“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.”Psalm 139:23
Have you ever had the question directed towards you: what were you thinking?? Perhaps, it was a parent asking right after you had attempted something that was less than safe. Or maybe a teacher’s query when he found out what you were doing during break time. Maybe you have even said it to yourself after wearing an outfit that you afterwards wondered why you had ever decided to go with that.
Although this question may be asked, the answer is most often that we were NOT thinking when we chose to do something that afterwards yielded unpleasant consequences. How often we can default just to doing what happens to be in front of us to do, without actually thinking it through. Of course, maybe we did stop and think it through, but we found out afterwards that our thinking was skewed and that we were not thinking correctly about the situation.
Another similar question, one that my dad is notorious for asking, is, Why are you doing what you are doing?
Does it ever happen that we do the right thing, but our reason for doing it is not right? What if, after we had done something good, some service for the Lord, a friend looked at us and said, What were you thinking while you did that? Why did you do that?
We do not usually like to look that closely at what we were thinking or why we did it because we were doing it with a spirit of pride and a desire for praise. Or we could be doing it because we have a fear of man and don’t want to disappoint someone. Maybe we are doing it because it is what we always have done or what everyone around us is doing. Does it really matter our thoughts, our heart motive, behind why we do what we do, so long as it is the right thing?
In the verse quoted above, the psalmist is asking God to search him and know his heart and his thoughts. The truth is that we often have a hard time sorting through our motives for why we do what we do. We know what is right to do and that it is a good thing that we do right. Yet, God cares about the heart motive behind what we do, not just the action of what we do.
Why do you go to church? Why do you read your Bible in the morning? Why do you participate in youth group activities, Bible studies, and outreaches? These are all good things to do, but if we are doing them with the wrong motive, we cannot please God.
So, how do we know what our motive is? Self-examination is useful, and we sometimes just need to be honest with ourselves. We know what our motive is; we know we were not thinking of God, but ourselves. Also, when we don’t get the results we wanted and our attitude is terrible, it is a warning bell that we are not serving God with the right motive.
It can be confusing sometimes, though. Our heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. How can we know it? This is where the prayer of the psalmist ought to become our prayer: search me, O God. He is the One that knows our heart motives and our thoughts. He is not tricked, nor is He confused. He will reveal to those who sincerely seek Him and want to know.
What ought we to do if the Lord reveals wrong motives? First, we should repent of those wrong motives. This means we must want to change. Default motives are the easiest to dwell in, but God calls us to be conformed to the image of His Son, not to ease.
Second, we must ask God to help us. In ourselves, we cannot have right motives, but if you are a child of God, He dwells within you and gives you the power to do right and to be right. We are not stuck with always giving into our sin.
If you find you are doing right without the right motives, it doesn’t mean you should quit doing right, nor does it mean that you should just ignore the motives as if they are of no consequence. Ask the Lord to help you. Seek to please Him above everything else, and He can guide you in the right thing to do and the right motives for doing it.