As we have discussed, the goal of biblical meditation is to develop oneness with God. We have also discussed where we begin, alienated from God through our own sins and our corrupt human nature. Yet a great many people have repented of their sins and seriously desire to follow God and yet find themselves feeling estranged from God even though this is the case. Why is this so? What is it that distorts the reality of the love that God our Father and Jesus Christ our brother have for us? It is worthwhile to discuss such matters because they strike at the heart of what we seek through biblical meditation. And it strikes at the heart of biblical meditation because what tends to fail us when it comes to feeling the intimacy that God has for us is our hearts in the first place.
This ought not to surprise us. Jeremiah contrasts the believer who trusts in God as opposed to the wickedness and the deceitfulness of the heart in Jeremiah 17:7-10: ““Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” While the second part of this passage is familiar to us, it is worthwhile to consider the first part as well, which uses the familiar image of the tree that is securely planted (see, for example, the Tree of Life in Exodus 2 and 3, the tree of Psalms 1, and the tree spoken of in Revelation 21) to show someone who is confident and who trusts in God, and as a result does not fear or feel anxiety about their relationship with God. Part of the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart is the way that the fears and anxieties of the heart prey on us. It is not merely that the heart itself is deceitful and wicked in terms of seeking to do wrong and to justify wrong (although this is definitely true and a major problem in life), but that even the hearts of people who themselves are obedient and godly are deceitful and those of us who are prone to being anxious and timid by nature are harmed by that aspect of the deceitfulness of the heart.
And so it is that believers often have to struggle with the question of the state of our hearts as well as the state of God’s love for us. Our feelings are subjective, but the reality of our love for others and our love for and obedience to God are objective matters. The barrier to the intimacy and unity with God that we seek through prayer and meditation is that we tend to judge the objective reality of our state before God by the subjective state of our feelings. And even if we know that our feelings are not reliable and not the right basis, it is hard for us to know what grounds we should be judging the matter on instead. After all, the state of our feelings is often the filter by which we tend to judge objective reality. And objectively, there is no shortage of stumbles and falls we cannot notice. We may condemn ourselves for our inattention to God, and for the social awkwardness that does not make it easy for us to show our love for others, and that same sort of awkwardness may often make it difficult for us to feel what love that others have for us. Upon these problems we seek, and often fail to find, the sort of long-term and consistent relief that we seek.
Indeed, the letter of 1 John addresses the subject of God’s love for us and our love for others quite often, and here the apostle addresses the heart of the matter in 1 John 3:18-23: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” To the extent that we love God and others in truth and in deed (and not merely in word), we have an objective ground to be confident in the love of God for us, and even if our hearts condemn us God knows our deeds and will judge us based on the truth and not based on our subjective feelings. Likewise, to the extent that our confidence in God and Jesus Christ’s love for us is based on objective truth, we can ask Him boldly for requests knowing of the strength of that relationship.
Ultimately, the believer is told to trust God. We will not be judged by God based on the subjective and often erroneous judgment of our hearts. For some people, whose consciences are hardened, character that should be judged as faulty is not because of the hardness of the heart to sin and evil. For a great many people, though, the heart is not hardened but all too sensitive and easily troubled, and for such people the comfort that must be found is trusting that God knows our hearts, and will be merciful to us, and that we can cast our cares and worries upon Him, because He alone can provide us with comfort. Our hearts, after all, are not going to provide us with the comfort that is caused by our anxiety and fear, because it is our hearts that are often defective in the first place and ill-equipped to solve the problem that they are at the root of. And it is only when we can trust God and have confidence in Him that we can enjoy the benefits of biblical prayer that we seek.