God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.  See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways— the path that brings me back to you.
Psalm 139:23-24 TPT
Having a deeply personal relationship with God is exciting – it brings a lot of security and confidence as we try to grow.
However, it does require us to explore the deeper parts of our hearts that may be uncomfortable to examine and be honest about with ourselves and with God.
I can tell the difference in my times with God when I’m just going through the motions and when I’m really present, engaged, and interacting with scriptures and in prayer. When it’s the latter, my heart is more receptive, I get new insights from the Bible, and I feel God’s presence in my life.
Unfortunately, I do not so readily invite God’s “searching gaze into my heart.” I’m afraid that if I slow down enough, I’m going to end up seeing and feeling things that are painful, difficult, or shameful (John 3:19-21). It feels as if once I reflect and acknowledge some deeper truth, it will become final and definitive about who I am. So for most of my life, I lived pretty aloof, ignoring any emotions or guilt I would feel along the way, and if I felt anything negative I just slept it off and tried to forget it.
But this aloofness could only last so long. One time in high school, my dad was trying to help me on an art project but ended up doing most of it himself by the time I came home. I was so angry, I ripped it in pieces, cried, and went to my room. We never talked about it – I apologized at dinner, and we moved on.
I never slowed down enough to understand why and where the anger was coming from, or the feelings of fear and embarrassment that simmered underneath. The rift I just caused in my already distant relationship with my dad felt too difficult to endure, so if I ignored it, then maybe it wasn’t there.
However, reflecting on our why’s and allowing God to search our innermost thoughts and desires (Heb 4:12) is how we are able to deepen our walk with God, understand why we do what we do through the scriptures, and allow God to help us become who we are meant to be as we reflect and grow.
Let’s break down this scripture to learn how to grow deeper in our walk with God through reflection:
Search: don’t be afraid to ask the why’s
I saw a man who has no family, not a son or even a brother. But he continues to work very hard. He is never satisfied with what he has. And he works so hard that he never stops and asks himself, “Why am I working so hard? Why don’t I let myself enjoy my life?” This is also a very bad and senseless thing.
Ecclesiastes 4:8 ERV
My senior year of high school, I got a bad case of senioritis. Once I finished all my SAT’s, ACT’s, AP tests, and found out where I got into college, it got worse. I remember sitting in my AP Stats class and started asking myself questions: “Why am I still here?” “Why should I keep doing all this work now?” “Who am I doing all this work for?”
My answer was I didn’t want to nor did I have to be there, so I walked out and got tacos with some friends downtown. Granted, this was not the best decision, but after a long and arduous academic year of doing things I just felt I had to do, I at least reflected on why I was doing them and found no good reason to stay. Eventually I changed my motives, and wanted to finish off the year well and with my friends.
In a similar way, our walk with God can become a heartless routine with no excitement or desire to grow instead of an inspiring relationship. We can put all our energy into our careers, trying to get into the best schools, having the best network, and striving for status, but ignore our relationship with God to get our soul needs met.
My goal in life can easily be to perform and try to be good enough for others – good enough at work, in my marriage, with my friends, and with God. The problem is that I end up noticing all the ways I’m falling short, but instead of slowing down and getting deeper to see what’s missing in those relationships, I just keep striving to be good and ignoring why I am not. It’s exhausting!
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
Psalm 51:16-17 MSG
God’s answer to the striving is to be honest and to let go of the performance! When I’m honest about the jealousy and insecurity in my relationships that keeps me distant, or the selfish ambition at work to look good in front of others because I’m so afraid of rejection, I can see the ways God wants to meet those needs by being close to him. This scripture helps me have the courage to stop pretending to be someone I’m not and to discover who I really am, no matter how messy it gets, because God promises to fill me up with his love.
Pause and reflect
What areas of your life are you afraid to take a deeper look at? Relationships, work, health, anxiety? Why?
What questions can you ask yourself daily in your times with God?
Write out 3-5 emotions you had the day before and ask yourself why you felt that way. Then ask yourself why one more time. Take time to pray about the why and tell God what else is going on 3 layers deep.
When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light. This is why they sing, Awake, you sleeper! Rise from your grave, And the Anointed One will shine on you.
Ephesians 5:13-14 Voice
When we allow God to examine us and discover areas of our heart we’ve kept hidden in the dark, there’s an opportunity for us to grow! This scripture says that anything in the dark can be turned to light. That gives me a lot of hope, especially with areas of my life that feel too difficult to change.
Although it is intimidating to explore and discover difficult truths about ourselves, the dangers of an unexamined life can produce worse consequences.
She doesn’t give any thought to her way of life. Her paths have no direction, but she doesn’t realize it.
Proverbs 5:6 NIrV
I’m grateful I have friends that have helped me get the courage to think about where my life was heading and what I was doing. A few years ago, I was coping with stress and anxiety in an unhealthy way, developing an eating disorder that I was too afraid to admit was a problem. It became my safety and a way to escape from my emotions.
I needed help from God to see the truth of how unhappy and lonely I was by turning to something that gave me a false sense of control and was actually destroying my life more than anything else. My friends kept pointing me to the undeniable truth and wouldn’t give in to my resistance to it, they helped me start asking myself the questions I needed and start talking about it with God.
Pause and reflect
What is one area in your life that keeps coming up in conversations with friends or scriptures that you’ve been resistant to pay attention to?
How can you start talking to God daily about these areas in your life, even when you don’t know where to start? Sometimes journaling is helpful when you’re not sure how to get started.
Talk to 2-3 friends about what you’re trying to discover about yourself and the areas you are trying to get deeper in with God about. Ask them for input and to pray with you.
Pray about a friend that you see struggling to discover their own truths. Share with them a scripture and ask them different questions that can help them get deeper and grow themselves!
How can you put into practice what you learn from these two resources?
Lead me: believe in the journey
I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide. So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!”
Psalm 32:8-9 TPT
Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
Psalm 73:23-24 NLT
Knowing that God is with us every step of the way and guiding us in the best direction helps make discovering new truths about ourselves an exciting journey! Holding onto scriptures like these remind me of God’s presence in my life and helps me feel safe as I see where God is trying to take me.
When I saw that God had a much better plan and purpose for my life, then it didn’t matter how difficult the truths about where I was really at were, because God had the power and desire to redirect my life.
Pause and reflect
Do you believe that God has a purpose and destiny for your life?
How would your relationship with God change if you believed in God’s presence in your life?
Choose 1 scripture to practically obey daily. This could be the same scripture for 3 days or a week. Reflect on what you learn about yourself, on your willingness to obey, what happens when you do, and see what happens to your faith by the end of the week.
When we ask ourselves deeper questions and allow God to know the vulnerable and oftentimes difficult parts of our hearts, we build trust and intimacy in our relationship with Him. Check out the following to keep growing in this area!