My heart breaks to see so many women (and men) of God go in and out of bad relationships that leave them broken and confused. I hear so many stories of people of God going from relationship to relationship and getting the same outcome that the world gets in their relationships. I believe that as people of God we have an advantage that the world does not have, and we can easily avoid getting into these situations. We serve a God that knows all and sees all. He knows the deepest things of our heart that even we don’t know, and He sees what is truly in every person’s heart. Our God is more than capable of forewarning us about someone before we enter a relationship with them or simply telling us that we are not ready.
Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (NKJV)” The NIV says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” We are instructed to guard our hearts with all diligence. What does it mean to guard something?
To GUARD means to watch over in order to protect or control. To protect, defend, to keep safe, to keep watch, to lookout, to preserve.
Now the Bible not only tells us to guard (protect/keep safe/defend) our hearts, but it says to do it with ALL DILIGENCE (diligence means careful and persistent work or effort; attention, care, hard work). So, we are commanded to carefully and persistently watch over, protect, preserve and keep our hearts safe.
When you guard your heart with all diligence you won’t easily let anything or anyone in. You won’t randomly and loosely date anyone or entertain conversations, acquaintances or relationships that could damage or taint your heart in the long run. You’re careful of who and what you let in. You’re even watchful of the thoughts that you entertain. We guard our cars, our phones, and our personal possessions more than we guard our own hearts. We don’t just hand our car keys to anyone or even let just anyone in our cars. We know where our phone is at all times and we take great care to make sure our personal possessions are safe. But when it comes to our heart, we hand the key to any man/woman that comes knocking. We entertain people that say they are Christian without first testing the spirit. We hold fleshly conversations with people because we want the comfort it offers all while unknowingly opening up our hearts to whatever is in that person (this is how some soul ties begin). We give our bodies to whoever makes us feel good and then wonder why our heart is in distress and we can’t function. When you leave your heart unguarded, you open up a door for anything to come in. Soul-ties, demonic spirits of oppression and depression, spirits of perversion, and feelings of worthlessness are some of the things that can enter when we leave our heart unguarded.
The verse in Proverbs 4:23 says that out of our heart “flows/springs the issues of life.” What that means is that everything you do comes from what’s in your heart. The condition of your heart will affect EVERY area of your life. Have you ever been heartbroken from a situation or relationship and then find it hard to focus and function in other areas of your life, or find yourself acting like a completely different person? We can’t control every situation that takes place in our life but we can control who we get into relationships with and who we allow to get into our heart. So how do you guard your heart and what are some steps you can take to ensure that you don’t repeat getting into bad relationships?
How to Guard Your Heart:
(These points are in no special order)
- Ask God about the person before the relationship begins.
If we claim to be sons and daughters of God who have made Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, that must also include our relationship, sexual, and romantic life. There are so many Christians who say they have made Jesus their Lord and yet when it comes to their relationships they are the “lord” of that area. They leave God completely out of that area of their life and they call all the shots; they only involve God when they want God to bless what they have chosen, or they’ve gotten themselves in a mess and they want God to fix it. God doesn’t work that way; He’s either going to be Lord of all of your life or He won’t be Lord at all. The consequences from the areas that we choose not to give to God will eventually spill into every area of our life. You’ll find yourself constantly cleaning up a mess that continues to flow because you don’t want to deal with the source – you have left God out. It’s like constantly cleaning up water from a leak over and over because you won’t deal with the actual leak. Contrary to certain beliefs and doctrines, God wants to have a say so in who you enter into a relationship with. He should have a say so if He is truly your Lord.
Before you enter into a relationship you should seek God for His will. When you meet someone, and you notice that there is a mutual interest before you even begin to befriend that person on a deeper level, YOU SHOULD CONSULT THE LORD. Your flesh can and will deceive you, and people can and will deceive you. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Only God really knows what is in that person’s heart, only He knows if that relationship will be fruitful, and only He knows if that person is meant for you. When you consult God, He can give you a clear answer and prevent you from going down a path that you will later regret. Only He knows if that man/woman who told you that they’re a Christian is really a Christian, He knows how they are really living behind closed doors. There is no need to test things out when you serve the All-Knowing God. He can show you things before they take place or simply have you steer clear of someone. The question is will you seek Him and not move until He gives you an answer? And if He doesn’t tell you anything, then don’t move – don’t go any further with the relationship (this includes just “talking”) until you have the peace of God. And if you don’t have peace, then let it go. If we desired to please God for real, we wouldn’t be so quick to make decisions without His approval.
- Know what your flesh likes and don’t entertain those things.
What triggers your flesh? Is it light-skinned guys? Guys that are in ministry or guys that have money? Do certain television shows or media content tempt you to want to do certain things? Does being in certain atmospheres, around certain people, or in certain conversations cause you to want to be in a relationship? Whatever it is that you KNOW your flesh likes and would make you move contrary to God, DO NOT ENTERTAIN IT! The Bible tells us to flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22), not run to it. Flee from those things that tempt you to want to compromise. Know what your flesh likes and what the enemy likes to send your way and be on guard. Guard your heart against those things. Don’t be quick to hang with those girlfriends that like to talk about men and sex all the time – you shouldn’t even be having those kinds of conversations as a child of God. Some of us know that our flesh like certain things, and instead of fleeing from those things we like to play with them from time to time when we get bored or needy. There’s a saying that goes, “if you give the devil an inch, he’ll take a mile.” Don’t entertain the devil then wonder why you’re miles and miles away from God. Be honest with yourself about what you like. Once you identify what you like, then you can be on guard against those things because the enemy will usually send you what your flesh wants.
