Prov. 4:23: Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Politics. For me it’s junk food—the guilty pleasure of someone falling off his diet. Sometimes, if I’m tired or bored, or if I find what I’m supposed to be doing difficult, I’ll look at a news website and inevitably I’ll start reading articles about politics. Just as inevitably, it leaves me in turmoil—upset, angry, even hateful. I want this to happen and I don’t want that to happen. I rue the state of the union. I judge. I get steamed. I whack people in the head with the beam in my eye, trying to remove the speck from theirs.

Dear Lord, these unruly affections drive out love. They pull me away from you. They blind me to love. They deafen me and prevent me from hearing and doing your will. How can I keep watch and guard my heart? O that I could abide in love. O that I could know your will, and do it. O that I could die to self and live for you. But how can I guard my heart? Lord, save!

Paul gives a hint: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

First, it is the peace of God that guards your heart, not some superhuman control of your thoughts. The disturbances will continue; you should have peace of heart in the face of them. Peace in the affections. A quieting of cares and fears and hopes and loves for things that are not God.

Second, it is the peace of God that guards your heart, not something you can do for yourself, apart from God.
Third, if you don’t feel that peace that passes understanding, perhaps you need to follow the prior advice: rejoice in the Lord always. Do not be anxious about anything. Pray. Have faith.

When unruly affections assail, why don’t you try this, O my soul: turn toward God. Trust that God cares about the future and sees what is best. Root out anxiety by placing your hope in God. Redirect your unruly affections toward God. Be gentle. Be peaceful. Be thankful. Rejoice! Guard your heart.

O Lord, teach me to love you with my whole heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.

See also:

  • Tersteegen hymn, O God, a world of empty show

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin College and the director of ccel.org and hymnary.org.