by Shane Scott
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
Last week I ended up in the hospital with symptoms that indicated a possible problem with my heart. One doctor told me that I was probably just dealing with stress, but another doctor suggested that there could be major blockages in my heart (then I was really stressed!). The only way to know for sure was to have a heart cath. Like all medical procedures, a heart cath carries certain risks, but those risks were worth the precise information that only such a test can elicit. And so the cardiologist administered the procedure. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear him say, “Your arteries are clean!”
Scripture speaks of the inner core of our spiritual identity as “the heart,” and in several places in the Psalms, the writer asks God to test, examine, or try his heart (Psalm 17:3; 26:2; 139:23). It is important to know whether our fleshly heart is healthy for our physical wellbeing, but it is even more vital to know whether our inward heart is healthy for our spiritual wellbeing. And the only way to really know this is for the inward heart to be tested or examined by God.
I was really surprised when one doctor said that he thought I had blockages because I never feel any pain or discomfort when I exercise (if you know me, you are probably surprised that I exercise!). Then again, some people have silent heart disease, and work out rigorously with no problem at all – only to succumb to a heart attack. Coronary disease can be very deceptive. And the same is true at a much deeper level with spiritual heart disease. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This is why it is so important to pray as the psalmists prayed for God to test the heart.
And just as it is unsettling to submit to medical testing, it is even more unnerving to open up to God to “search the heart and test the mind” (Jeremiah 17:10). After all, we might find something that threatens our spiritual survival – like pride, lust, greed, or envy. Or, our circumstances may require extreme measures for the heart to be properly tested, as when Job lost everything except God. But only by laying our heart bare before the Lord can we identify and remove those obstructions to the flow of His grace in our soul.
In my case, the tests on my fleshly heart revealed some things about my spiritual heart that I don’t like. I am fearful, anxious, too prone to worry and too slack in my prayer life. I have some work to do to get in better spiritual shape. But I am thankful that this test has pinpointed some areas for me to bring before the Great Physician, and I am confident in His power to strengthen my heart (Psalm 10:17). That’s an eternal reason for celebration (Psalm 16:9).