By Alexandra Copeland
God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above everything else, because it determines the course of our lives. When I first read this verse many years ago, I did so during a period of enduring one of the most hurtful experiences of my life. I was dating a person that I had known since high school. Not only was he my friend, but both our families were very friendly as well. In many ways, he had been like a brother. He is incredibly witty and so much fun to be around, and I could count on him to have my back. We became more than platonic friends as our feelings for each other grew. I loved him deeply and there wasn’t a question in my mind that we’d be married in the not too distant future. So when he started to date someone else during our relationship, I was beyond devastated.
Having done a stint in the military, there was no question that he was way more knowledgeable about the world than I was. I was naïve in many ways, and never suspected that he would ever betray me. We often think about the wisdom of guarding our hearts in terms of steering clear of negative thoughts and feelings like jealousy, pride, envy, and other such pettiness, but we don’t think about it in terms of giving away our hearts to persons that aren’t yet prepared or capable of handling them.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God’s Word is sharp. It divides the truth from a lie. It exposes and brings to light those things that have been hidden. Heavenly Father doesn’t sugarcoat or play around with the truth. He is very clear in His Word about what He will do for us and what we are to do ourselves. He does not confuse the two. He makes it very plain that when it comes to our hearts, we are the ones to do the guarding.
Why should we guard our hearts?
We should guard our hearts primarily because God has told us to do so. He would not tell us to complete a task of which we were incapable, and He wouldn’t tell us to do something that isn’t vital to being the people He has called us to be. Our hearts are very valuable. The course of our lives springs forth from our hearts, and more importantly, we serve God in Christ with our whole hearts.
In my early twenties, I didn’t think much about the depth of my relationship with God. I knew that I had been saved through Jesus Christ. I knew that God loved me, and I knew that I loved Him, but I didn’t understand relationship. And there I was thinking that I was ready for something as heavy, challenging, and rewarding as marriage. I put all my eggs in the basket of someone that couldn’t and wouldn’t nurture them, but instead broke them.
If I’m being completely honest, I have to say that those eggs were in a pretty fragile state to begin with. It didn’t take much to crack them. This is because I hadn’t taken the time to nurture and build my relationship with God. I fell apart at the seams because I allowed another human being to be my everything. I wanted what I wanted, and I couldn’t understand why things didn’t work out and why I had landed myself in such a sea of emotional turmoil.
God’s Word always has the answer. The Apostle Paul wrote to his brother in the Lord, Timothy, and warned him in 2Timothy 2:21-22. He wrote, “21 If a man therefore purge himself from these (*useless and dishonorable stuff), he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet (*easily used) for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” As I grew from this most severe heartbreak, I saw very clearly that I had not considered my own heart worthy enough to guard in the love of Christ. I trusted someone else to do what God has specifically placed in my care.
As I matured, I began to understand that I had made two major mistakes. The first was that I didn’t prioritize my relationship with Heavenly Father in the number one spot. Making God number one and honoring Him in everything we do is the greatest step that anyone can take towards guarding their hearts. Our lives are hidden in Jesus Christ. This means that our hearts and minds should be dipped, bathed, saturated, and covered in his goodness through and through. The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:3 that when we gave our lives to Christ, we died to our old lives, and now our lives are hidden with Jesus Christ in God. Jesus Christ is our Lord. He’s our everything. This realization is central to every-and-anything that we attempt to do. We can’t build a foundation sturdy enough to support a family unless it is built on the reality of all that Jesus Christ is.
My second mistake was that I truly didn’t know what it meant to make an ample spiritual investment into the life of another. I really had no clue how to wrap my faith around a relationship. I expected so much from the other person, but it didn’t dawn on me that I wasn’t giving out with the level of quantity and quality that I expected to receive. I hadn’t allowed the Lord to teach me how to do this.
Our hearts determine the course of our lives. Jesus Christ said in Luke 6:44 that a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Our fruit is produced from whatever is in our hearts. If we’re not putting good things in the treasury of our hearts, then it stands to reason that we’re not going to produce anything good out of it. Back then, in my younger days, I didn’t think much about this; and therefore, I didn’t adequately guard my heart because I didn’t have it locked and loaded with the truth of God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is alive and powerful. Digesting it is nourishment for our entire being. So we must guard our hearts with the truth of God’s Word, because it fosters our relationship with Heavenly Father and adds increasingly to our ability to produce for ourselves the kind of lives we desire.
*words of the writer inserted.