As American Christian women, we hear lots of messages today about the importance of our heart—messages that put great emphasis upon our feelings, our needs, our uniqueness, and our desires. We are often led to believe that it’s okay for us to build everything around our emotions and our wants. “Your heart is good” is the message of one popular Christian book—“By living out your desires and dreams, you bring glory to your Creator.”
But is our heart really good? Should our own feelings and dreams and desires and emotions be nurtured and coddled the way many modern messages prescribe? I believe that our emotions and desires certainly can be instruments of God to help direct our lives, but only when they are fully yielded to Him.
Most of us never truly die to self—we never really walk through the painful process of laying every hope, dream, and wish of our heart upon the altar before our King, or of letting our identity become swallowed up in Him. And as a result, our emotions, personality, and desires quickly take over and control us, hollering and bellowing and clamoring for us to build our life around them. We often forsake a life of total abandonment and service to Christ for a comfortable life of pleasure because our feelings and desires are telling us it’s the only way to be happy. When our own happiness is our highest priority, we cannot truly be the disciples of Jesus Christ.
Emotions must become subservient to the Spirit of God—to His will, His agenda, His purpose, and His direction. The vast majority of us have become enslaved to our own feelings rather than bondservants of Jesus Christ. We should never make decisions based upon what we feel like doing, but on what our Lord is asking of us. Loving Him is first an act of the will, a choice to put Him first—no matter what our feelings tell us. Once we learn to love Him with our will, our emotions and feelings naturally follow suit, and it becomes our greatest delight to give our lives wholly to Him. As the Psalmist said, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God!” (Psalm 40:8).
Elizabeth Elliot said it this way: “The difficulty is to keep a tight reign on our emotions. They may remain, but it is not they who are to rule the action. They have no authority. A life lived in God is not lived on the plane of the feelings, but of the will. In Scripture the heart is the will—the man himself, the spring of all action, the ruling power bestowed on him by his Creator, capable of choosing and acting.”
This is the secret to finding contentment no matter what our situation. To turn down the volume of our selfish, screaming emotions and attune our ears to our King’s gentle whisper. To yield to His strength rather than the power of our own desires. To choose to love, give, serve, and pour out our lives for Him, asking nothing in return. It’s what He did for us. And it’s what He asks us to do for Him.
Important side note: If the thought of laying everything (especially the hope of marriage if you are single) on the altar before your King, expecting nothing in return, makes you feel apprehensive, depressed, or hopeless, you can be sure those emotions are not coming from God. The enemy of our soul is always busy at work, trying to speak words of doom to our minds, whispering that following God’s ways will only lead to heartache, disappointment, and disillusionment. He often causes us to believe that we are surrendering to a scowling Master who takes pleasure in making us unhappy.
I used to imagine telling God I was willing to be single, then spending the rest of my days in a long drab-grey dress, sitting by the window in a rocking chair, rocking my life away in misery. Or when I imagined giving up my life to serve the least around the world, I used to picture spending my days in a dismal hut in Africa, covered with bugs and lice, wasting away in misery. But those fears merely exposed the fact that I didn’t truly know the nature of my God, and therefore, I didn’t truly trust Him with all my heart.
Get alone with your King, meditate upon who He really is, and allow Him to give you His heart—His vision for the beauty of true surrender. It’s not a doorway into misery; it’s a doorway to abundant life, joy, peace, and supernatural strength. Remember the words of Paul: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not . . . also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). And the words of James: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
My life has never been flooded with so much beauty, adventure, and romance as when I have been fully yielded to Jesus Christ. Remember who He is. His plans for you are good. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But first He must have your will. And once He does, you will be able to declare with David the Psalmist: “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).