Proverbs 14:10 ESV
The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.
No matter how well someone knows you, ultimately they are a different person. Nobody can literally feel somebody else’s happiness or somebody else’s bitterness; nobody can quite grasp the fullness of somebody else’s emotions. Sympathy, empathy, psychopathy, it doesn’t matter. What I feel is not within your capacity to directly perceive or comprehend. The same, of course, goes in reverse. No human can comprehend, it is true, but God can.
The book of Matthew repeatedly claims that Christ knows the hearts of men. Chapter 9, verse 4, states, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” Chapter 15, verse 8, quotes Isaiah, calling the hearts of Israel far from God, regardless of their lips. Other books of the Bible repeat this same assurance, this same subsidiary to God’s omniscience, as in the case of Acts 1:24, in which the apostles pray to God who “know[s] the hearts of all”. God, we can be fully assured, knows the hearts of men. He is, after all, their Creator. We cannot hide from God our hearts, our hearts which we know to be “deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). As Luther wrote, “If Thou iniquities dost mark, our secret sins and misdeeds dark, O who shall stand before Thee?” Our sins are plain, our judgement meet; we cannot hide when His eyes seeks us out. Without His mercy, we would utterly be cast down.
A second part of this knowledge too exists. As Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “… we have a high priest… who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” The incarnation of Christ means that He understands our hearts not just as our Creator but as a man Himself, understands the turmoil within us, for He faced that same turmoil, to an extent beyond any other man (for any other man would have submitted at some point to sin), and did not sin (2 John 1:7).
We are often weary and heavy-laden, burdened down with our own sin and with the hatred of the world. We stumble, we fall, and we tarnish His good name before man and angel. On this earth, the redeemed of God are not perfect (far from it). Indeed, it can easily seem that to be a Christian is to sin knowingly, where to be pagan might be to sin unknowingly (this is, of course, a largely false idea, given Romans 1). Our hearts grow bitter in this; our hearts grow hard, grow tired, grow unwilling to honor Him. We are isolated, it seems, knowingly only our own bitterness, alone in the knowledge of that bitterness.
Yet for the child of God, who has repented of His treachery, his sin, and has placed his faith in Christ alone for salvation, God stands, strong to save. “He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:9-11). He knows our sorrows, has born our transgressions, and, when in His strength we turn to Him, He brings peace (Is. 53:6; John 16:33). He knows our sins and sorrows, every thought of our inmost heart; our sins He forgives through the blood of His son; our sorrows He takes from us, to give us joy everlasting. Though we may be called to suffer (1 Peter 2:20-21), He still stands, the King of glory, to whose hill we will ascend (Ps. 24:3,10). This, then, is the joy which fills us, the joy which He gives us to proclaim to the nations.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” ~ Joseph M. Scriven
Luther, Martin. From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee. <https://hymnary.org/text/from_depths_of_woe_i_raise_to_thee>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.