Who knows you really well? Not just the basic contours of your life story but your joys, your sorrows, your fears, your triumphs, your doubts, your failures? Who do you feel comfortable sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with, trusting that they will still accept and love you? If you have at least one such person in your life, you are blessed.
But their knowledge of you (and your knowledge of them) only goes so far, doesn’t it? What if this person knew everything about you? Everything. No exceptions. Your past, your present, even your future. And not just as an observer from the outside. Rather, this friend actually gets inside your head. She knows every thought you are having right now. He knows the word on your tongue even before you say it. In fact, she knows the malicious thought you just had about her but refrained from saying, because, well, what kind of Christian would say such things? To everyone else, you are the picture of self-control. But this friend sees all—the unexpressed fears, the carefully concealed lusts, the doubts and insecurities, the self-condemning and others-condemning judgments. And this friend is always with you; you cannot flee from his presence. No matter where you are, there she is. In the sky, below the earth, in the middle of the ocean, in the deepest darkness—you can’t escape.
Does that comfort you? I’m guessing not! Why? Because we can’t imagine living before someone with such X-ray vision and abiding presence without shriveling up in guilt and shame like a tender flower burned by an unexpected frost. That level of exposure before another person is terrifying.
Yet that is not how King David responds in Psalm 139 regarding the One who knows everything about him. He says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (v.6). He remarks, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (v.17). In fact, God’s complete knowledge of his life actually compels him to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (v.23–24). Fully known. Everything. No exceptions. And what does David say? “Bring it on! I relish that. Know me even further, God!”
How can this be? Why does David exult in the fully penetrating gaze of God rather than hide or hang his head in shame? Because he knows that God’s perfect knowledge is wedded with perfect love. David is perfectly safe in the steadfast, enduring love of the Lord (Psalm 138:8). This is the very affirmation that precedes Psalm 139, which David also penned. Not only does God fully know David (v.1–6) and will never leave him (v.7–12), he is also the author of David’s life: “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (v.16). A more intimate knowledge cannot exist. A more all-encompassing love cannot exist.
This is true for us as well—and even more so—now that God has brought redemption to completion through Jesus Christ. As believers, we are fully loved, fully known in Jesus. His new covenant with us is unshakeable. He is not surprised by our secrets. He does not turn away in the wake of our failures. He sees our thoughts, desires, and fears with perfect clarity and perfect love. Safe and secure, our lives are hidden with him (Col 3:3). We live under his benediction, not his displeasure, clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are no longer regarded as enemies but as intimate friends (Rom 5:8–11).
Reckoning these things to be true impacts our relationship with God and with others. It means we are freed to face our deepest places of guilt and shame, knowing that God has already seen them and dealt with them decisively at the cross. We progressively learn to live as people crowned with steadfast love and mercy (Ps 103:4)—royal sons and daughters who won’t get booted from the King’s presence. We pray, “Lord, help me to see what you see. Give me the courage to face the inevitable inconsistencies and half-hearted discipleship that so often mark my life, knowing that your abiding love and presence empower my next faltering step toward you.”
Heartened by the One who fully knows us and never turns from us, we are freer with others. Perhaps we are a bit more vulnerable in our small group. We micro-manage our image just a bit less. We ask for prayer, not for our great Aunt Millie’s cousin’s sick dog, but for the anxiety and insecurity that stalk us as we face a performance review at work. We whisper our deepest doubts to a trusted friend. We admit our sense of failure as a parent to a fellow father.
And we see that transparency begets transparency. Others share their hearts with us. We seek to receive them as Jesus does. This is not easy, of course. Others (including ourselves!) don’t have the patience, compassion, and steadfastness that Jesus does as he looks upon the details and inner workings of our lives. But, secure in God’s gracious full knowledge of us and buoyed by his enduring love, we aim to be known by others—and to know them—even as we are known by our Savior.