(Photo by Selma Komisky)
You Can Stop Guarding Your Heart Now
By Emma Verschueren
I can be a pretty cautious person, and for good reason. I was raised by a police officer—it is basically engrained in me to be on my guard, to be aware of my surroundings, to not let certain things in.
As Christian women, we essentially do the same thing; we guard our hearts at all cost because it can be so easily compromised–especially in the area of dating and relationships. But what exactly are we trying to guard our hearts from? Heartache? Sin? Perhaps, the fear of giving your heart to someone you shouldn’t? We all have different things we guard our hearts from, but when it boils down to it, we are ultimately protecting our thoughts and emotions from desire.
As important as it is to not allow your heart to dictate every aspect of your life, it is crucial to understand that we do not have the power nor strength to guard our hearts.
We commonly look to Philippians 4:5-7 as one of those passages that commands us to guard our hearts. It says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Originally, I took this as, “if I guard my thoughts and my emotions then I won’t be anxious about my life.” I don’t believe that is what Paul was trying to say. Actually, nowhere in the passage does it tell us to guard our heart.
As a minister of the gospel, Paul would never prompt us to try to achieve righteousness on our own accord. Therefore, believing that we have the power to tame our hearts is not part of the gospel; in fact, by doing so, we begin to take the place of God by declaring that we have power over certain circumstances—especially where our hearts are concerned. In the process, we preach a message antithetical to the gospel since it becomes about us and not about Christ.
Any way you slice it, desire is the main culprit here. We were led to believe that we have to force our desires to submit, making them nonexistent. At the same time, we act out of our desire for power and control in order to feel like we have a handle on our hearts.
St. Augustine, in his work “Confessions,” described separation from God as disordering our loves. He claims that there are four things we can love and desire: God, others, self, and things. It is inherent in us to have desires—that’s how God made us—but we misalign our desires and put others, self, or thing as number one, and all too often we put God last on our list of loves. If guarding your heart means being of aware of your desires, why not reorient them to have God as the first on our list?
Guarding your heart shouldn’t mean trying to stop desire all together. Rather, it should prompt us to put God as our first love and let everything else flow from that deep intimacy. If anything, we need to stop being so consumed with guarding our hearts and start examining it.
I love the small phrase in the middle of the passage that simply states, “The LORD is at hand.” At hand, means to be nearby—in close proximity, easily accessible. Rather then trying to cure our anxiety by guarding our thoughts and emotions with this false power, Paul points out that God is here. That is the promise and beauty of the gospel—Emmanuel, God with us. Moreover, imminence with God generates the peace that surpasses all understanding. After all, Philippians 4:7 is clear, it is not us who have the power to guard our hearts, but the peace of God which surpasses all understanding is the guardian of our thoughts and emotions and realigns our list of loves.
From Genesis to Revelation, we witness an account of a God who is in pursuit of us. All He has ever sought for is proximity to His creation and to establish a deeply intimate relationship with us. Why should we compromise that gift by buying into a legalistic way of thinking that Christ came to abolish?
As frightening as it is to trust God with our desires (as outlandish as they may be), don’t you think He is trustworthy enough to take better care of our hearts then we would? There is no need to proceed with caution any more. Instead, let us take advantage of the torn veil by entering into communion with the One who wildly pursued us. Only then will His peace wash over us, protect us from ourselves, and guide us into deeper relationship with Him.