- Set up boundaries and obey what God has told you.
Did God tell you that you’re not ready for marriage but 3 months later you’re in a relationship? Or did God tell you that He wants you to focus on your relationship with Him right now, but you’re entertaining this guy/girl on the side? If God told you to do something, why aren’t you doing it? You can’t do the opposite of what God instructed and expect a good outcome. Go back to doing what the Lord told you to do last. If that was to focus on your relationship with Him, then that’s what you should be doing without distraction. If God told you that you are not ready for marriage yet, why are you trying to pass time by dating? When God establishes a relationship, the end result is for marriage, not for you to pass time and please your flesh until it ends. When we want something bad enough we will try our best to justify it. Do not try to justify things that God has clearly told you not to partake in. He is well able to tell you when it is time for marriage and who your spouse is; there’s no need to try to help God out or figure things out on your own. Along with obeying what God told you to do, you must set up boundaries. This is a big one. I hear so many stories of people shocked and sad that they backslid or “fell” into sex when in reality, they slowly but surely walked into it because they didn’t have any boundaries set up. Sin begins in the mind before our bodies carry it out. The first place you need to set up boundaries is in your mind. If your mind wanders to sexual thoughts or thoughts of being with someone, you need to begin to cast down those thoughts and condition your mind to not think on those things.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” We are instructed in Scripture to think on good, pure, and godly thoughts. Sexual thoughts that are not about your actual husband/wife is not pure. Some people aren’t having sex physically but they are having sex in their mind, that’s their escape and they take great comfort in that place and think that it’s ok as long as they aren’t doing it physically. God sees those thoughts and He isn’t pleased with them. Those thoughts will eventually lead to masturbation or pornography. Or when the right guy/girl comes along, YOU WILL want to give in to them. Don’t meditate on those perverted thoughts, ask God to teach you to be free in your mind. Once you begin to cast those thoughts down and no longer dwell on them, your body will follow. (If you need further help on casting down thoughts and imaginations, you can read a blog post I wrote on that topic here.)
Other types of boundaries that need to be set are places you go, conversations you have, people you hang around, and things you watch and listen to. If your friend won’t stop talking about sex and men, you need to tell her you no longer want to have those conversations. If she doesn’t honor your request, you need to stop talking to her. THIS is how you guard your heart. You’re guarding it against anything and anyone that may taint it and lead you to do things that are not pleasing to God. It’s not personal, you simply have to safeguard your relationship with the Lord at all times. Anything and anyone that may jeopardize it MUST GO. When you want to be free bad enough you’re willing to cut off whatever needs to be cut off. Matthew 5:29-30 says it’s better to cut off parts of your body that cause you to sin than to perish because of it. It’s better to cut off certain television shows and music that cause you to lust than to perish because of them. It’s better not to hang around certain people that encourage you to live an ungodly life than to perish because of them. It’s better to tell your boyfriend/girlfriend that’s tempting/leading you to sin that your relationship is over than to perish because of them. It’s even better to choose not to have intimate conversations with the opposite sex or a relationship at all (until God brings your spouse) than to perish because of it. What is worth your purity, your salvation, or your soul? The answer should be nothing. So, if it’s better to cut it off, then cut it off. Only you and God know the boundaries you need to set.
- Obey the word of God when it comes to sexual purity.
The Bible has a number of things to say about sexual purity and guidelines in keeping yourself pure, but I will just highlight a few verses: 1 Corinthians 7:32-33 says that those who are unmarried should be concerned with the things of the Lord and how they can please Him. And those who are married are concerned with how they can please their spouse. So, if you’re unmarried (a.k.a. single, dating, courting, engaged, shacking – not in a legal marriage), your mind should be on how to please and live for the Lord, not on how to please your boo. Your boyfriend is not your husband, all of your time and attention should not be on him, it should be on the Lord. God should be your primary focus. 1 Corinthians 7:3 says that the husband and wife should give their affection to each other. It does not say that you should give your affection to your boyfriend/girlfriend. If they are not your spouse, your affections belong to the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” The Bible makes it very clear that it is God’s will for you to remain sexually pure. Sex outside of marriage is called fornication. Sex with someone other than your spouse (if you are married) or with someone else’s spouse is called adultery. Sexual purity doesn’t only deal with the physical act of intercourse, sexual purity includes our thoughts, our feelings, and other non-intercourse sexual acts. Someone could be abstaining from sex but still be sexually impure because they have made a habit of lusting after people. Maybe you’re not having sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend but if you guys are touching, feeling, humping on each other or kissing and it incites passion/lustful thoughts or feelings, the Bible considers you sexually impure. If you are masturbating or watching pornography, you are committing sexual immorality. Other verses about sexual immorality include: 1 Cor. 6:18, Matt. 5:28, Gal. 5:19, Eph. 5:5, Col. 3:5, 1 Peter 2:11, 1 Cor. 10:8, Heb. 13:4, Rev. 21:8, Exod. 20:14 and many more. Don’t just take my word for it, read it for yourself.
