Ransacked! Not just searched idly—but totally ransacked.

That is what happened to a friend’s home when burglars broke in during her absence.

Determined to find cash, jewels, or, perhaps, prescription narcotics, the intruders went through every closet, cupboard, dresser, cabinet, and shelf in the house.

Drawers were removed, turned upside-down, and emptied out.

Rugs were rolled up and draperies pulled back.

Upholstered pieces were poked and probed.

And the pictures and mirrors were not just peered behind, but were tom from the walls and their frames pried open.

Nothing in the house, absolutely nothing, escaped the intense and exhaustive search of these thorough ransackers. Upon closer inspection of the chaos so completely wrought, one could almost sense an urgency and determination to their search—an intensity that left nothing hidden and everything exposed.

For my friend, the ransacking of her home was traumatic because she felt there had been a total invasion of her private space. If she had had any secrets, surely none could have remained hidden from the ransackers.

“Ransack” is a strong and vivid term. It conjures up a more powerful image than a word like “search.” Imagine, then, my surprise when a fellow Minnesotan told me that in the Swedish language a single word can convey both the meaning of search and ransack.

That revelation started me on my own search, and I mused over the assorted Scripture passages that describe God as searching human hearts. Could it be that his thoroughness is the equivalent of a ransacking?

Suppose King David, in passing his throne on to Solomon, had said to his son, “Serve the Lord your God with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord ‘ransacks’ all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts” (1 Chron. 28:9). What an awesome exposure to an omniscient God! Could that be the reason why Solomon wisely went on to ask the Lord for a heart capable of discerning between good and evil? (I know I must pray regularly for the same capacity of discernment in my personal as well as my professional life.)

A colleague said recently that Christian leaders must learn to sharpen the dividing line between right and wrong. Our leadership and shepherding depends on it in a world of constantly shifting relativism that is always encroaching on the church. Such discernment must begin with me.

And I believe the psalmist uttered a similar prayer when he said, “Ransack me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my innermost thoughts” (Ps. 139:23). The attitude does not appear to be one of a cowering fear of God. Rather, the psalmist seems to welcome the searching as a necessary condition for divine blessing and guidance.

Ransacking is a serious and unpleasant business as my friend will attest. But Paul told the Romans that the One who “ransacks” hearts also intercedes for his own. And in all things he works for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:27–28). In that we can rest our trust.

Only when the Holy Spirit probes the deepest recesses of my being can I fully know myself as I am known by God. And only then can I discern what is good and, more important, what is the best. Only then can I be led unhesitantly in the way of life eternal.

It is very tough to have your heart and mind ransacked by a Holy God. But it’s worth it.

I realize that more and more.


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