An Examined Life

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How often have you heard someone describe their life as “busy”? How often have you described your life in that way? I’m sure you know what I mean. “How are things going?” you ask a friend. “Good … just busy,” comes the reply. It’s something of a standard answer in our information overload culture.

It’s good to be busy, of course. You know what they say about idle hands, don’t you? Something about “the devil’s workshop.” God created us to work. The twelve-year-old Jesus said to his parents, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Busyness keeps us active.

But busyness also presents a subtle danger. As Skye Jethani puts it, “With so much to attend to around us we can neglect to pay attention to what is happening within us.” That is, busyness can deter us from the need for introspection. It can prevent us from taking the time to examine ourselves.

I imagine that David was a busy man. As King of Israel, he had a great deal of responsibility. But he did not allow the busyness of life to rob him of opportunities for self-examination. Psalm 26 is a psalm of self-examination. “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind” (vv. 1–2). For David, busyness could easily turn into the enemy of true devotion, but he took the time necessary to slow down, enter a quiet space, and examine his relationship with God.

As he examined his walk with the Lord, he was intentional about going deep.  He examined his personal walk of faith (v. 3). He examined his associations (vv. 4–5). He examined his public witness (vv. 6–7). He examined his public worship (v. 8). And though he was far from perfect, he could honestly confess his love for and devotion to the Lord and his commitment to living a life of integrity and faithfulness.

The temptation in self-examination is to become unhealthily self-focused. Self-examination can easily become an exercise in narcissism. David guarded against that by inviting the Lord into his self-examination. He asked the Lord to prove him and try him, to test his heart and his mind. Self-examination in the context of communion ensured that his assessment was the Lord’s and not his own.

What does your calendar look like today? What about the week to come? Do you expect to be busy? Do you have phone calls to make, appointments to keep, messages to send, accounts to balance, children to school, a family to feed? Thank God for the ability to keep busy and do your work heartily as to the Lord and not to men. But don’t allow busyness to rob you of the need for self-examination.

And as you take time for self-examination and evaluation, don’t do it alone. Don’t approach it with a checklist of dos and don’ts. Ask the Lord to search your heart and mind. Invite his Spirit to illumine his truth to you so that you can be proven and tried. Having done so, may you be able to pray with David, “Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (v. 3).

Let’s walk together in divine faithfulness and love,

Stuart