Justifying Myself

One of my favorite prayers is recorded in Psalm 139. It is such an intimate prayer of how well God knows us. I‘m frequently struck by the two thoughts that seem to contradict themselves in the opening and closing verses.

David begins his prayer, “O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. … You perceive my thoughts from afar.” But then he ends his prayer with these words, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Now why would David ask God to search his heart and his thoughts after he said God had already searched him? I think it‘s because our natural tendency is to justify ourselves. It goes like this: God searches us → He shows us things that need to be changed → We justify why we don‘t need to change those things → We try to forget what God had pointed out to us and move on.

When the Holy Spirit points out an anxious thought or an offensive way, our natural response is to quickly say, “Yes, but…

  • …I know I shouldn‘t have said that to her, but you don‘t know how she pushes my buttons!”
  • …I know it‘s wrong of me to desire that, but having it won‘t really hurt anything.”
  • …I know I should make that change in my behavior, but it‘s just not realistic in my current situation.”
  • …I know I should have talked to him about Christ, but it wasn‘t the right time.”
  • …I know my I‘ve been battling anxiety over this, but I‘m scared to make any changes because things might get worse!”

I echo Augustine‘s prayer: “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.”

David sets an example for me that I‘m trying to make a consistent practice in my life: Regularly allowing the Holy Spirit to search me for any anxious thoughts or offensive ways, and then addressing those without trying to justify or vindicate myself (no “yes-but‘s”). Because if I justify myself, I‘m really saying I know better than God what’s best for my life.

And all the while, God is simply trying to lead me in the way everlasting. He‘s trying to occupy more of my life with His presence.

If thou couldst empty all thyself of self.
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say, “This is not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says, “This is enow
Unto itself—‘Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.“ —T.E. Brown

Are you making room for Him today? Or are you justifying the anxious thoughts and offensive ways the Holy Spirit is trying to reveal to you? 

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