While I love being with friends, it does not bother me to be alone. Being alone does not make me lonely. Being misunderstood makes me lonely.
In a youth group I asked the young people what specific things do others not understand about you that you wish they did. An ordinarily quiet group suddenly became very vocal. Everyone wants to be understood. Well not all the time. Sure, when our motives are pure we wish people could understand us, but not so much when our motives are selfish.
That’s why persecution can be so valuable. When we keep on doing good even when our motives are maligned and we are not rewarded, it lets us know we are doing good out of love, and not just for a pat on the back.
While we may find solace in the fact that God truly understands us and knows our hearts, is that really good news? I mean – deep down, are we all really goodpeople? Paul tells us in Romans 7:18 that there is nothing good deep down inside him. 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that, while man looks at appearances, God looks in our heart. And that’s not always good news.
When I was in the third grade, I hated diagramming sentences. I had learning disabilities, which only meant I needed to try harder. My class would receive an assignment to diagram 20 sentences. Well, after 10 I got tired. So, one day after deciding that 20 sentences was just too much, I just circled random words as nouns, verbs and pronouns, and then on the back of the paper I wrote “I did my very best, I did my very best” over and over until the entire page was filled. My teacher showed the paper to my mother and said, “We are pushing little William way too hard. Look how hard he is trying and how frustrated the poor little guy has become. He is doing his very best!”
Confession: I was not doing my best at all! I wanted everyone to think I was doing my best, so they would leave me alone and let me be lazy! All those wonderful promises about God understanding us and knowing our hearts only meant God understood me better than anyone else, and what God understood was that I could do a lot better.
I hear a lot of people use the term “God understands” to automatically mean He knows we have the best of intentions. Not so. Sure He understands when we have good intentions, but He also understands when we have evil intentions.
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 NLT
Could this be why James 1:26 says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself…?”
Sorry, but there is no biblical support for the idea that God knowing our hearts means that He understands how good we really are. In fact I find just the opposite. This is why John tells us,
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:8-9 NLT
If we stop trying to fool ourselves and others by pretending to have pure motives all the time, Jesus will forgive us for being so full of self, and He will cleanse us from the selfish motives hidden deep within the heart.
I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you… Ezekiel 36:26 NLT
While I get frustrated and lonely when people don’t understand my good intentions, I’m quite relieved when they think I have good intentions while being selfish.
Only God knows my heart, and when He reads my heart, what does He think? He does not see any good in it. It’s so bad He wants to throw my heart away and give me a brand new one. More than finding solace in the fact that God knows my heart, I find solace in the fact that He can change my heart to be like the heart of Jesus.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.