Why Guarding Your Heart Isn't Enough

At some point, you have to go all in.

Christians love to talk about “guarding your heart,” especially in the context of relationships. There are countless how-to articles and dating books featuring chapter titles like “Ten Steps To Guard Your Heart and Your Significant Other’s” or “How to Guard Your Heart Against Breakup.”

But to me, it sounds like a cliché. And I hate clichés.

When it comes to our relationships, I think we’re missing something. Jesus summarizes our highest command as: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

If the heart is only one quarter of the greatest commandment in the Bible, why are we emphasizing the heart like it’s the only factor in love? And what of Jeremiah’s claim that: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure? Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Perhaps love doesn’t begin with romance—and goes much deeper than the heart.

Going “All In” for Love

According to Mark 12:30, Jesus wants us to be all in. And when we love Him with our all, it will help shape our perspective of earthly relationships, romantic and otherwise. When we are totally firm and secure in God’s love for us, we will be less worried about “guarding our hearts” from pain and heartbreak as we relate to others.

Jesus is the greatest example of this. He loved His Father so much He was not afraid of getting hurt by loving others. On the contrary, He died for relationships. Jesus sacrificed everything for love. He did this to restore not only our relationship with Him but our relationships with each other. His body was broken for us—not just His heart. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t afraid of a broken heart, mind or body. What would happen if we had the same perspective?

Relationships are risky business, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up with a broken heart. But because of Christ’s love, the fear of a broken heart no longer has to be the motivating factor. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We can fulfill the greatest commandment because of God’s perfect example in the flesh.

Christ's mission was to leave Paradise and sacrifice Himself on the altar of love. Even when it appears Jesus struggles with going through with this plan, He prays: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:42). His whole life was dedicated to making us whole; He loved us with His mind, body, heart and strength so that we might also be able to love wholly.

The Heart’s Best Defense

In my early 20s, I was always afraid of getting into a relationship for fear I’d get hurt. I’d try to do everything perfect. I tried the 10-inch rule (keeping 10 inches between myself and a romantic interest at all times). I joined a church group just to get to know him a little better in that context first.

Not that my behavior was wrong, but sometimes we can be more concerned with getting things right and checking off all the relationship boxes that we even miss the compatibility factor. The idea of being “in a relationship” just seems more appealing than being single. It’s easy to obsess so much about getting relationships perfect that we forget about our most important relationship—our relationship with God.

When our concern for God becomes clouded or replaced entirely by pursuing, pleasing and protecting our earthly relationships, we’re in danger. If we’re not paying attention, we can easily miss what God is trying to show us about our relationships. Desire for (or fear of) finding a spouse isn’t as important as our relationship with Him. He’s ready to show us how much we can accomplish for Him regardless of our relationship status.

From the moment we wake up to the moment we lay our head down, we have the grand opportunity and honor to shower God with our love.

How can we love God with our all? Through prayer, thank God daily for the things He has so graciously given. Expectantly read the Word, asking God to speak. For the nature lovers, take a walk outdoors and remind yourself of God’s creation, of your part in an incredible love story. For the person on the go, if your schedule won’t allow any extra time, recall a verse from memory, or be mindful as you thank God for your meals. Over time, watch as your love grows while you remain in Him.

Spiritual discipline may not seem like the most glamorous relationship advice, but it can literally restore your heart, mind, body and strength. The next time someone tells you the “just guard your heart” cliché, you can confidently share with him or her that the best defense of the heart is to first give it fully to God.

Renee Johnson Fisher is a spirited speaker and writer to twentysomethings. Her second book, Not Another Dating Book (Harvest House), released February 2012, and you can find Renee blogging at DevotionalDiva.com.

65 Comments

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Ruby Waters commented…

I love the last line:The next time someone tells you the just guard your heart clich, you can confidently share with him or her that the best defense of the heart is to first give it fully to God.

It's so true. I've always misinterpreted "guarding your heart" as something I needed to do out of my own self-effort to protect my heart from being hurt. (Of course now I know what the verse means.) Thank you for the reminder that I don't protect myself from heartbreak by building walls and fences, but by seeking God, entrusting Him with my heart.

I believe that God wants the best for me, and that He has the best plans.

And this is so true for all relationships - love, friends, family...

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Sam commented…

I think the way we should "guard our hearts" is to be able to not let your significant other to be more important than God. For instance, if all of a sudden the person you are dating who you feel you will marry them and live your life together till you die breaks up with you, you have to trust in God that He has the best plan for your life and maybe it wasn't with that person who you intended it to be with. I guess just giving everything to God and saying, "I trust that you have the best plan for my life and I will be totally fine if your will is not this person." I have seen so many people get hurt by focussing on their significant other and not God's will and what God has planned for their life.
Remember Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

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anonymous commented…

I appreciate this article and your thought, just happened across this . . . the thing that gets me though, from a guy's perspective is this:

To me, the idea of being great friends first sounds good too, but I don't know if it hardly ever actually happens that way. I think people decide pretty early on whether they are interested in a potential partner and if you know a reasonable amount about them that's enough to go on, I don't think it's bad to say, hey, let's date a little so we can pursue this possibility more.

I really crushed my heart a couple years ago trying to build a friendship with a girl because I held on to this hope of a future relationship, but it turned out she was never really interested in the first place. I'm still happy to be her friend, but the ambiguity that resulted was the opposite of guarding my heart and the misplaced future hope really became a source of bondage and pain in my life. I like to know where I stand.

So if I'm interested in dating a girl, I'm TOTALLY okay with her being guarded and hesitant. I'mhesitant too :) I don't even want to talk or think about getting married until I know her very well.

But I DO want somebody who likes me and is interested in me. And I don't think there's anything wrong with making an intentional move to date at that point, in order to get to know the person more.

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anonymous commented…

I mean to say . . . what if there is a great Christian guy out there who you don't have the luxury of hanging out with in a group of friends for a long time in advance? Maybe you've met them once or twice through a mutual friend or something. If you're so guarded that you're unwilling to go on a couple first dates then you might really miss out. Just going on those dates doesn't mean you are getting into anything serious or intense, probably the guy is just as hesitant and skeptical at that point. It just means you are interested enough to think he's worth getting to know more. And if you're not interested, then it's not fair to string him along as a friend.

Henry Kim

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Henry Kim commented…

I love how some christians i know interpret "guard your heart" as reject every guy that asks them out and complain about why they are still single.

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