It’s clear to see that the Bible has a lot to say about sexual purity. Why did I bring up this point? Because now that you know what the Bible says about this topic, to give your flesh any room or leeway to do the opposite is blatant disobedience. God does not bless disobedience. There is NO SITUATION, under any circumstances, that God will excuse this sin (or any sin for that matter). So, if you met that guy in church and he’s a minister and you guys started having sex or you’ve been together for years or you have children together, etc… you STILL cannot and should not be practicing sexual immorality. I’m shocked at how many Christians think that their special situation makes it alright in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if that man has all your babies – according to God’s word, if you guys are not married, he DOES NOT have any rights to your body whatsoever. So, if you didn’t know what sexual immorality was before, or you didn’t know that all sex outside of marriage was wrong in God’s eyes, now you know and now you will be held accountable to what you know. (Note: I understand that some things are strongholds and difficult to break from. But now that you know the truth, you must seek God for total deliverance. And your deliverance will begin by repenting and setting up boundaries).
- Do not put yourself in compromising situations, resist the enemy.
Now that we know what God’s word clearly says about sexual immorality, it’s time to flee! And now that we know what is not of God in this area, we have the ability to discern foolishness in ourselves and in other people! Knowing the TRUTH of God’s word allows you to bring your emotions in alignment and discern when someone is moving contrary to it. So, if a man who claims to be Christian asks you to come over to his place late at night (or when no one is there), you’ll know according to God’s word that he is either a man of God who is compromising or he isn’t a man of God at all and you should RESIST HIM! Neither of you are strong enough to handle that fire…GO HOME!!! If your significant other says they want to have children with you and you’re not married to them, you should flee from them. These compromising situations should never be an option for God’s children. The light of God’s word has illuminated our path to know that these things are not alright to partake in. Don’t think that you are spiritually “strong” enough to walk into temptation. And there’s a huge difference between God testing you and you placing yourself in situations to fall into temptation. Don’t think that you can sin, and God will bless the consequences of your sin. Don’t sin in a relationship today and go to God later crying about why it didn’t work out. The wages of ALL sin is death (Romans 6:23, James 1:15). There will always be negative consequences to doing things outside of God’s established order. So, under no circumstances should you be living with your significant other outside of marriage, having sex outside of marriage, planning or trying to have children outside of marriage, going over to his/her house late at night or at a time that you know will lead to temptation, or giving someone spouse benefits when they are not your spouse. Don’t give your flesh any room to do these things. GUARD YOUR HEART so you don’t end up falling.
It’s a lot harder to break the cycle and stronghold of sin than it is to partake in it. There are many people who it took years to be free from sins their flesh developed an appetite for. Don’t give your flesh what it wants. And don’t fool yourself to think that God has a “special grace” for your sin/situation and He’s just going to pardon your habitual sin, especially if you are in church and in ministry. There is blood on your hands and you are leading people astray; if you don’t repent God will deal with you. Sin is joyful only for a season, but when that season ends, you will have to face the full consequences of your actions. I hear stories all the time of ministers active in ministry having sexual relations with people in and out of the church and they think God is cool with them compromising their faith because they’re “serving” God. Let’s not deceive ourselves, the Bible is very clear on this. He gives us space to repent, but eventually, that space will run out. There are many “ministers” in hell who wish they could come back and do things the right way. Don’t be one of them. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations, GUARD YOUR HEART!
My prayer is that this post sets many people free from the same relationship cycles. Guarding our heart is something that we should do with every area of our life, but especially when it comes to relationships. As you learn God’s will concerning relationships and begin to stand upon the truth of His word, your life and relationships should begin to look different. When we understand this truth we’ll stop saying that it was God’s will for us to get into those relationships that messed us up, because truth be told, it’s never God’s will to leave us broken, confused, cheated on, sexually used (or to use someone else sexually), a single parent, left with AIDS/STDs, etc. because GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION, He does not do things outside of His nature. If we are honest, we led ourselves into those relationships because we didn’t know that we needed to guard our heart. And we didn’t know how to guard our heart because we didn’t know, or we ignored God’s word. God loves you too much to leave you broken from relationship after relationship. And don’t believe the lie that you can date any Christian/any person and randomly talk to guys/girls and God is ok with it. With each relationship, you are giving pieces of yourself away. Your heart is left more bruised and damaged after each one, and what comes out of you is a result of what you experienced in each of your relationships (that’s why God has to purge and deliver you from those things). This is not God’s will for you, He has better for you if you would just seek Him. It doesn’t matter how old you are, we all must live according to God’s standards in order to get His results.
Your heart is very precious to God, it’s worth guarding. So, above all else, guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). ❤