If you’ve ever been to the doctor for a physical examination or undergone tests to check on a health concern, you know that personal vanity and pride has to get checked at the door. The doctor inspects, pokes, prods, and sees things that we probably wish no one would ever see. The truth is that when the doctor examines us, our need to know what’s going on and get it healed, fixed, or removed is greater than our desire to let people see only what we want them to see.
We are willing to submit to the doctor because we trust that he or she wants the best for us and can hopefully do something to help us live longer and healthier lives.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart,
Test me and know my anxious thoughts,
See if there is any offensive way in me
And lead me in the way everlasting”
One misunderstood part of worship is the practice of confession. Some of us have memories of confession as a religious act that may or may not have been authentic or even healthy. Others think of confession in terms of magazines or TV shows that expose the real-life dark sides of celebrities, with no sense of boundaries, personal concern, truth, or desire for life change.
The unfortunate side effect of this is that many people have thrown out confession to God as an outdated, archaic, or unhealthy thing to be avoided at all costs. Others run from confession because it’s easier to bury our junk in the backyard of our souls, unaware of the pollution it is creating in our spirit.
The reality of heartfelt confession in worship, however, is that it comes out of a authentic, desperate trust in God and His unfailing love for us. Real confession happens when our need to come clean with God —and others—is greater than our natural tendencies to put on a false front and hide what is really going on inside us.
In other words, our relationship with God matters more than our reputation or image.
It is only when we fall backwards into the arms of God’s mercy and love that we will know the depth of His love for us. That is both the irony and beauty of confession. Psalm 139 beautifully displays the writer’s awareness of God’s presence in his life, from his mother’s womb to the present. He also acknowledges that God ALREADY knows everything about him, and so there is no hiding from Him. Implied in this Psalm is the writer’s confidence and declaration that God alone is able to abolish evil, both in his own life and in the world.
Finally, the psalmist gives God —the Divine Physician— permission to do a spiritual examination of every facet of his life and being (See verses 23 and 24):
- “Search me O God, and know my heart” : Lord, please check my spiritual foundation, my motives, my hopes, my dreams, my desires, my integrity.
- “Test me and know my anxious thoughts” : God, please examine the cares, worries, and issues that weigh me down and keep me from walking in faith.
- “See if there is any offensive way in me” :God, I give you permission to look at the blind spots and dark regions in me that are ugly and repulsive. I submit to your divine searchlight to shed light on sinful attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors in me.
- “Lead me in the way everlasting” : My Savior and God, forgive me and change me from the inside out that I may experience spiritual health and eternal life in You, beginning right now.
As you pray this Psalm, be mindful of what God may be revealing to you. It maybe a person you have hurt, a sinful act, an attitude, or a bad habit that He is asking you to bring forward to him. Like going to the doctor, we need to submit both to God’s examination and His prescription for our life. The submission to God’s prescription is what we call “repentance”. It’s not earning God’s forgiveness, but following His lead when He tells usls us to “go and sin no more”.