Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
I misunderstood this very often-quoted verse for a very long time. I don’t think I’m the only one to misunderstand.
First, verse 5 is referring to not just a heart understanding but a refrain from intellectual pride or a secular search for God. (1) God wants us to have faith in Him from a place of love and trust. Throughout scripture there are examples of people who were praised for having faith without ‘seeing.’
In all your ways, to acknowledge Him, is to have a personal and ongoing dialogue with the Lord. Prayer and meditation are entirely necessary in order to acknowledge Him. You cannot know His will if you don’t have any conversation with the Lord.
Last year when ‘Prayer’ was my word of the year, I focused on how to pray. There are an unlimited number of ways to pray and honor the Lord. God’s people are nothing if they are not creative, and there are many, many ways to pray. Perhaps I’ll do some posts on it at a future date.
Finally, the part of these verses that really got me off track: ‘He will make your paths straight.’ It has also been translated ‘He will show you which path to take’ (Living Bible).
That phrase does not mean God makes it easy for us or that things will always go well. It really means that He will make your path more smooth. I think that when I have suffered, the Lord was there smoothing the path for me, but I still had the pain and the problems I had to go through. He was with me. That’s the point.
Worshiping God is the foremost way to communicate with Him. As Tim Keller says ‘The ultimate reason for our misery, however, is that we do not love God supremely.’ (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God).
When I have been in the most pain, invariably my relationship with the Lord has slipped. It is a lack of faith and trust that He wants what’s best for me. When I accept his yoke, things are smoother. My problems aren’t eliminated, but I know what I need to do. That’s the ‘trust in the Lord’ component. My faith grows all the time, and problems seem smaller.
Sometimes you have to go against your feelings and intuition. ‘Leaning not on your own understanding.’ The more I practice this in my life, the better i get at it. But don’t offer me scorn if I falter.
1. Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, pp. 80–81). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.