Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23 NLV)
I have wrestled greatly with the concept of openness and vulnerability while guarding my heart at the same time. It never seemed to go hand in hand.
How could I love to the fullest and keep my heart guarded? It did not seem possible.
Often, I found myself going the extreme to guard it, to the point of pushing people away and building a fortress around myself, hiding behind a mote and inside a gate of barb wire.
Society teaches us to have thick skin, hide our hearts, and show no vulnerability; yet, on the other hand, society projects images and stories depicting instant and reckless love, unbalanced fantasies, and delusional romances.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12 NIV)
God’s Word tells us here that many will harden their hearts and construct fortresses around them, rather than be open and vulnerable.
I believe that God wants us to, “have soft hearts and hard feet.” We are to have “soft hearts” to be loving, compassionate, and inclusive. But we should also have “hard feet” that take us into the harshest of conditions and terrain.
You cannot erect a fortress around your heart and love fully at the same time.
But you also cannot protect your heart by acting like you do not have one.
We know that to truly love anything according to God’s Word is to take a risk, so how can we guard our hearts and love deeply and openly?
Here are 5 ways to smart-guarding your heart:
Prayer and discernment: We should be praying about everyone who comes into our lives, as well as those leaving. Praying opens us up God and His Will. Often times, discernment comes in a way of a spirit check. A spirit check is like a blinking traffic light, flagging us to evaluate situation before proceeding. It cautions us with the hopes of avoiding possible plight or disaster. We need to make sure to quiet ourselves in prayer to hear and heed to these warnings.
Spending time with God: We should regularly, even daily, be seeking Him by spending time reading the Bible and dedicating time to worship. To hear what He would speak through these pursuits, we need only to be still.
Rest: Have you noticed how hasty we can become when we do not get enough rest? When we lack rest, we are more susceptible to making decisions based solely on the whims of our hearts and fleeting emotions, rather than with discernment and wisdom.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11 ESV)
Checking the fruit: We know the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, mercy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This guide allows us to make wise decisions regarding whom we allow in our hearts.
You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16 NLV)
Be aware of our atmospheres: Many do not realize the affect our atmospheres can have on our hearts. Where we allow ourselves to be and what we allow ourselves watch, observe, and listen to all contribute to the condition of our hearts. These things should be carefully considered when we are seeking God for how we are going to guard our hearts.
So, why is guarding our hearts important?
Proverbs 4:23 tells us in many different ways that we are to guard out heart because:
“It determines the course of your life.” (NLV)
“From it flows the spring of life.” (NASB)
“Out of it are the issues of life.” (KJB)
The most important things that come from the heart are life, love and vulnerability.
Isolating, detaching, and withdrawing are not healthy forms of guarding our hearts. Building fortresses around ourselves only serves to keep people out.
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. “ (Proverbs 18:1 ESV)
A fortress is defined as “a military stronghold,” and in 2 Corinthians 10:4, we are told to knock down the strongholds. In other words, we need to knock down those fortresses.
They keep us isolated and harden our hearts. Fortresses give us a false sense of protection and comfort and do nothing but leave our hearts hardened and in dire condition, unable to love those around us.
We cannot love with hard hearts; so why would we harden our hearts to guard them?