I suppose each one of us have our way of protecting our hearts. Or maybe some of us are not aware of it or the fact that we need to protect our hearts in the first place. If we’re not careful or conscientious, we will end up doing things that may potentially harm our heart and cause us hurt. The Bible teaches us this, which I often overlook: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (emphasis mine) –Proverbs 4:23. In another translation it reads, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Why is there such a need to protect our hearts? The text clearly identifies guarding our heart as more important than anything else. The Bible puts it simply: because everything flows from it. Here’s a beautiful commentary I read online:
The Old Testament psychology differs from our popular allocation of certain faculties to bodily organs. We use head and heart, roughly speaking, as being respectively the seats of thought and of emotion. But the Old Testament locates in the heart the centre of personal being. It is not merely the home of the affections, but the seat of will, moral purpose. As this text says, ‘the issues of life’ flow from it in all the multitudinous variety of their forms. The stream parts into many heads, but it has one fountain. To the Hebrew thinkers the heart was the indivisible, central unity which manifested itself in the whole of the outward life. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The heart is the man. And that personal centre has a moral character which comes to light in, and gives unity and character to, all his deeds.
I was struck particularly with the line (and the command) to watch over our hearts with all diligence because this connotes an intentional effort, a careful work on our part to protect and guard our heart. Obviously, it is not done for us by anyone else. Our friends and people around us can guide and steer us to certain directions, but we, enabled by the Holy Spirit, put in the work, as in a student who diligently studies to pass an exam. She wants to make sure she reads up on the correct things, she doesn’t waste time and makes productive use of it, and she makes sure she is on the right track. She has to be diligent about these things, or she might fail. The Bible is yet clear to tell us that none is more deceitful than the heart, who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
The past few months, I have been quite negligent over my heart. I’ve made some decisions that were misguided by certain emotions, not least of which is vanity, so I find myself doing certain things that are potentially “harmful” in the long run. I’ve also seen myself to be very carefree about certain things that if I’m not careful, I might later on get hurt or get tangled up. What you let your heart take in, the things you invest in, the ideas you accept in your mind, the way you manage your time, the way you handle crisis and relationships and daily affairs –all these are issues of the heart. When you don’t take an intentional stance to how you make decisions and why you decide on things the way you do, and just “go with the flow”, in effect, you just horde them into your heart and they become an unnecessary weight.
Like, why did you stay behind last time over dinner instead of cancelling, when you knew very well you were sick? Ah, because you had already given your word to your friends and didn’t want to bail out. But partly because there’s this guy you have a little crush on and you knew he was going to be there. It would be sad to miss out, right? Why did you still play that afternoon when you were already coughing your soul out? Ah, because that same guy is going to be there, and it would be nice to play around for a bit.
Do I see a pattern? Why, yes. I sometimes make decisions based on emotions to the detriment of my body –and it was for naught because in your heart, you know it’s not supposed to be this way. But because you have, for a time, been deciding this way, it doesn’t seem that wrong anyway. Ah, the heart truly is deceitful. No one really knows the impulses that lurk in our heart than God himself, and us, and all of us are susceptible. We give in to worry, to fear, to self-resentments, to self-pity, to misguided notions about God, to coldness in worship –almost instantly sometimes.
I love how God brings me to a point of revelation, to show me how easily my emotions can be swayed and how foolish some decisions are when I let my heart dictate. Primarily, it’s when I’ve shifted focus off of him to my little selfish wants. Of course, there is that other side to it, that it isn’t all that bad and one should not be so legalistic. Which is exactly why we must guard our heart with all diligence, because even seemingly innocent things may be dangerous in the long run.