“…with all your heart.” Proverbs 3:5
Is it the heart of the matter, a matter of the heart, or does the heart even matter at all? The heart is a perplexing thing. I, for one, often wonder how the Bible can tell us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” when it says elsewhere “” When considering the unbeliever, the total depravity of the human heart flows naturally from this verse. Hence, the word “incurable.” But what about the Christian? Have our “hearts of stone” not been replaced with “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26, and 2 Cor. 3:3)? As new creatures with new hearts, we are no longer slaves to our utter depravity, but are being sanctified and transformed into Christlikeness. So where does the heart of the believer fit when it comes to trusting God?
I see one word in our verse that clues me in to the answer, especially considering where it lies in context. It is that seemingly meaningless word “with”, coupled with the fact that the trusting is given as an imperative. This is what tells me that the heart is to follow our trust as opposed to our trust following our heart. First of all, if we are to follow our hearts to trust God, then it does not make sense that we would have to be commanded to trust Him. Would our hearts not naturally go in that direction? And if we are following our hearts, what good will an external commandment do? The imperative to trust is first an engaging of the mind. The mind understands that kind of language. It all starts with a cognitive decision to trust in the Lord based on what we know and believe to be true of Him.
Second, the flow of this verse presents the heart more as a powerful tool than as the determining factor. We are to trust (intentional, mental decision) with our heart. The heart becomes something we take hold of as a powerful tool in our trusting much like the builder takes hold of his tools when constructing a house. The tools didn’t build it. They had to be guided and directed. But they were instrumental and powerful.
As it concerns trusting in the Lord with all your heart, I would like to lay three challenges before you.
Let Your Heart Be Driven, But Not The Driver
The heart makes for a wonderful vehicle, but it is a lousy driver. Imagine cranking up a corvette, laying a brick on the gas pedal, taking your hands off the wheel, and letting the corvette take you for a ride. It will probably be your last ride. No doubt, you will travel with power. But you will also end up powerfully crashing. Now put that corvette in the hands of a skilled driver and you have a thing of beauty. The driver knows when to tap the breaks and when to put it to the floor. He knows when to keep the wheel straight and when to cut it hard. The heart in the hands of a good driver is able to point its powerful zeal in all the right directions.
Let the driver of your heart be truth. There will be times your heart tugs and pulls in various directions, but with God’s truth at the wheel you will always stay heading on the right path. The way you “trust in the Lord with all your heart” is by allowing God’s truth to grip the steering wheel and take control. Sometimes your heart will naturally overflow with feelings of trust in God. Other times your heart will drag with feelings of doubt. But we must operate on what we believe about God instead of what we feel about God in any given moment. In this way we allow truth to drive our hearts.
Let Your Heart Be Focused
Pull up a map and take a look at the borderline of Arkansas and Tennessee. It’s chaotic and crazy, lacking any coherent direction. It would make sense if it followed the Mississippi River. But it doesn’t. The way it has been explained to me, that is where the river used to be. The Mississippi is so violent and powerful in places that it actually changes the landscape, even to the point of uprooting trees. It is constantly changing shape.
I think this is a good illustration for the heart. You will notice that those who act primarily on their feelings often appear chaotic. They are constantly changing course. They lack clear direction. Feelings come instantaneously. But truth and conviction are developed over time. It is hard to separate feelings from moments in time. But truth plays the long game.
Imagine if you could take all the power of the Mississippi and intentionally focus it in one direction. Such is the beauty of the human heart. It is powerful and reckless. But when harnessed and directed by a firm understanding of God’s Word, there is no end to what it can accomplish.
Let Your Heart Be Instructed
In Psalm 42:5-6, the writer does an odd thing. He preaches to himself. More specifically, he preaches to his soul. He is addressing his heart and his emotional state. He describes his emotional condition as “cast down” and “in turmoil.” This would be one of those times when the heart would be a terrible driver. He is very specific in the way he allows truth to drive and focus his heart. He proclaims truth to his own heart, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He is also intentional about remembering things that God has done.
We have heard the common phrase, “you get what you give.” What you give to your heart you get out of your heart. If you starve your heart of God’s Word your heart will act accordingly. The heart must be instructed. Preach to your heart. Constantly place God’s Word before it. In doing so, you will place truth firmly in the drivers seat of your heart. You will focus that raging river. You will be able to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.”