When Your Heart Is a Muddy Mess

by Kelly Basham, COMPEL Training Member June 12, 2023
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me … For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:10, 16-17 (ESV)

While scrolling through social media, I landed on a post that infuriated me. I know I shouldn’t have, but I read the comments.

Many of the responses were in retaliation to what this person shared in their post. My heart also yearned to leave a witty comeback. With my thumbs poised over my phone's keyboard, I tried to devise a reply to let this person know their post was wrong.

Several retorts came to mind, but I ultimately decided it was better to do nothing in my furious state, so I shut off my phone and tossed it on the couch.

Satisfied with my good behavior, I mentally patted myself on the back for my ability to exert such excellent self-control.

But as I went about my day, my thoughts tormented me.
Didn’t I do the right thing?
Isn’t God happy with my behavior?
Why don’t I have any peace about it?

Then God brought to my mind a familiar passage of Scripture: Psalm 51. Scholars suggest this psalm was written by David after Nathan the prophet confronted David regarding his sins against Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12).

In his prayer, David said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me … For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:10, 16-17).

David longed to be made right with God and understood that God wanted more than his empty sacrifices and burnt offerings; God wanted a sincerely repentant heart.

Doing the right thing is good in many ways, but it doesn’t change what’s in our hearts. Jesus tells us that sin starts in the heart (Matthew 15:18-19). If our sin isn’t dealt with at the core, it will grow out of control until it permeates our entire being, affecting our relationship with God.

Although I practiced self-control by not posting a comment, my heart was unrepentant. Outwardly I looked clean, but on the inside, my heart was a muddy mess that still oozed pride and fury. Despite my good behavior, I still needed to seek the Lord in true repentance.

Friends, we should always try to do the right thing — but let’s not forget that God delights in hearts that are genuinely remorseful more than He delights in empty sacrifices of good behavior. Psalm 51:17 says, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Admitting we are wrong is never easy, but as David explains, God doesn’t detest a repentant heart.

We can follow David’s example and bring ourselves to the Lord in wholehearted confession and repentance, without fear, for He is good to extend mercy and forgiveness to us just as He did to David.

Rather than presuming our good behavior is enough to make us right with God, let’s approach Him with a desire to be made clean and with a spirit that wants to be made right so we can enjoy our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Lord, Your Word tells me that You do not despise a contrite heart. Please help me remember that You delight in my truly repentant heart more than my empty sacrifice of good behavior. Thank You that I can come to You as David did, without fear, and confess my transgressions. I'm grateful for the mercy and grace You extend to those who long to be made right with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


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Today’s devotion writer, Kelly Basham, is a member of COMPEL Writers Training. You can find writing tips, inspiration and community when you follow COMPEL on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Psalm 32:5, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (NIV).

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV).

When was the last time you asked God to create a clean heart within you as David did in Psalm 51:10?

Spend some time in prayer today and ask God to reveal any sin lingering in your heart, anything that needs confessing, so you can repent and joyfully walk in God's forgiveness. And in the comments, share your thoughts about today’s devotion!

© 2023 by Kelly Basham. All rights reserved.

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