I had a short Facebook conversation recently with a male relative about following your heart (names have been omitted to protect the innocent). He posted a picture stating that we should follow our hearts (meaning we all have to live with our own choices). I maintained that the Bible says that if you follow your heart, you are a fool because your heart is deceitful. I said that people who “follow their heart” tend to make bad choices, ungodly choices.
While I believe that what I said was biblically correct, evidently there was some miscommunication. I mentioned this to a friend at work, and she gave me the following illustration that she found on http://gracefullmama.com/choosing-the-engine-guest-post. I’m not familiar with the website, so I’m not outright recommending it. I’m just letting you know the source for this illustration is a guest blogger for that website named Carrie. I’ve edited her version a little, but it’s basically the same.
She says your life is like a train. The engine of that train represents FACT (God’s Word), which is what drives the train. You could also call the engine TRUTH. The coal car of that train is represented by FAITH, which supplies fuel for the engine. She says, “Faith in God’s Word (the Truth) keeps you on track.”
The caboose of the train represents FEELINGS (or we’ll say “YOUR HEART”). While feelings are natural, and everybody has them, they are only trustworthy insofar as they follow God’s Word and your faith in His Word.
If you put the caboose in front of the engine, you have problems. The train derails or doesn’t run right. The idea is that if you allow your feelings to dictate your choices in life, your life won’t run the way God wants it to, and it will be messed up. Feelings are great things, and you CAN “follow your heart” just as long as your heart (i.e. your feelings) is in line with your faith and God’s Word.
She ended her illustration by referencing Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist I hold in high esteem. He is an amazing thinker, writer, and preacher. If you have time, listen to some of his messages over at www.rzim.org. I have three or four of his books, but the one I like the most is “Jesus Among Other Gods.”
Anyway, Ravi was talking about his brother, who had an arranged marriage. He told his brother he didn’t believe he could marry someone he didn’t love. His brother said, ““Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion. And if you WILL to love somebody, you can.”
Carrie then ended her post by saying, “I can choose to trust (and obey) God’s Word, or I can let the caboose carry me away. When I choose to love my husband when he is being unlovable (which doesn’t happen often, but he is still human!), the feelings always follow, just as the caboose will always follow the engine, as long as they are kept in the correct order.”
Here’s an example. Let’s say you “fall in love” with someone. That’s great, but you need to make sure that your love is in line with your faith in God and with His Word. For instance, is your prospective spouse already married to someone else? Then according to God’s Word, that person is not for you, and untold damage will be done if you put your feelings before the Truth. Is this person a believer? God’s Word says that believers should not marry unbelievers. Amos 3:3 and II Corinthians 6:14 are clear about this truth.
If you read God’s Word to see what it says about relationships, and your prospective spouse matches up, then you can “follow your heart!” But if your heart is telling you to do something that is against the Word of God or your faith in it, you shouldn’t do it, no matter how strong your feelings are.
At the end of this post, so there is no confusion, let me categorically state that I am glad this man followed his heart and married into my family! He and his wife love each other very much, and I pray God gives them many blessed years together as they seek to serve Him.
The train simile is a really, really REALLY bad simile. I won’t go into too much detail unless you ask me to – but she seems to have the parts all messed up. FAITH drives the train? IS the train? Or perhaps is the tracks? “For without faith…” (Heb 11:6…) Would the engine be Grace? (No grace – no train at all.) Would the fuel for the fire be Works? “Faith without works is dead…” (James 2:14 – 26) the tracks could be the Holy Spirit since He guides us.
Need a simpler simile/metaphor. The train is too mixed up and subject to misinterpretation and argument for me.
First of all, it’s just an analogy so it’s not perfect (no analogy is). The basic meaning is that your life should be lived according to the Bible, by Faith, and your feelings are subordinate to the Bible and your faith. It’s not an analogy about salvation, it’s about your decision tree.
If you want, you can think about it like a flowchart, which I can’t draw here. First box: Is this decision against the Bible? (YES/NO). If NO: STOP. Don’t do it. If YES: continue. Is the decision proscriptive or prohibitive? “Does God tell me through the Bible that I SHOULD do X? If so, do it without regard for my feelings. Does God tell me through the Bible that I should NOT do X? If so, don’t do it, without regard for my feelings. In other words, I’m not saying feelings aren’t important, but they should always be less important than your faith in God and what He has revealed in His Word.