There’s a beautiful prayer from Scripture that I have prayed for many years. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24.
In my early Christian experience, I imagined this to be a private session with God, like seeing the doctor to discuss results from a physical exam. While God has certainly opened to my private awareness many areas of character needing attention, God has even used perfect strangers to do this—people who had no special regard for me.
One incident in particular stands out. I was twenty years old and in nurses’ training. During the holiday, I helped at the small hospital where my mother worked as a charge nurse.
One night I was assigned to take care of a man in the last stages of liver failure, who was in and out of reality. He was a career alcoholic, a hospital regular, and ironically, the husband of the director of nurses. His nasty disposition and foul mouth were an embarrassment for her, and legendary among the staff.
I had no idea why I had been assigned to his care, but I went to his room as little as possible and performed only the most perfunctory of duties—measuring the output of his catheter, checking and adjusting the flow of his IV line, and taking his vital signs. He drifted in and out of a troubled sleep or unconsciousness—I couldn’t tell which—cursing and complaining. I tiptoed in, hoping he wouldn’t notice me, and then fled to the opposite end of the ward so that I wouldn’t hear his abuse.
I must confess that I felt no compassion for this sorry wreck. I was indignant at how he treated those who tried to help him, and for the way he was shaming his wife.
Later that evening, I happened to be within earshot as my mother stopped by his room on her rounds. He was awake and complaining about “that girl who’s been sneaking in and out of my room all night and treating me like (expletive). She can go to (expletive)!”
My face and conscience burned! I had failed him as a health professional. Nurses are trained to give merciful and sensitive care to all. I had given neither. Even through his fog he had felt my cold contempt.
Worse yet, I had failed him as a Christian. This was a man for whom Jesus had died, who needed my love and compassion, not my criticism. For all I knew, it could have been his last night.
There have been plenty of other instances where God has used unique opportunities to “search me.” Even while reading the Bible in an attitude of prayer, scenes from my daily life have replayed from what I sense is God’s perspective on the matter. Will I learn or grow from these “vignettes?” If so, I am being led “in the way everlasting.”
I want to encourage you to pray this prayer, too. And I promise, God will be faithful to “search you,” and to lead you “in the way everlasting.”