Are you a Christian? Have you ever dated? Then you have probably heard the admonition, “Guard your heart”. Everyone says it, but no one knows what it means. Some people use it as an excuse for not getting emotionally invested, “I am guarding my heart, keeping him at arm’s length”. Some people use it as an excuse to not go out on any dates, “I am guarding my heart by not offering myself any temptation”. Some people use it as a defense, “I am breaking up with you because you are not guarding my heart”.
Solomon, first of all, did not write this proverb in the context of dating.
Wait, what? What else could it mean?
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
– Prov 4.23
Watch over (or guard) your heart with all diligence because from it flow the springs of life. Why do we guard our hearts? Because it is a precious gem that we have to protect until we find our spouse? No, because from it flow the springs of life. What does that mean? Our problem in this world is that we are Spiritually dead and that we have a heart of stone. But God, when He gives us the gift of faith and salvation, takes out our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. The Holy Spirit indwells us, and that new heart of flesh gives us Spiritual life (Ex 36.26).
Our actions prove what is in our hearts.
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
– Luke 6.45
If our the springs within our hearts are contaminated or dirty, they will produce wickedness. But if our the springs of life within our hearts are pure and clean, they will produce holiness. Solomon is exhorting us to make every effort to guard our hearts because he is concerned about us being fundamentally changed. He does not desire to teach an entire book of proverbs and wisdom for the sake of cleaning up the outside/actions without dealing with the heart/source.
Everyone in every stage of the Christian walk should diligently guard his heart, not just someone who is dating in regards to the potential spouse. We must guard our hearts against anger, envy, pride, jealousy, and all other roots of sin that will destroy us. We must also refrain from investing our hearts in triviality and focus on those things of eternal value.
Ok, so is there an application to dating? Yes, I believe there is. But the application is simple: Test the relationship for its level of holiness. This is not a game of keep away, this is not an excuse for being aloof. You should never give your heart to another human being, you should only give your heart to God. When you find someone that you love and want to spend your life with, your heart is still God’s. Open your heart for others to see, express vulnerability to your potential spouse, and expect your spouse to hold you accountable, but never give your heart to your spouse. It belongs to God. If you give your heart to God and rely on Him for the strength to maintain a pure lifespring, only then you can truly love your spouse, your children, your friends, neighbors and enemies. If you give your heart to your boyfriend or spouse, then you are relying on him for your lifespring. It will be contaminated. And you will suck him dry. And neither of you will glorify God.
That all sounds good and cheery, but what does that look like? How do we do that? We start by setting our focus.
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
– Col 3.2
When we are renewed, it always starts with our minds.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Rom 12.2
When you think about dating, or when you interact with your boyfriend or spouse, consider how God is glorified in your relationship. Consider how you can love your boyfriend or spouse to the glory of God. Fight the battle of selfishness and pride by dying to yourself when he acts terribly. Hold him accountable, point Him to Jesus, and focus on Jesus. When you get discouraged, angry or upset, pray. Turn to Jesus, not to your significant other. Let Jesus change your heart. Preach truth to yourself and choose to act on truth and not feelings, and trust Jesus that he will take care of the feelings and attitudes. Fight the sin by clinging to Jesus in your mind. Your heart will follow.
If you are having a bad day, turn to Jesus. Pray. Sing. Go on a walk and vent. Your significant other will be able to pull you up for a while, but eventually he will break down, and you will never truly be satisfied. But Jesus will restore you and encourage and fill your heart. He Himself is the life giver (Ps 36.9). If you and your significant other both draw your life and encouragement from Jesus, then you can serve one another without expectation and you will find greater pleasure in one another. Give your heart to Jesus and let your spouse see that at work. In that you will find the deepest unity, love and happiness.
So guard your heart. Fight against the sins of the heart, do not let them take a hold of you. Give your heart to God, trust Him to protect it, and fight the battles of sin in your mind first and trust God to take care of your heart, providing clean and pure lifesprings that result in holy, righteous and godly living.