A few times each year I read through Proverbs, a chapter a day, which takes one month (30 chapters). This keeps on lodging its truths deeper in my mind, hopefully reflecting in my actions. Each time, this verse, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov. 4:23) stands out to me, perhaps because it begins with “Above all else.” It catches my attention. The admonition is to “guard your heart.” From what?
What is it that threatens our heart?
As I ponder this question, I realize that the threats against our heart are widespread and subtle. If we only needed to worry about negative forces, it would be easier, but attacks are much broader. Here are four areas to consider:
- Guard your heart from bad things – This may seem obvious, yet some of the attacks come from unexpected places. They creep in rather than busting down the walls. Anger and bitterness seep in and quickly consume our emotions. Lying easily is written off as harmless stretching of the truth. Secret “sins” start off small before they destroy lives.
- Guard your heart from innocuous things – Distraction and noise are two major culprits that eat away at our well-being and the relationships that matter the most to us. For me, the online game Words with Friends consumed virtually every free minute for almost a year until I realized how this harmless game was sabotaging my life. Guarding your heart means being vigilant against the seemingly innocent distractions that infiltrate our heart.
- Guard your heart from good things – Money is a good thing, a blessing from God. Pursued to an extreme, it becomes a god that hijacks our heart. Food, exercise, even pursuing our purpose and passion can become idols that eventually destroy the most important things in our life.
- Guard your heart from too much – Too much of a good thing is still too much. Overload, stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are primarily a result of allowing innocuous things and good things to become everything. We have no space for God’s best because we have settled for busy.
It’s one thing to identify the various ways that our heart is at risk. Doing something about it is quite another. The beginning place is to develop a regular time for reflection. This can take a lot of different forms. Journaling is one practice that facilitates reflection. The goal in all of this is not to become overly introspective, but to be attuned to the myriad of ways we are being shaped. This can also be accomplished through the honest feedback of a close friend. A regular time when we talk about deeper matters adds so much richness to our lives.
The key is to be diligent and vigilant. Here is one practical action step: Look at the four ways we guard our heart listed above and determine where in your life you are most susceptible to issues. Take one positive step to guard your heart in that area of weakness.