Maybe you haven’t noticed this about me, but I keep most things to myself. I realize I often write more detail about life than I should, and maybe I include people in my stories that would rather not be in print, but for everything I reveal I hold more back. I don’t relish being closely examined, but keep the biggest portion of my heart (my hopes and dreams and hurts and pains) to myself.
I thought about those tendencies during the December holidays while reading the last book in the Bible: Revelation. Since I read through a chronologically-arranged version every year, Revelation always occupies my holidays.
This year I took special notice of a phrase used repeatedly during the early section of the book comprised of letters written to seven 1st-Century churches.
To the church in Ephesus, “I know your deeds …: (2:1-7)
To the church in Smyrna, “I know your afflictions …” (2:8-11)
To the church in Pergamum, “I know where you live …” (2:12-17)
To the church in Thyatira, “I know your deeds …” (2:18-29)
To the church in Sardis, “I know your deeds …” (3:1-6)
To the church in Philadelphia, “I know your deeds …” (3:7-13)
To the church in Laodicea, “I know your deeds …” (3:14-22)
I wondered, was it good news or bad news when God looks you in the eye and says, “I know your deeds; I know all about you; I know how you are living?” I suppose it depends on how you think of God, whether as a heavy-handed rule-enforcer, or as a timely rescuer.
The phrase in Revelation reminded me of another great passage in the Bible, Psalm 139:1, which says, “You have examined my heart and know everything about me.” That is a good word, “examined.” The Amplified Bible says, “You have searched me thoroughly,” which is also good. Neither “examined” nor “searched” sounds casual. They both sound intentional and detailed.
Think about what the Psalmist did NOT say: “You have lightly considered me,” “You have given me a casual glance,” or “You thought about me once while passing.” No, God said we have been searched and examined, and known.
I must admit there were times in my life when I struggled to believe that verse, especially during a particularly long spell of living week after week on a financial knife-edge. Surely, a God who had His eye on me would have intervened and saved me. How could I believe God knew where I was? If He did, how did He let me get into this mess?
I prayed, “Lord, don’t You see how close we’ve come to disaster? Are You paying attention? Am I interrupting You when I pray? Have You noticed?” Whining like that made me feel guilty until I read Psalms, and realized I was not the first man to feel alone and abandoned.
I learned two things: (1) God always knows where we are and always knows our predicaments, and (2) God speaks softly and patiently and does not force His guidance upon us.
When we pray, we’re praying to a God that has examined our hearts and knows everything about us. He has searched us thoroughly, and according to the Bible, He helps us to pray for the things that we ought to pray for. That’s good, because I don’t know myself well enough to know how to pray. I need the help from an examiner.
During the past two years, God has led me along a deep personal journey to understand what it means to trust Him fully, to know He won’t let me down when I need Him most, and to stop worrying that He’ll be looking the other way when I call on Him. Even though I just wrote that sentence in a few seconds, it’s taken me months to understand the truth of it. And to be honest, I haven’t yet found the language to write the entire story. However, in the process of working out this personal revelation, God has gently reminded me of time after time when He knew exactly where I was and what I was doing and how bad it felt and how I thought I was all alone. He knew my deeds, and I am grateful. I am closer to Him because of it.
O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. Thank you for knowing my deeds.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org