To the unknown heart


The human heart has more to it than one might think. I’ve found that it has many recesses, hidden doors, passageways, false rooms, winding stairs, motives, reasons, movements, deliberations and strong rooms. I think that’s why Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” I have heard a lot of ‘wisdom’ in my short lifetime. But I think little is as ‘deep’ as when I’ve heard people advise each other to ‘follow their hearts on this one’. This statement, often made with a certain knowing authority behind it, makes it seem altogether certain that if you take it on board, you’ll find yourself in a world of clarity, understanding, joy and true freedom. At least that’s how the story is spun, time after time.

Listening to people, you would think this ‘heart’ thing is an infallible instrument in determining the right and wise course to take. And yet Scripture teaches us to be careful of our hearts- we cannot and should not trust in them. I recall Peter on the night Jesus was arrested- he proclaimed with gusto that he would never, ever, ever betray Jesus, and that he would die before that happened. A few hours later, 3 times he vehemently protested to a servant girl that he never knew Jesus. And how many times, have you made promises to yourself in the middle of the night, and all that was within you agreed and gave assent, and yet you are the first to admit two days later that you were lying to yourself- you could never do that…You are back in a ‘right frame’ of mind, and that was all wishful thinking. Which means either you were lying to yourself then, or now. Still trust your heart?

Instead, we are enjoined to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight’. Now why does God say this? ‘For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean”’. We also read that ‘can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water’. Can we therefore expect that the same heart which is the source of wickedness is at the same time the source of holiness and wisdom? I submit that we cannot.