Spiritual LessonsKeeping our Hearts with Diligence
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
I'll be honest. This verse has always discouraged me. I've heard it my whole life growing up- "Keep your heart. Keep your heart. Keep your heart!" I've even told this to other girls younger than me. But what does it mean to "keep your heart" anyways? It always felt like a pretty good saying that was somewhat overused and completely unexplained. But it was Biblical, right? It was most commonly used in reference to boys. Not giving your heart away to some guy you "like" or have a "crush on" when you're 14, that may after all, never be your husband.
It has also been commonly used as I’ve gotten older, during the years when you are officially “coming of age” and marriage is actually a very real possibility. If you ever show interest in a guy or he shows interest in you, it is one of the first things you hear. “Keep your heart.” It sounds good, I’d like to be able to do that, but how? What does it even mean? What does it look like, practically applied?
I’ve been told that if you don’t keep your heart, you will be giving away pieces of that heart, which can never again be recovered. That you will then, never have a “complete” heart to give someone else. I am honestly not sure this is strictly true, just speaking from experience, but I do know there is a difference between “liking someone” and literally “giving someone your heart”. Some girls think they are “in love” with a guy they’ve hardly even spoken three words to, when really, they are only in love with the idea of being in love. This is called “infatuation”. For those of you who might be worried that because you have liked someone, you’ve ruined any chance of giving yourself completely to your husband, I’d like to say that giving your heart, is actually a choice we make. Just like love is a choice. It is painful, vulnerable, and not something that “accidently happens” without our knowing it. Being attracted to someone isn’t “falling in love with that person”. Also, just because you are interested in a potential possibility, doesn’t mean you are “beyond the point of no return”.
That being said, however, I would also like to bring out the fact that our hearts are extremely weak and vulnerable. We can form dangerous “heart strings” very quickly. We can easily become unhealthily attached to someone. (For more on “heart stings”- please look up Toni’s previous post "HeartStrings".) We do need to be careful. The Lord wouldn’t have commanded us to “keep our hearts with all diligence” if He also didn’t know that out of them are the “issues of life”! Our hearts are also very deceitful. The Lord describes them as such in Jeremiah 17:9- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
We can’t even know our own hearts. They deceive us.
But guess who does?
“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
Job understood this truth. He says – “And these things hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.” (Job 10:13)
Just because “giving our hearts away” is a choice, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful not to make that choice. And because our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful, we need to be cautious. Just the simple fact that God told us to “keep” them, actually means that they can be “given away”. So how do we keep our hearts?
Here is something I recently wrote in my diary-
“The heart seems unruly and impossible to keep. But then, why would He give the command to? He would be an unjust God to command something without giving the ability to actually do it. God doesn’t give commands that are unreasonable. Yet, He also tells us that without HIM, we can do nothing. He is involved in the heart’s keeping. He has to be. However, I think there are principles we can live by to help that along. Just like, we can ‘quench the Spirit’, we can quench His working in our hearts.”
Here are some principles which I believe enable us to keep our hearts with all diligence. All of them are taken from the four verses immediately following Proverbs 4:23, where He tells us to “keep our hearts with all diligence”.
“Put away from thee a forward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” (v.24)
Firstly, we have our mouths. James has a lot to say about the tongue.
“Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! …For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. … Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? …Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:4-5,7-8,10-11,13)
Where are our words continually dwelling? What are our lips speaking? What are we always talking about? Is it the typical “Who likes who”? Is it always about boys? And romance? Or maybe something even a little more subtle. “I can’t wait to do this or that for my wedding!”? Whatever it might be. Is it wrong to like someone? No. Is it evil to want to get married? Certainly not. Is it wicked to be excited about what you might or might not do for your wedding colors? No, it isn’t. But what we are usually talking about, what we are always dwelling on, says something about where our hearts are. We also need to remember that our mouths also affect our listener. We are not an island to ourselves. Remember how James just talked about a fountain either yielding bitter water or sweet? It is the exact same with our words. We can either be edifying our listener, or we can be corrupting their minds. It could be blessing or cursing. Why won’t we try to use our words to edify? Maybe the next time one of your girl friends wants to talk about the “latest with so and so”, you could casually change the topic. Why not share what’s on our hearts about Christ? He is an endless and beautiful subject matter. Or maybe, we don’t, simply because we wouldn’t have anything to share? I hope not. Or maybe you know someone who is discouraged about their singleness? You just might be able to encourage that heart to stay content in Jesus alone, simply by how you use yours words. A wise man will show forth his works in a good conversation.
“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” (v.25)
Next, we have our eyes. We are told to let them look “right on” and to what is “straight before thee”. But in doing so, we have to honestly ask ourselves a few questions. What is before me? Where are my eyes looking? Who are they looking at?
Hebrews 12:2 says- “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18)
What we are focused on, is what we become. As we set our faces towards the Lord, we are changed into the same image. I wonder what our faces would look like in comparison to this standard. I wonder what we’d honestly see. It depends completely on what our hearts are truly seeking. What are we looking for? Romance? Marriage? Selfish desires? Fulfillment from our own dreams?
I hope it’s more.
Proverbs 23:5 warns us about where we set our eyes.
I hope it’s more.
Proverbs 23:5 warns us about where we set our eyes.
“Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?"
If the Lord has told us “no”, then there is a good reason for it. To continue to set our eyes and hearts on something that is not the Lord’s will for us, is not only vain, but can be a hindrance in our walk with the Lord. We have to trust Him with our hearts’ desires. We have to rely on His wisdom.
He searches the same heart that so easily deceives us.
Proverbs 14:30 says- “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.”
What is a sound heart other than a strong confidence and contentment in the Lord? A heart that is set towards following Jesus Christ. Not having a heart that is envious. Not wanting something that doesn’t belong to you. That could also apply to things we just don’t have yet. Are our desires and the focus of our hearts encouraging “life”, or maybe, “rottenness” to our bones? Where we set our eyes bears a big part in how we keep our hearts with all diligence.
I will continue these thoughts very soon in “Keeping our Hearts with Diligence Part II”.