Why Emotional Purity is Dangerous

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Guard your heart
Don’t trade it for treasure
Don’t give it away
– Steve Green

How many of us grew up on the above song? The verse from Proverbs 4:23 echoes: “Guard your hearts!” But what does this really mean?

  • Watch over your heart with all dilligence, for from it flow the wellsprings of life. (NAS)
  • Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV)
  • Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (ESV)

What is translated as “heart” here actually refers to our “mind, inner being” and not to our seat of emotions and affection. The “springs” or “wellsprings” are literally “the outgoings of life i.e. spiritual vitality.” This verse is speaking of far more than the usual “courtship culture” application.

In this way, we must indeed keep a firm hold on our emotions, particularly when it comes to love and romance (but let’s not fail to apply it in other areas). But the task is so great! Have you ever felt overwhelmed in the attempts? Our tendency might also be to swing from letting our emotions have free reign to keeping them in a prison cell where they will perish. How to find the balance?

Josh Harris’s message “Courtship, Shmortship” (note: this message is geared toward singles of marriable age, not teenagers) gives “the courtship guru” himself’s take on the whole concept of guarding our hearts:

We do not accept the unbiblical council of the world to “follow our hearts”; that is a recipe for disaster. But guarding our hearts should not become a self-focused attempt to avoid ever being disappointed!

We’re not to guard our hearts from attraction. Look, in friendships as single men and women, you’re going to be attracted to people. If we attempt to guard ourselves against attraction or disappointment, we will end up cutting ourselves off from the good gifts of friendship and fellowship that God has for us.

And if, as has happened to probably all of us, if the person that you are interested in doesn’t share the same kind of romantic interest in you, God will enable you to trust Him and enable you to walk through that disappointment.

Isn’t one of our primary motivations for guarding our hearts a fear of being hurt? Let us not live this way any longer. C.S. Lewis, in The Four Loves says:

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness…Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness…we shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

What are we to do when affections come? When our emotions cause us pain and uncertainty? If we lay our requests, our fears, our all before God, His peace will guard our hearts. Not from all pain, disappointment, and suffering–but from something far worse than these.

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