Saturday, July 30, 2005

God Knows Your Heart

It is a comforting awareness. God knows our hearts, knows what makes us tick, knows our sorrows and sufferings, capacities and incapacities. The fact that God knows our hearts is, however, a two-sided coin, as the Scriptures reveal. Let’s take a look first at what we might call the negative (though still salutary) side of this divine knowledge of our innermost selves.

God knows our bad will, our secret sin, whatever darkness or duplicity there may be within us and, to use a phrase of St John of Kronstadt, whatever “unrighteous movements of the heart” He may find as well. In one of his stern rebukes to the Pharisees, Jesus said: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). So the fact that God knows our hearts means that we cannot hide anything from Him. We cannot pull the wool over his eyes: “You have kept…our hidden sins under the light of your scrutiny” (Psalm 89/90:8). Nor can we appease Him with external acts or rituals when we are unreconciled to Him within. His harshest criticisms were leveled at those who presented a righteous exterior but who were interiorly corrupt: “You outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

On the other hand, we find consolation in God’s thorough knowledge of us, because we can “reassure our hearts before Him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything” (1John 3:19-20). Often we don’t even know what is in our hearts, and our inner life is in turmoil or confusion. After lamenting the inexplicable dark mystery of the human heart, Jeremiah cried out: “Who can understand it?” But God immediately replied: “I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart” (Jer. 17:9-10). We are not stuck forever with the limitations and defects of our hearts, if we confidently entrust them to Him Who Is Greater Than Our Hearts. They may need a lot of healing, a lot of changing, but we can still rest in his providence and mercy.

In one of our prayers of preparation for Holy Communion, after acknowledging our sinfulness, we say that we run to Him for refuge. See, when we sin, we shouldn’t run away from God in shame but toward Him in repentance, like the prodigal son hastening to his father. For where else can we find forgiveness and healing for our wounded and reckless hearts? Adam and Eve hid from God after their sin, but He found them out anyway. Better for you to ‘fess up right away and get it all on the table, for God already knows your heart.

Sometimes we come before God trying to explain or excuse ourselves, or even trying to tell Him what we know is best for us! Be still and know that He is God. He knows your heart; He knows what you need before you ask. Take courage and consolation in that. He is with you; He understands. He won’t let you wallow in self-pity or mediocrity, however, because his compassion is based on truth and on what He knows you can do with the help of his grace. So reach out for that divine hand that is reaching out to you. God knows your heart, and if you let Him, He will make it one with his own.