Trust. Don't Lean.

By the time you read this, it's likely to be old news. But it bears repeating nonetheless: One of the words for this season is the promise from Proverbs 3:5 & 6:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
A simple examination of the passage is sufficient to discern the basic structure of the promise: there are three conditions and one delightful promise.
The conditions:
1) Trust God with all your heart.
It's easy to trust God. It's hard to trust with all of my heart. We're so often tempted to trust Him with a little bit of our heart, enough that we can honestly say there's a level of trust there, but let's not get extreme, let's not commit ourselves to the point where we can't withdraw if it turns out to be awkward. And yet the command is clear: trust Him with all my heart, which clearly means trust Him more than I trust me.
2) Don't lean on your own understanding.
This one is difficult; I'm going to be a little blunt: most of the time, we don't want to trust God. We want God to tell us His plans, and then we plan to make a decision: will we obey Him this time? Do we want to believe Him or will we believe our feelings on the subject? For example: God speaks to us about tithing, and we suddenly discover our own opinions on the subject are numerous and powerful: we trust our budget, our "freedom" or our delight in Starbucks in the morning more than we trust what God has been saying to us.
3) Acknowledge Him in all my ways.
"Acknowledgement" involves submission; it speaks to us drawing from His wisdom, asking Him to lead and guide us, and then following His leading and guiding. Think about the Acknowledgements Page in a book: these are people who have helped the author understand more. This phrase speaks to the partnership between God and me, and that partnership extends to every part of my life, of my ways: He is not asking for blind slavery; He's asking for a relationship of trust, where I value His omniscient advice.
The Promise:
4) And He will make your paths straight.
Another translation says "He will direct your paths." The promise is that suddenly our cries for Him to lead us to direct us will be answered. How many ways have we asked God for His guidance? How many times have we prayed, "God, what do I do here? How can I handle this?" This passage is the answer to those prayers!
There's a catch though. We may not recognize His direction in our lives, and even if we recognize it, we may not approve.
That's an issue inherent to this process. If we're trusting in Him, then we're choosing to trust God and His word more than we trust our own observations, more than we trust our own eyes, our own ears, our own feelings.
(If I don't point out that trusting God rather than ourselves is not the same as blindly following untrustworthy leaders, then I'll get angry emails. This is about a relationship built on trust, and primarily about trusting God more than myself; I'm not talking about blindly following people with control issues. And I acknowledge that His voice to us includes both leadership and community. Please don't get stuck on that and thereby miss the point.)
An illustration is appropriate: some time ago, my friend Walt was in tough times; he was nearly homeless and running out of options, and so was praying desperately, and a couple of options opened up. One of those options was a particular homeless shelter in his town. Walt hated the concept of a homeless shelter, and saw some things in this one in particular that scared him, but he was pretty certain that this was the option that God was pointing him to: nothing more, no "here's why", no sense of the purpose in his being at the shelter. And so, after only a little whining, Walt obeyed, and checked into that shelter.
Within the first few hours, he recognized the work of God in the move. There were relationships there, waiting for him, that were like long-lost family. There were others there into whose life he could speak with confidence, and those people listened and welcomed his God-given wisdom; and his physical needs (like food and shelter) were wonderfully taken care of. Walt spent a fair bit of time worshiping as he marveled at God's precision guidance of his life.
Walt had a choice: he could have trusted in his own understanding ("I don't like the thought of a homeless shelter. This shelter has issues that I don't like!") instead of God's gentle direction. Rather, he trusted God with all of his heart and acknowledged His direction. The result was clear: he was better off for having trusted God, and others in the shelter were much better off for his obedience.
Let me say it a bit more bluntly for the direct communicators among us: when we want to understand before we obey, we're not obeying God: we're setting ourselves up as a higher authority ahead of Him, and breaking the first commandment ("You will have no other gods before me."). When we choose to trust Him instead of ourselves, then we are in fact living as Christians, following rather than leading the King of the Universe who is so madly in love with us.

No comments: