledge is not limited in any way. God is aware of all events that have ever transpired, are currently occurring, and will ever happen (Isaiah 46:9–10). God’s knowledge goes beyond mere events and extends to thoughts and intentions (John 2:25; Acts 1:24). It is not all this knowledge, however, that makes God a perfectly reliable source of guidance. God is also aware of every possibility, every eventuality, every imaginable outcome of any series of events (Matthew 11:21). That ability, combined with God’s goodness, enables God to give the best possible direction for people to follow.
God says this about the unregenerate heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This passage makes clear two reasons why no one should bind himself to following his heart when making decisions. First, there is nothing more deceitful in all of creation than the heart of man because of his inherited sin nature. If we follow our heart, we follow an untrustworthy guide.
We are, in fact, blinded to our own heart’s deceitful nature. As the prophet asks, “Who can understand it?” When we rely on ourselves for wisdom, we end up unable to tell right from wrong. The hit song of 1977, “You Light Up My Life,” contains these unfortunate words: “It can’t be wrong / When it feels so right.” Determining right from wrong based on “feelings” is a dangerous (and unbiblical) way to live.
Second, Jeremiah 17:9 teaches that the heart is desperately sick. There is no way to fix the heart. Rather, man needs a new heart. That is why, when a person comes to faith in Christ, he is made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus does not fix the heart; instead, He replaces it with a new one.
But that does not mean that we can rely on our hearts after we come to faith in Christ. Even as believers, we are encouraged to follow God’s will over our own desires. The Bible teaches that “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (Galatians 5:17).
We have an omniscient, benevolent Lord who promises to give us wisdom (James 1:5); we have His inspired, inerrant Word written down for us (2 Timothy 3:16). Why would we turn our backs on God and His eternal promises in order to pursue the whimsical impulses of the heart?
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