“Guard your heart!” Like most teenage girls, my parents’ reminder was not something I was always eager to hear when my thoughts started fantasizing about a guy. Of course, I knew everything they had told me about the dangers of giving your heart away to the wrong one. I knew well the analogy of the rose: every time you give your heart away, it’s like throwing away a petal from the blossoming rose you’re saving for your husband. How sad it would be to someday have only a bare stem, or a few crinkled leaves to give him!
I’m thankful for parents who had the wisdom to teach me about guarding my heart. Even when I tried to follow their advice rather reluctantly, their protection kept me safe from so many downfalls my girlish heart would have fallen into. But looking back, I wish I’d really unpacked the root issue of keeping a guarding heart: worship.
Dear sister, I don’t know where this article finds you. You may be still a ‘tween, only starting to become aware of the butterfly feeling you get when you’re around certain guys. Maybe you’ve already given your heart away, either emotionally or physically, to a man who isn’t your husband. It’s not too late. Maybe you’re in a season when there are absolutely no guys on the horizon, and you could only wish you could have this struggle! Or maybe, like me, the Lord has brought a godly young man into your life, and you are fighting the noble battle of keeping Christ first in your heart even as you grow in relationship with him. All the same, the call to guard your heart is a call that will last a lifetime—because Christ alone deserves to be central focus of our souls.
“Guard your heart by guarding your worship”—that single sentence jumped out at me and suddenly brought together a chaos of thoughts and lessons I’d stored in my brain and collided them into one central theme. All of life is about worship. How much less the issue of singleness, dating, and romance?
Every moment in life, we are worshipping something. God created us to be worshippers—of Himself—but after the Fall, our hearts grab on to anything and everything else. We are creatures desperate for identity, security, and love, and anything with a faint promise of fulfilling those desires quickly become objects of worship in our hearts. Of course, this is obvious when you travel to Nepal and see people bowing down to wooden idols or watch the drug addict do anything just to feed the addiction of his god. But more often, these “idols of the heart” are not sinful things, but God’s gifts loved more than God himself.
For us as young women, the idea of love and romance appears to be one of the best ways to satisfy our heart’s need for acceptance (alongside popularity, friends, appearance, achievements, and I could go on …). As a result, a desire for something that God created to be very good, marriage, easily takes over our hearts and becomes the object of our worship. It doesn’t help that the world bombards us with false images of Hollywood romances, Amish courtship stories, and “happily ever-afters.” As a result, it’s so easy to genuinely believe that a boyfriend or husband is all we need to be happy. And if we don’t have one, we have a right to be miserable, hopeless, or angry at God (especially if we feel like we’ve already served our time waiting patiently!).
While idolizing a godly romance may seem harmless compared to the greater evils of sex, porn, and identity issues our culture offers, it is no less heinous in the site of God or destructive to our hearts. God made us for himself; any other worship is rebellion against his glory and the recipe for eternal misery. That’s why we so desperately need the gospel: our hearts are far more prone to idolatry than we realize. Only Christ’s sacrifice and the resulting power that comes from full justification before God can enable us to replace false worship with true worship. In other words, when Jesus becomes our only and best Beloved, all other lovers run away.
That reality has transformed the way I view guarding my heart. Before, my strategy was mainly defensive. I had verses I would try to say if I caught my mind fantasizing. I avoided watching, reading, or listening to anything about romance. I tried to be careful about the way I talked to young men. While these are certainly not bad things (I would highly recommend them!), none of them got down to the real heart issue. Was Christ my first love or did I want him as a means to get the relationship I really wanted?
I have fought this battle so imperfectly, and am only now learning how to really watch my heart to keep it centered on Christ. Yet God has been so faithful, and it is in the midst of those lessons, not yet on the other side, that I want to share some practical ways I am learning to guard my heart by guarding my worship. I have found this endeavor to be same in the midst of a relationship as before in singleness—the goal of keeping Christ as my first love is the same.
1. I pray earnestly and daily that Christ would remain my first love. I have prayed this from the beginning of my relationship with Barry, and I have seen the Lord so graciously answer me in giving me more love for Christ. But am increasingly aware of how much this must be a daily prayer. It is not enough for me to say at the beginning, “God is always going to be first.” My heart is prone to wander; I must fight daily to worship and desire Him above all else.
2. I am learning (slowly 🙂 to run first to Jesus for my satisfaction. It’s easy in this season to if I had something exciting happen or am facing a difficult trial to run first to Barry and tell him about it. I’m having to train myself to go to Christ first, process it through prayer, and let Him give me His peace, joy, and strength before I discuss it with Barry. It’s not that sharing life with Barry is wrong; I am incredibly thankful for the way he consistently points me back to Christ in whatever I am facing. But no matter what an incredible man of God he is, he can never offer the fulfillment that Jesus alone gives! I have to develop the habit of running to Christ first.
Practically, this looks like prioritizing daily time in the Word and prayer.
3. Write love letters to Christ. I want to be careful here, because the American church has redefined who Jesus is, making him out to be like a boyfriend. It’s scary when you can hardly tell whether a song is talking about Jesus or your latest date. That’s not the Christ of the Scripture, and I’m not suggesting you write gushy valentines to Him. But there was a sweet season, before I went to sleep each night, I wrote out a prayer of worship solely focused on who Christ is. My prayer was that in doing so, I would endeavor to have a higher view of His worthiness, such that it would take over my heart to the extent I won’t have the same attraction to false hopes and desires.
4. Corporate worship is precious. Each Sunday morning, I have to fight to prepare my heart to come to church for the right reasons. Naturally, I wake up and think about all the friends I want to see or my fun plans after church or now, time with Barry. 🙂 Sunday mornings, I have to repent and ask God to give me a view of Himself such that I long to come to church to worship Him alone. I have to deliberately use my drive to prepare my heart such that I won’t be so distracted by prayer or reviewing scripture memory or listening to worship music. I fail so often, but more and more, I am seeing how desperately I need to sit under the preaching of God’s Word, sing with the body, and fellowship with other believers in order to thrive in my Christian walk.
Guarding your heart is not something that will limit your freedom and squelch your happiness. Rather, it is the deliberate holding off from lesser things to enjoy greater, like refusing a bag of potato chips knowing that the steak dinner will be ready in an hour. When I fight to guard my heart, I am making room to enjoy the only soul-satisfying, joy-filled relationship with Christ I was made for. With Him, though I have nothing else, I have everything. Without him, I could have all the world, yet I will be empty. So “give me Jesus!”
 The sentence came from Letters to a Romantic on Dating and Marriage. I have never read the book, so I can’t recommend it. I was just skimming at a friend’s home it when this sentence jumped out at me. 🙂
 This sermon by my pastor, Ken Murphy, was instrumental in helping me see the role desires and worship play in the Christian battle against sin. I would highly recommend taking the time to listen to it!
 You can read more about this theme in the book of Hosea. See what lengths God will go to in order to get all of our love for Himself!