“I believe the heart is the only thing we can trust.” -Maya Angelou

Our heart is distinct from our mind and our feelings. The mind is purely logical, and feelings are impulsive and fleeting. Our heart, however, is the still, calm wisdom we feel within our chest. And to live authentically, we must allow it to lead us.

Sometimes we don’t give it the driver’s seat because we’re not sure whether it’s our heart we’re hearing. And other times we’re simply not ready to take the risk it requires.

I’m familiar with our tendency to violate the heart because I’ve violated my own so often:

Defying it when I placed a relationship with a nonbeliever before my relationship with God, bringing several dark years upon myself;

Ignoring it when it urged me to reach out to my dear friend and family member after we allowed small things to get between us, a car accident taking her life two weeks later;

Resisting it when it insisted I end a relationship, because when the time came, I didn’t have the guts.  I remember walking out my front door with him, still together, and feeling my heart physically contract in pain. Because that’s how it feels when we don’t trust our heart—like a contraction in our chest, like shriveling into something smaller than we’re supposed to be—like hunching in pain over the doorknob, because our heart insists we go back inside solo, but we lock it and turn away with him instead.

Allowing our mind and feelings to lead us often results in pain and regret.

But our heart always has our back. It whispers to us the way we should go, if we’ll only be still and listen. Anything it guides us to feels calm, centered, expansive and freeing inside. And it will likely be paired with fear, because it leads into the realm of uncertainty, requiring us to take a risk with an unknown outcome.

If we find we’ve taken a wrong turn, the quickest way back is to retrace our steps to the purest part of our heart. From here, with ears open to listen and arms open to uncertainty, we’ll find our way again. And in time, we’ll discover that even after difficult detours, our heart leads us to beautiful destinations.

“Good pain is pain in service of a purpose. Bad pain is pain endured because we resist needed growth.” -Henry Cloud

When pain rolls in, dark and ominous, our future is determined by the way we choose to respond.

In fear, we can try to evade the storm—using substances, people, or possessions to numb the pain. But it will always catch up with us, gaining severity along the way. When we’re finally struck, we’re defenseless and possibly destroyed—victims of the storm.

Or, with sheer courage, we can reach for our anchors and weather it. Our anchors are what we believe in down to our bones, who we love with our whole heart, and what we dream of without limits. We must rely on them as we endure the pain, allow it to rip through us, feel the depth of its power. Anger, sadness and fear will toss us about, perhaps violently.

But there, under it all, our anchors hold us in place.

We must use this time of endurance to glean everything we can from the pain, learn from it, and make it worth our while. Because finally, the moment comes when the clouds part—

The moment we realize we can’t control what happened to us, but we can refuse to be reduced by it.

The moment we turn the crushing force of our pain into an equal and opposite force that drives us.

The moment, with power inside, we rise.

Stronger, wiser, better—victory, from the very thing meant to destroy us.

And soon, with the storm behind us, the sun shines brightly again. We are healed.

When we face them, troubled waters don’t drown us; they strengthen our soul, cleanse our vision, and propel us in a new direction.

So we gather our anchors and lessons learned, carry them with us, and set sail once again. This time knowing we have a hidden power within, and with it, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.