Guard Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” The King James Version translates it as, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Here, “issues” doesn’t mean the disparaging way we use the word now – “He’s got issues!” Rather, this phrase in Hebrew alludes to geographic boundaries or source, as in water. Like the mountain spring that’s the source of a mighty river, the heart is the source for all the operations of human life, and we’re commanded to “keep it” (guard, protect, maintain it) with all vigilance (watchfulness).  In the area of romance, this means we have some work to do – or we will end up with some issues!

I remember talking to my pastor as a new believer, wondering why everyone always talked about “guarding your heart.” This was an intriguing phrase to me. I didn’t know why it mattered to anyone if I was or wasn’t “guarding my heart.” I’d already survived several broken romances by the time I became a Christian, so I wasn’t concerned about handing my heart to someone new. I was a seasoned dating veteran. But my pastor wisely pointed out that with each dashed relationship, I was dinging my heart. By the time I got married, I would be handing my husband a fairly scarred, dented heart, complete with the bitter memories of how each injury occurred. This was his elementary advice for a new convert, but there was still much more for me to learn.

Sometime later, I actually noticed that phrase in the Bible: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV, emphasis added). Backing up one sentence, I read: “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.” Fact one: The Lord is at hand. Fact two: Prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving are the ways to let our requests be known to God, who is at hand. Fact three: Because we’ve made our requests to a Lord who is at hand, we can know peace. Fact four: Peace guards our hearts in Christ Jesus, who is at hand and has heard our requests.

What makes us anxious about romance? It’s our speculations. Does anyone like me? Does this man like me? Will he call me? Will he introduce me to his family? Does he think we have potential for the future? Will he propose? Will we get married? Will we stay married? Will he commit adultery? Will he die first and leave me alone? And on and on and on. When we do this, we are way out in the future all by ourselves, churning in sinful anxiety.

Meditating upon imaginary future circumstances is a futile exercise. There isn’t grace for our speculations. That’s why God tells us “do not be anxious about anything.”  We can try our best to control all of our circumstances to ensure we won’t be hurt or that we’ll get what we want, but it will never produce anything more than anxiety. We have to learn how not to get ahead of God and the man who has attracted our attention. What that looks like can vary, but I like this description of guarding your heart:

The moment we meet a man, we snatch our heart out of God’s hand, toss it at this new guy we’ve gotten all excited about, and say, “Here!” Small wonder the poor little thing is so banged up. I think it’s time to get a clue, don’t you? How about trying this approach – you meet a man, he’s re-e-al cute, you like him. Your little heart is all aflutter, revving up to leap out of your chest and at the poor unsuspecting guy. Place your hand over your heart, whisper to it: “Calm down,” and put it back in its secret place. And then say this: “God, I think I really like this one. What do you know about him? What is the purpose of his being in my life? Is he the one for me? Should I proceed, or should I not waste my time on him?”

In due time, I believe the Lord will always answer those questions and provide peace to the woman who first talks to God before she talks to the man.


Carolyn McCulley handles church and ministry relations for Sovereign Grace Ministries and is a member of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. This column is adapted from her book about biblical womanhood for single women titled "Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred." (Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.gnpcb.org). Carolyn welcomes your comments at info@carolynmcculley.com or at her blog, http://solofemininity.blogspot.com. Previous articles and messages are posted at www.carolynmcculley.com.