“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
The moment I read these ancient words as a young woman, they spoke deep into my life, probably because they were so different from the soundtrack playing in my head. Work Hard! Be smart! Be thorough! Do your best! Figure it out! You can do it! These formed the soundtrack on replay in my life, but these ancient words told me a different story.
These words of wisdom from Solomon to his son (and to us) start out with a command: “Trust the Lord with all your heart.” That was not so surprising. It was yet another action I was charged with, to exceed at trusting the Lord. Ok, I can do this! But then, there was a twist. Solomon explains that trusting the Lord will mean not trusting myself. His words seemed to suggest I am not trustworthy.
Really? I thought that God only helps those who help themselves (not actually in the Bible.) Here in scripture is a command to stop leaning on my own understanding and furthermore, Solomon says to submit to God in all my ways. To submit means to yield to a superior force, authority, or will of another. The turn here is radical. Not only is the command to repent or turn from leaning on my broken and insufficient understanding, but to submit to One who knows better and sees farther. Submitting in ALL my ways: in the way I lived, loved, and related, yes, but also in the way I thought and felt and understood the world around me.
These words both fly in the face of my pride and relieve the burden of the truth I know: I cannot possibly make the very crooked path of this life journey straight no matter how hard I try. Are you offended by this? Are you relieved? Or both?
Recently, I faced what seemed an impossible situation with no solution I could muster. I worked “as if it were all up to me and prayed as if it were all up to God.” (also, not in the Bible) Last week, with no solution in sight, I turned around from all my ways of seeing and understanding the situation and even from my prayers demanding God do something. I turned around and focused on submitting or surrendering my will to His rather than demanding Him to do my bidding. I confessed my inability to trust and prayed in community with another. I took the step He seemed to be guiding me to take even though it did not look, from my understanding, to be the most likely one to yield a successful result. But as I stopped leaning on my own understanding and surrendered to His leading, the way ahead opened in such a beautiful way. I was pretty much floored that God knew so much better than me as His way came into view. I know that He sees farther and knows better. I can tell you God is all wise and all knowing and stands outside time and space. I can tell you that He is all powerful and has all resources at His disposal. I can tell you that He is loving and delights to bless His children. But I can run around with all those facts secure in my mind and still act on the soundtrack that says it is all up to me!
Proverbs 3:5-6 has been “sharper than a double-edged sword” in my life for many years. It has been effective in judging my thoughts and attitudes of my heart. (Hebrews 4:12) It has been useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training (me) in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) But it is not a formula, Trust + Repentance + Submission= God gives you an easy life. No, it is a principle, that when we trust God in such a way that we turn from our own understanding and submit our will to His, we are transformed to walk in the way He clears for us. As I consider this verse, I see that submission goes far deeper than the surface obedience I am too often offering God. Submitting recognizes Him for who He is and rightly acknowledges my relationship to Him as a beloved recipient of His grace.
How does this verse challenge the current soundtrack playing in your life today? What would leaning not on your own understanding look like for you? How could you submit to God in all your ways?
For more examples of how people trust in the Lord and lean not on their own understanding, I suggest the book of Joshua
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Offices by Biblica, Inc.™