How to Guard Your Heart

How to Guard Your Heart

To use a sports phrase, “the best offense is a good defense.” This is true in the world of sports but it’s also true when it comes to relationships. One of the most important Bible verses in my life is this:

“Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

I’m convinced that if people can learn to guard their hearts, they will have much better relationships and frankly, a stronger relationship with God. Even though I’m thinking about relationships, most of the principles are good for all aspects of life.


  1. Do all you can to get as emotionally and spiritually healthy as you can. People who practice healthy disciplines (emotional and spiritual) are the people who are building a firm foundation to guard their heart.
  2. It’s the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. There is pain in life. But the people who practice the pain of discipline do well, and the others experience the pain of regret.
  3. Spend regular time with God. I don’t remember necessarily what I ate last Monday but it nourishes me for today. Regular times of practicing the spiritual disciplines make a major difference in relationships.
  4. Lean into replenishing relationships. Basically, we have VDPs and VIPs. (Very draining people and very inspiring people) We will all have VDPs but we need to find regular times with the VIPs. I’m convinced you can’t do marriage, parenting or just life very well without having a community of support and replenishment.

These are just a few of the things you can do to strengthen your defense.

How about offense? When you think offense, think intentional decisions to guard your heart.

  1. Stay away from compromising situations. When I was a youth pastor I used to tell kids if they didn’t want to face temptations, then maybe they had better stay away from “inspiration point.” Very few people don’t actually understand what they are doing if they are moving toward temptation. The Bible uses the word flee a lot. Flee sexual immorality. Flee evil. Flee bad company.
  2. Make sure you are in accountable relationships. Find people who will hold you accountable. Don’t look for people who are pushovers but people who love you enough to confront.

I have been in a pastoral counseling relationship with a couple who ended up getting a divorce but are still trying to do a good job of “co-parenting.” The ex-husband seems to have moved on but the ex-wife is still in love and heartbroken. My email to her below came after a conversation about her needing to guard her heart. In the last co-parenting conversation she had told her ex-husband and I that she was spending a lot of time getting emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. (The names have been changed)

Hi Jenny,

Sounds to me like you are doing the most effective work of guarding your heart by spending time with God in the morning and throughout the day and being in Bible studies and fellowship. To use a sports term…The best way to guard your heart is to work on “defense” and the defense is exactly what you are doing. So please, I hope you are encouraged.

The other part of guarding your heart is not putting yourself in situations that would cause your heart to break (same room in Las Vegas might have caused some of the sadness) or putting yourself in vulnerable situations with your emotions with Jack as well as with others as time goes on. It sounds like you made a great decision for now on the “coffee dates.”

The issue of running into Jack and his new girlfriend or whatever he calls her, typically can’t be helped. That’s why we work on the defense of guarding our heart because those sound like situations beyond your control. I totally understand the depth of emotion you might feel with those experiences and yet, from a relational point of view, rough moments like those may help you work through the grief process.

Experts say that if a person is going to deal with the grief of a divorce it will take 2 to 3 years to find your new normal. You have made incredible progress since March. Frankly, I walked away from our meeting last week amazed at your progress. And as an “older brother in Christ” proud of your progress. Just remember, “Before freedom often comes pain.”

You will have to decide how much you can take and exactly what situations to put yourself in with regard to Jack.

I hope this makes sense for you. Mainly, keep on doing what you are doing. Love God. Love those sons of yours. Stay true to the spiritual disciplines and continue to work through your grief. You are totally moving in the right direction. And you just can’t be surprised when the emotions rise to the front of your life. God created those incredible sensitive emotions you have.



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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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