Matter of the Heart

He’s a God that sees all and knows all and knows the hearts of men... and knows my heart.... And He’s the only One who does... ’cause He’s got the only mind that could understand such a complicated heart. —Johnny Cash 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” —I Samuel 16:7 NLT 

How can someone discover what we’re truly like? Our words certainly offer some solid clues. The way we talk to people and the things we choose to talk about reveal quite a bit about our attitude, personality, background, and interests. But sometimes our words can be misleading. Lies, half-truths, sarcasm, and other verbal tricks can obscure the real person behind them. 

The same goes for our actions. The way we carry ourselves, the activities and people we choose to involve ourselves with, the way we follow-through (or not) on the things we say all reveal key aspects of who we are. Yet actions can also be manipulated. We can live one way in public and another way in private. Skilled actors can make people believe just about anything. 

In order to truly understand someone, we have to know the source of their motivation, the engine that drives everything they do. The Bible refers to it as our heart. It’s the core of our being, the real person inside the words and actions. Nothing about our heart can be faked or hidden. As Johnny Cash points out, it’s a complicated, messy place. And it’s what God sees when He looks at us. 

On the one hand, that can be a scary thought. The prospect of having our innermost thoughts, attitudes, and motivations laid bare before anyone, let alone our holy heavenly Father, is enough to make anyone uncomfortable. Yet God doesn’t recoil from what He sees when He looks into the depths of our hearts. Nothing there is beyond His grace or forgiveness. 

As if that weren’t amazing enough, God’s insistence on looking at our hearts also opens a world of possibilities to us, because He doesn’t dwell on our limitations. Instead, He sees the full extent of our potential. The passage from I Samuel 16 above deals with the prophet Samuel’s search for a king for Israel. No one—not even Samuel himself—imagined that a young shepherd could be the perfect candidate. But God looked past the shepherd exterior and saw a king’s heart in David. And the heart was all that mattered. 

What does God see when He looks past our exteriors? What potential does He see in us that would seem unimaginable to anyone else? Nothing we’ve ever done can disqualify us from the role God intends for us. If we invite Him to have His way in our hearts, to clean out what doesn’t belong in them and fill them with what does, we can begin to align our own views of ourselves with God’s view of us. We can begin to see the potential He sees in our hearts. 

Father, nothing is hidden from Your sight. You see my inner core. You know what’s in my heart And You love me, even when You don’t like what You see. Help me recognize the potential that You see in me.  Work in my heart so that I can be the person You created me to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

This is an excerpt from Walking the Line: 90 Devotions of Truth and Hope Based on the Faith of Johnny Cash a new devotional now available on Shop all books, journals, and devotions from DaySpring here.