Many of us have grown up being told that we should “follow our heart” or to go after our “heart’s desire”. This seems innocent enough, and the majority of the time the desires of our heart are seemingly harmless in our eyes, but when we start to look at this topic through God’s perspective we can see that the desires of our heart, although flooded with good intentions, may be detrimental to our spiritual growth. The Lord has greater plans for us than anything we could imagine for ourselves.
First, let’s look into what scripture says about the heart. Heart in Hebrew is the word ‘leb’ meaning the inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, soul, seat of appetites or emotions/passions. In Hebrew thought, the heart, mind, and soul are synonymous. Ancient Hebrew writing of this word is ‘lamed beyt’ and symbolizes “the authority inside”. Whatever has authority over us ultimately governs what we’re passionate about and how we process information. It’s easy to identify what someone is passionate about, whether it be a job, person, or hobby, because that person pours themself into that passion. Whatever it is, it is always at the forefront of priorities and many sacrifices are made to keep it at the forefront.
Origen, a second-century Early Church Father and student of Clement of Alexandria, explains the first two commandments in this way:
The first commandment is: “You shall have no other gods before me.” And after that: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”
That which someone cherishes above all else, admires and loves above all, this is that person’s God. Everyone who makes some thing into a god is serving alien gods.
If we sin we are making many idols in the secret of our heart. This is why the Word teaches us to make penance and cry aloud over the graven images and idols which are “in Jerusalem and Samaria” (Isa 10:11). Nevertheless, God in His goodness calls all to repentance with the words: “Cry aloud, ye graven images.”
God wants to be our first love and for us to be passionate about him, he also won’t force anything upon us. It’s not true love if the other person has to be forced into the relationship. The Lord allows us to fall and make mistakes in order for us to come back to him. King David did just this, although he was anointed from a young age, for a time he followed his own desires which led him into an entanglement of lust, adultery, and murder. Scripture says that man’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). David was only thinking about his desires and never considered how his actions would affect anyone else. After he made his choice, God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke him and a sickness came upon his first born son which claimed his life. This caused David to see his sin and repent whole heartedly to the Lord. He dedicated the rest of his days to studying the law and singing praises to God. Scripture even says that David was a man after God’s own heart:
“the Lord has sought out [David] a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince and ruler over His people”
David recognized the graven images he had stored up in his heart and the things he had placed above God in his life. It was the mercy of the Lord that allowed him to repent and come back into unity with the Fathers heart. This is two fold, David desperately wanted to grow closer to God and so God grew closer to David, but the opposite is also true. Take for example the Isrealites while they were in the wilderness. God had provided them supernatural food, manna, to sustain them through their travels. They had witnessed miracle after miracle and still they complained and murmured against God, wishing for quail instead of the manna. The desires of their heart were set on trivial matters and they could not see what God was trying to do in their lives. God, hearing their complaints, gave them their hearts desire, massive amounts of quail, so much so that it came out of their nostrils (Num 11:20). These people did not repent and so perished for their lusts (Num 11:31-35).
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
The words that we speak are the evidence of what’s in the secret place of our heart. The Israelites spoke words of rebellion and complaints, which caused their destruction, while David humbled himself and spoke words of repentance and praises to the Lord. After everything David had done, God loved him because he had changed the desires of his heart. It makes no difference the state we’re in when we come to God, no one is too far gone, and there is nothing He can’t handle. All we need is a heart transplant of sorts, taking our heart and replacing it with the heart of the Father.
“Keep (guard) your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
- All scripture references New King James Version
- Origen: Spirit and Fire pg. 209-210 “Fall of the Idols”
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible
- Brown-Driver-Briggs Bible Dictionary