21 March, Thursday – Self-examination

21 March 2019

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Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Lord says this:
‘A curse on the man who puts his trust in man,
who relies on things of flesh,
whose heart turns from the Lord.
He is like dry scrub in the wastelands:
if good comes, he has no eyes for it,
he settles in the parched places of the wilderness,
a salt land, uninhabited.
‘A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
with the Lord for his hope.
He is like a tree by the waterside
that thrusts its roots to the stream:
when the heat comes it feels no alarm,
its foliage stays green;
it has no worries in a year of drought,
and never ceases to bear fruit.
‘The heart is more devious than any other thing,
perverse too: who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart,
I probe the loins,
to give each man what his conduct
and his actions deserve.’

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Luke 11:29-32

The crowds got even bigger, and Jesus addressed them:

‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

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I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart

Medical examinations are quite helpful in determining the state of health that you are in. With such advancements in medical science, technology and research, understanding your own body and fixing it has never been easier or more accessible to the masses. I find though that the older we get, the more we tend to shy away from getting a health examination. We fear what the results might uncover, so we would rather not know. And what if we do know? Then the cost of fixing the problem could be a great inconvenience. Therefore, ignorance is bliss!

But while there is a ‘black & white’ process for physical examinations, what about the examination of our own hearts? Not the physical well-being of it, but the emotional and spiritual well-being. The Lenten period is a good time for self-examination of our emotional and spiritual state, and of our relationship with God. True, there is no straightforward answer of how we are doing (unlike a medical examination), and we mostly lie in a sort of gray area where we’re not quite sure where we stand. How do we justify our actions, and should we? If we lay bare our hearts before God, what would our results show? Perhaps we would rather not know and remain in a state of denial – all is good with us, all is good with God.

But God has given each of us a conscience, and that serves as our heart health barometer, our moral compass. The closer we are to God, the stronger the conscience, and even if you didn’t feel that you had that strong bond with God, we nevertheless know if we have done something right or wrong. Does it nag at you, do you lie awake at night mulling over what you did or didn’t do? Do you regret saying things that you did or didn’t? Could you have done something better that you would be proud of? Did you show congruence between what you say you are and what you do? If these are questions that keep you up, perhaps that is God’s way of probing our minds and hearts. He has given us free will, and with that comes accountability for our actions. Because we have free will, we will undoubtedly encounter many occasions where our hearts will indeed be tested, to determine what route we will take. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing that we can ever do.

Lent isn’t just about abstinence from pleasurable activities. Lent is also about self-examination. Lent is about what we are going to do, once we uncover something from that examination. Lent is about preparing ourselves, fixing ourselves and facing the truth that maybe something within us could be better. Lent is about having a purpose in our fasting and abstinence, not so much to meet a 40-day goal, but that in that 40 days, we change what our conscience tells us needs changing, and in doing so, we come just that little closer to God. Lent isn’t just about God coming to us, but that we – as sinners – are going back to God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, harden not our hearts that we remain in a state of denial, but awaken in each of us sinners, a renewed sense of longing to change for the better, to change for You.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for the strength during this Lenten period, and for courage to face our demons, be they bad habits that we need to banish or negative thoughts that we need to lay to rest. May they never return to haunt us.

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