Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my anxious thoughts! And see if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in your way everlasting. Ps 139:23-24
David cried this out to God, knowing the trap of sin and guilt from his past choices. By God’s own account, David chased after His heart through notable victories, yet he also experienced the misery of defeat when following his own. And, even still, he knew where to turn when he found himself in the depths of despair.
The obvious favor that followed David is well recorded in the Old Testament. From being the shepherd boy with enough faith to stand against and defeat the most feared Philistine—a giant named Goliath, with a mere sling-shot and stone. [1Sam 17] To his success as the leader of Saul’s army, defeating tens of thousands in the battlefield [1 Sam 18]. David was granted a handsome appearance, musical talents, gifts of writing and ultimately becoming King of Israel [2 Sam 5].
But, amid all of the favor, David’s choices apart from God led him into the depths of despair. From a failed teen marriage to King Saul’s daughter that resulted in him running for his life from Saul [1 Sam 18]. He also acquired multiple wives and concubines, possibly under pressure to conform to the worldly kingdoms surrounding him, going against God’s revealed will [Deut 17:16-17]. And, lest we forget, he took another man’s wife while he was at war, conceived a child, and murdered her husband to hide his sin [2 Sam 11]. Even though David wanted to please God, he entertained lust. From the Psalms, we glean that David knew where the path to destruction started. In his heart.
This leads me to ponder fasting in a different way. In addition to giving up a certain food, or social networking, or television, or whatever may control your appetite or your time, consider the things we entertain in our heart. This broadens the territory to consider. What’s a part of me that is apart from God? And, what’s the origin in the heart?
Here are some possibilities to consider:
1] Taking offense – Do you find yourself easily offended? Pause when an offense begins to rise up. Ask God to reveal the deeper source. Connect the dots back to the start of the wound, and allow him to heal it.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph 4:2-3
2] Unforgiveness— Are you in a position where the transgressions against you have surpassed the 490 mark with someone [Matt 18:22]? Then let’s count our transgressions against God. Our number would be far greater. We are all depraved, yet Grace appeared on the cross, sank into the depths of hell to take the keys of bondage away, so we can live the resurrected life in Him. Forgiveness doesn’t condone the transgression. Forgiveness opens the path for God’s love to flow and cause a change in ourselves. Chose to forgive with no expectations from the transgressor, and live free of the bondage that unforgiveness shackles our soul.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt 6:14
3] Seeking approval of man instead of God – Do you find yourself compromising what you know to be right and true just to fit in with a crowd—even a Christian crowd? Is there fear in being ostracized by standing firm to what God has called you to do? Stop, and ask God for direction. Trust his instruction and where it leads, even if it’s you standing alone—with God.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal 1:10
4] The need to be right – If you find yourself consistently on the side of proving a point to others, even valid points, ask God to search for the wounds that yell out, “You are inadequate!” Do not entertain the lies anymore. Instead, actively entertain “truth” from God’s Word. Start each day in front of a mirror, and speak truth into your own soul. Ask God to change your beliefs about who you are. Rest in not being right all of the time. Rest, knowing that the One who is omniscient knows the truth even if no one else does. Rest in His validation alone. [Rom 3:24, Rom 6:6, John 15:15, 1 Cor 1:30, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 5:17]
What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
5] Worry & Anxiety – Are you in the habit of worry and anxiety? If so, take your worrisome thoughts captive, and compare them to the Truth of God. [2 Cor 10:5] Your first course of action when trouble comes needs to be faith. Consider the worst case scenario, and then consider God. He is far greater than the worse consequence that you can imagine. Stand on the Truth that God’s hand is on your life, and His perfect will is, well—perfect. When you walk in this Truth, His Spirit flows from you, from your life. Break this habit, and live free from the bondage of disbelief.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
6] Complaining –Consider Jesus. He, of all who walked the earth, had reason to complain. He would die a terrible death on a cross for sins that didn’t belong to him. Yet, with each step, he chose to speak gratitude towards God. When you find yourself reaping the consequences of another person’s sin, ask God for His perspective. Then chose to offer God praise, in spite of the discomfort, the injustice, the ___ [whatever fills in your blank]. God’s grace is woven into it all, and He is using each consequence to mold us and make us into a vessel for Him. He sacrificed his life. We can sacrifice our praise.
7] Praying from emotions versus faith – God responds to our faith, not our emotions. He responds to our trust in Him. This has been a profound revelation for me this year. I’ve entertained self-pity while begging at God’s feet more times than I’d care to admit. Yet, when I look back on answered prayers in my life, even amid the moments of being an emotional mess, it’s been through prayers of faith in who God is, when he has responded near immediately. As you approach God’s altar with a request, it’s okay to let him know how you feel. He already knows, but check the position that you are praying from. Are you standing on the foundation of faith in Him? Or, on how you feel? God’s word doesn’t say that you can move mountains with a river of tears, but through faith the size of a mustard seed. [Matt 21:21]
And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. Heb 10:38
This list if far from complete. Ask God to search your heart, and reveal habits, reactions, personality traits that slip out in vulnerable situations? Something that God wants you to give up so that more of Him can flow to those who cross your path. Food or activities or addictions are simply a symptom of what’s rotting inside of us. Something that needs to be cut from the vine, so that more of your heart can be resurrected from the dead—making room for more of God, producing more fruit from Him.