Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
These two verses give us advice on how to live our lives in God’s will. It tells us to do something and then tells us the result of doing it.
What is the thing we are to do? We are to place ourselves completely in God’s hands, submitted to his direction. Solomon says it three ways. First, trust in the Lord with all your heart. We place our trust in God. In other words, we place our faith in him to take care us. We have no reservations. We hold nothing back. Our whole heart is given over to him. We submit ourselves to him and his will, committed to go where he sends, do what he commands and even suffer what he ordains.
We can do this because we believe that God will do what is best for us. We believe what Romans 8:28 says, that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. We trust him. We trust him to give us eternal life, so surely we can trust him to do the best for us in this life. Romans 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” In other words, if he was willing to sacrifice his son for us, he will surely give us all the things we need.
Second, we do not lean on our own understanding. Sometimes, God tells us to do something we think is counter intuitive, or against human logic. We read a command in the Bible, for example, and think “I cannot do that. If I do that, I will go broke, or lose all my friends, or make people think I am a fanatic.” But this verse tells us to do what God says, trusting him to make it right.
I am not saying here that we are never to think. God gave us minds to think and gives us wisdom to discern the right thing to do. But, too often our thinking is selfish and not Biblical. It is worldly rather than spiritual. That is why Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Your mind is renewed by the Holy Spirit, especially through the study of God’s word.
A few years ago, I began trying to read the Scripture without filters. It is hard to do. But it is necessary. I tried not to read the Bible as an American, a Republican, a Texan, an affluent Westerner or any of those things. I wanted to know what the Scripture said and what God meant. It was disturbing to see that many times I had thought and even been taught a spin on the Word, usually explaining why we did not need to do it as God said to do it. Don’t spin. Give in.
Third, “in all your ways acknowledge him”. In this context, it particularly means to acknowledge that God keeps us and directs us in his will. We do not steal his glory or presume upon his grace. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar tried to steal God’s glory. He took credit for his accomplishments, claiming power, glory and majesty for himself. (Daniel 4:28-30). The Lord struck him with madness until he acknowledged God. He said “Then I praised the Most High; I honored him who lives forever.” (Daniel 4:34) Only then did God restore him.
James warns us not to presume upon God’s grace. He wrote “Now listen, you who say ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…instead, you out to say ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16) We prosper only as he allows in his grace. Acknowledge that. You really can say “God graciously allowed us to succeed and we are grateful” instead of “look at what I have done, I’m so great”.
If we do what God says to do, trust him with our lives, what will he do? He will make our paths straight. When you had to walk everywhere, having a straight path was a big deal. If I can walk to the next town “as the crow flies” and it is 5 miles, I am grateful I did not have to walk the long way around and walk 10 miles.
When we visited our daughter in West Virginia once, I found myself frustrated that we could not go directly where we wanted to go because the roads all went around the hills. I could see the place I wanted to go, but had to go a long way around to get there.
So, when God says he will make our paths straight, he means he will watch over us, direct us in the way we should go and make sure we get there. This is all conditioned on our placing our trust completely in him and not in ourselves.
Are you worried about where you are going to go, how you will get there or if you will get there “in one piece”? Place your trust in God, ask him to direct your paths. Then relax and walk with him in peace.