God knows my heart – yes, you better believe He does. But do we know His?

I have a young friend who often goes back and forth with me because we think about life matters so differently. I once challenged her on living with her boyfriend, something commonplace today but wrong in the eyes of God. God intended for couples to live and sleep together only within the context of marriage, which does not include engagement.

She’s not alone. In the U.S., marriage rates have declined. However, the share of adults who live with an unmarried partner has risen.

She acknowledged my point, but she also said to me, “God knows my heart.” To which I responded “Yes, He does know your heart – and He knows mine. But you know what? He can’t trust them, and neither can we.”

We live in a society where many of us have conveniently used that phrase to justify our actions or behavior that may be contrary to God’s word, will, or ways. Frankly, it is sometimes used to make an excuse for sin.

God explains in Jeremiah 17:9-10: "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve."

God gave us fair warning about our hearts. These conversations with my young friend and other brothers and sisters have happened time after time over the years.

What I have learned is that God calls His people to spiritual maturity, and we have to recognize an excuse for exactly what it is: an excuse.

He uses situations, circumstances, challenges and moments to shape and mold us to become better citizens of the Kingdom and better models for the world. One of, if not, the most significant way He does so is through our marriage. (Can I get a witness, married folks?)

I recognize that I am a blessed man to be a part of good marriage that has endured storms out of nowhere, unexpected waves, and the test of time. But it still takes work and effort and humility. My marriage has taught me so much about my spouse – but even more about me, and a lot of it I did not like. That man in the mirror needs a lot of work. I have come to recognize that there is pain in the process and purpose in the pain.

Each morning, I scan my news feeds and I’m greeted with stories so indicative of our fallen world.

Since November 2022, we have been publicly exposed to the ongoing saga of T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, television morning show co-hosts whose affair was exposed by a scandalous television show (TMZ). Both are married (on their second marriages) and both of them have young children.

After being outed, they were suspended from their network responsibilities.

Lately, they have been spotted taking holidays together, smiling and affectionately enjoying one another’s company. T.J. recently filed for divorce from his wife of 12 years, despite showering her with public praise not very long ago.

I see T.J. and Amy in the news, and I think of their spurned mates. Admittedly, I have no idea what kind of shape their marriages were in. But I put myself in the spouse’s place and I imagine how they must feel with their heartbreak playing out in front of millions. And to add insult to injury, the two couples were friends who spent time together before someone crossed the line. It has been said, “Never build your happiness on someone else’s pain.” In the words of my mother-in-law, “True That.”

Adultery isn’t cute or funny or a beautiful love story. It’s voluntary, willful sin. T.J. and Amy chose to turn toward one another and away from their marital vows. The Apostle Peter said it right in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than man.”

Maintaining a long and happy marriage in today’s culture is not easy – temptation can present itself in so many forms – unforeseen attractions, even overcommitments to one’s job or ministry or children. Feelings can be like a rollercoaster so recognize love as a DECISION.

We must make the conscious choice – on the horizontal plane, my spouse comes first. We must put in the time to be present for one another.

Yes, we are human, and we are fallen, and temptations abound for us all. We simply cannot have everything we want and fulfill every desire. We must endeavor to keep our commitments made before God and man. God uses the marriage metaphor often to describe His relationship with us. A Christian marriage should be an example to the watching world of the relationship that God has with His children.

I will never, ever forget legendary filmmaker Woody Allen’s great fall. It was 1992 and some aspects of that incident are still as fresh as yesterday. Allen had been in a relationship with actress Mia Farrow for 12 years until Farrow discovered he had been involved with another woman via nude pictures she found that he had taken. The nude pictures were of Farrow’s daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.

Woody Allen was 56 and Soon-Yi was 22. Allen was emphatic that he was not nor have ever played the role of father or stepfather in Soon-Yi’s life. But Mia Farrow was his longtime partner and Soon-Yi was her adopted daughter, not to mention a 34-year age difference between Allen and the young woman. For me, that’s way out of bounds.

I still remember his infamous response, 31 years later: “The heart wants what it wants,” Allen said. “There’s no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.” How ironic - Woody Allen didn’t marry Mia Farrow after a dozen years together. But he married her daughter in 1997 and they are still married today.

Spiritual maturity teaches us to do the right thing in God’s eyes and that means denying oneself and sparing hurt and harm to another. For a loving God who has been so generous to us, it’s an honor to serve and submit to Him.

So, let’s think about it.

When we miss attending church services or stop attending church and say, “God knows my heart,” He sure does. (Not that church attendance saves us – it doesn’t. The Lord Jesus saves. Period.) But church attendance and participation are an exercise in obedience.

When we have an opportunity to share our testimony but choose not to and say, “God knows my heart,” He sure does. And the opportunity will likely come around again. Let’s not miss it the next time.

When we can help someone with a donation or a kind word but choose to hold our wallet and our words close, we may say “God knows my heart.” Yes, He does. But do we know His?

We cannot continue to sin and say God knows my heart to give grounds for foolishness or indulgence or disobedience. God knows our hearts, but He is not mocked. Surely, we shall reap what we sow. Let’s sow good seeds.

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