I feel like I’m heading into a new season of life. A new job, an upcoming new school year, and coming home from both college and Eastern Europe with fresh eyes has left me feeling like the world is new. It’s very exciting, and a little terrifying, but I have an overwhelming feeling of, “This is good!”
But while this new season is good, it has given my brain a multitude of thoughts to ponder, and my heart an abundance of emotions to feel. A few nights ago, I was feeling overwhelmed, so I flipped my Bible open to Proverbs 3:5-6, and the words provided exactly the encouragement, challenge, and inspiration my soul needed.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”
For five years now THE lesson I’ve been learning has been how to trust God. For me, it’s that one lesson I just keep learning over and over and over again. More often than not, when I pray the answer I receive is, “Trust me!” Lately, the answer has become a bit more nuanced, because God has been responding to my prayers by asking me, “Do you trust that I have a good plan for you?” but the lesson is the same. The hard thing is that God asks me to trust him with my whole heart. The heart is incredibly complex. Sometimes my heart feels open and tender, but other times it feels closed and hard. Sometimes it is broken, but other times it is overflowing with love. The heart can feel many things at once, and right now my heart feels excited yet confused, anticipatory yet uncertain, intrigued yet timid, optimistic yet vulnerable. But God is asking that I trust him with my whole heart, swirling emotions and all. So trust him I will!
“and lean not on your own understanding;”
At face value, I want to take this line to mean don’t trust in your own understanding because it is flawed, but that is a very discouraging interpretation. If my understanding of a situation is completely wrong, how am I supposed to make an informed decision, how am I supposed to feel peace, how am I supposed to proceed? When I question my understanding, my confusion multiplies, and my anxiety shoots through the roof. After looking past the surface of this verse, however, I don’t think that the ultimate reason to not trust my own understanding is because my understanding is incorrect. Instead, my understanding is incomplete. There are certain things in life that I know to be right and true, but in every situation I encounter there will be unknowns. I can only see the present, not the future, and I can only know what I’m feeling because I can’t know what’s going on in anyone’s heart but my own (and sometimes I don’t even know that.) God is the only one with complete understanding, and fortunately for us, he uses that complete understanding to make all things work for our good. So I will lean on his perfect understanding!
“in all your ways acknowledge him,”
This portion seems pretty straightforward to me, but that doesn’t make it easy to do. To acknowledge him in all my ways is to submit everything I do to him. When I’m acknowledging God in all I do, it becomes difficult to knowingly do something he wouldn’t approve of. This creates fantastic accountability, and a high standard to live up to, but the fact remains that I am a human who willfully sins more often than I would like to admit. Making mistakes is a regular part of my life. However, this verse does not say “in all your ways (except when you mess up) acknowledge him.” That’s how we want to interpret this verse, but it’s simply not what it says. So in all my ways, good, bad, and ugly, I will acknowledge him.
“and he will make your paths straight.”
I don’t know about you, but in this context I usually associate the word straight with the word easy. I really want to read this as, “and he will make your paths easy.” But in my heart of hearts I know that that is simply not true. God never promises easy. Your path could be straighter than a yardstick, but steeper than a ladder. And no matter how straight your path is, if it is so dark that you can’t see more than two feet in front of your face, it will be anything but easy. Some other translations say, “and he will direct your paths.” I think that is a much healthier understanding of this verse. If you trust God with your whole heart, lean on his understanding, and acknowledge him in all your ways, he will direct your paths. For me, this promise of divine direction is enough to do all I can to trust him! So here’s to a new season of beautiful unknowns and wholehearted trust!