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)
God already knows everything about me, so why ask Him to search and know me? It is because I need to know me. If God did not show me otherwise, my view of myself would be entirely false.
I think I know who I am and what I want. I have thoughts, dreams, desires that others cannot see, but I know them. Even if I keep these things to myself, it is plain that God knows all about them.
Yet when I pray that God will search me, He first reveals how well He understands the state of my mind, my spiritual health, and what sort of ways I would behave in any circumstances. He brings me out of my own view by applying tests that let me see myself as He sees me. That is, He answers my prayer by using providential conditions and circumstances to show me parts of my character that I didn’t know even existed. His Spirit also links the situations He puts me in to the responses I have to those situations, revealing what He is trying to do in those situations — showing me who I really am.
Sometimes I am shocked by what I see, but I should not be. I already know that apart from Jesus, I am a sinful creature, but in pride I tend to think that I will not do or think “grievous” things because I am already on “the way everlasting” toward becoming like Christ. That is true, but sin goes far deeper than I realize.
For example, when I pray to be searched, God may allow me to be severely criticized. Under this test, I might discover that He has developed in me the virtue of meekness. On the other hand, I am more likely to discover that I am quick to defend myself and affirm that I have a right to be angry and it is not my fault that I lost my temper. The test demonstrates whether I have the meekness and gentleness of Christ, or am clinging to my selfish ways and not trusting God to protect or change me.
Other tests could include God arranging that I am treated with neglect. This might even be sinful on the part of others, but it is my reactions that reveal truth about me. He might allow me to be treated with injustice or allow someone to lie to me. How will I respond? Will I be like Jesus? Often not.
Another test that is even more difficult, at least for me, is when God arranges that someone compliments me, puts me on a pedestal or gives me all sorts of attention. Will I respond in pride? Or will I humbly glorify God who is the source of all good things, including all blessings in my life?
My flaw, and the flaw I see in many Christians, is that we fail to make the connection between the events of life and the desire of God to use those events to show us how much we need Jesus. He wants me to see, acknowledge and confess my sinful responses and be cleansed. He wants me to thank Him for showing me my needy heart. Instead, I tend to point the finger at others for “making” me do something I shouldn’t. If not that, my lack of trust in God comes out when I start griping about whatever is not going my way.
Asking God to search me reveals at least one more important reality — I’ve finally figured out that God has a far better read on how much junk is still in my heart than I do. Yet that does not make His inspection any easier nor does it make me more eager to have it happen.