I love college students. It’s no secret. That’s why I love my job! There’s something about the energy that they bring and the depth they desire as they grow in their walk with Jesus. As a student mobilizer, I have the honor of getting to know students, hearing how God is moving in their life and help them find ways that they can use their gifts and abilities in furthering the gospel around the world. It also includes talking with students when they return and being a listening ear as they process all that they experienced while they were away.
There’s this one student – we’ll call her Sally – who recently served for two months in the poorest country in Communist Southeast Asia. She is a nursing student who served on a team where they spent a majority of her their time prayer walking their way through different villages. When I asked what was the most impactful part of her summer, she shared a few different parts of her summer but one of them struck me to my core.
I’ll share what she said to the best of my ability:
I was able to visit a hospital while I was there and that day is one I won’t forget. It was a government owned and operated hospital and it broke my heart to see the inside – completely filthy and chaotic yet outside of the hospital were crews who were cleaning and mopping the concrete sidewalks outside and making sure that the building looked nice. People are dying inside but all they seemed to care about was how nice it looked on the outside.
Isn’t that just like us, though? We spend so much time, energy and resources cleaning up the outside to make sure we look nice to the outside world but it’s our hearts that are in need of attention. We show much more concern to the aesthetic of our social media profiles than the heart – the wellspring of life! It’s our hearts that are full of pain. It’s our hearts that are filthy. It’s in our hearts that we are holding on to things of this world that will only lead us down paths of destruction. But the heart work is hard work and we would much rather take the easy road to make sure the world thinks we have it all together on the outside.
As I processed what Sally had shared with me, I was reminded of Psalm 51. King David wrote Psalm 51 as a confession to the Lord after he was confronted with his sinful encounter with Bathsheba by the prophet Nathan. Let’s read this Psalm, not line by line like our bibles have outlined but as one whole prayer. Imagine this is a page in David’s prayer journal as he pours out his heart and asks for the Lord’s forgiveness.
Be gracious to me, God, according to your faithful love; according to your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against you – you alone – I have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence; you are blameless when you judge. Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire integrity in the inner self, and you teach me wisdom deep within. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Turn your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God – God of my salvation- and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering.The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despite a broken and humbled heart, God.
In your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your alter.
One of the most touching parts of this Psalm is what we find in vs.16-17,
“You do not want a sacrifice or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.”
Even during this time, the natural instinct would be something external – offering a burnt sacrifice. For us, maybe it’s giving more in the offering plate or finding more “good” things to do to earn God’s forgiveness but just as David has said here, that’s not what God wants. He wants our hearts; humbled and broken before him recognizing the weight of our sin and recognizing that only HE has the power to restore our hearts. He wants us to do the the heart work. Because it is hard. It’s not natural to lay aside our pride and humble ourselves before God but if we want to grow in relationship with Jesus, we must allow him to clean us from the inside out.
Sometimes as Christians we look at people in the bible and almost justify our sins. “Matthew was a thieving tax collector, David committed adultry, Moses was a murderer, etc. etc.” While all of that is true, that does not make our sin justifiable but instead, we should follow the examples of those in the bible and do the heart work just as they did – AND not allow our sin to stop us from being used by God. We can either allow the weight of our sins to sit on our shoulders while allowing the enemy to tell us that we’re not worthy of stepping into the calling that God has placed on our lives OR we can come before the Lord with a heart of humility and lay it all at his feet, taking on the freedom of his forgiveness and walking boldly in the light of his mercy and grace.
Friends, let’s not be afraid of hard work. Let’s link arms with one another in a spirit of vulnerability and confess the ugly parts of our hearts to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to do the heart work within us. We are here for you! Let us know how we can be praying for you! As always, you can fill out the form on the Contact Page and let us fight this battle with you!