"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 paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV
As the Lord revealed to me what he wanted this blog's central theme to be about, the idea of encouraging others in the midst of their individual journeys became crucial to its focus. I remember sitting down, praying, and asking God what the "domain name" of the site should be, and he lead me to Proverbs 3:5-6. Upon first reading those verses, they seem like a straight forward set of directions that will keep you on the "right path." But the depth, and the magnitude of these "simple set of directions" is much more complex and edifying than it first leads on. Today, I would like to dive deeper into these verses to show you how to draw strength from them in your hardship.
In a sermon John Piper preached in 1982 on Isaiah 64:1-4, he explains that there is a specific "spirit of waiting" we must keep during our journey; what he calls being in a place of expectation and dependence on God. "But now here’s the essence. Now, get this carefully, because we’re so prone to think that waiting means stillness, but as soon as we start acting — preparing a sermon or a lesson, going to work, preparing a report, staying up late to work, work, work — we don’t have to wait anymore. That’s not the case because — and this changes all of life — there is a spirit of waiting in the midst of work... (see more)." Essentially, Piper is saying we can't just act on what we believe is the right thing to do. Earlier in the sermon, the first thing he addresses is the importance of letting God lead us in anything we do, or asking God, and waiting on his answer for any questions we have. The Holy Spirit can't really direct a believer if that believer refuses to let him be the guide.
This, "spirit in the midst of waiting," is your submission and eagerness to act in obedience and by his instruction when that answer is provided. If God says, "go here so that this specific thing can be accomplished," all He wants you to do is go there. Then, when you fulfill your part, He does the rest and what He set out to do will be accomplished (Isaiah 55:11). In anything God plans for us, when he lets us have an active role in completing that event, it's because of his mercy. It's not because we caused the accomplishment of that event; no rather, it's God accomplishing what He wants to happen by His sovereignty. He is just using you as a means to glorify him; which is an incredible honor.
So what does all of this have to do with Proverbs 3:5-8? As Piper delved deeper into how we should wait for God, Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us a "high overview" motivation for our obedience. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight," is in summary, an applicable process, to every long journey of waiting on God.
When you trust that God is going to work things out, despite what circumstances you face, and when you choose to believe in his wisdom, follow his instruction, and trust in his faithfulness--He works things out, or as it says, "he makes your paths straight."
This isn't a clear cut process, there is no A+B=C for an outcome. Life is messy--you will have paths that will lead you in all sorts of confusing directions that will even make you wonder "when," "why," or "how" God will work it out. But the idea--the central theme of trusting in Him--instead of trusting in what you can do on your own--is clear. If you let God lead you, and you trust him even during the times that it hurts; He will bring you to the ultimate outcome. His plans for us are so much bigger than we can comprehend.
Proverbs 3:7-8 gives us a critical explanation as to why it's important to lean on God's wisdom. "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." It's critical to trust in the all knowing Creator's wisdom over our own, because his ways are beyond us. Which reflects back to Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"
God isn't saying "because I am God and all-knowing, you need to believe me and just do what I say." He understands it's more complicated than that; he understands how you feel even if it seems like he's so far away. God truly gets what it feels like to live in a broken world; the anxiety, the worry, the fears that run rampant through our mind. How stressful it is to just try and take one step at a time without knowing what's to come. He knows about how terrifying it can be, with us being so limited in understanding what situations we have to face, and the lack of control in the unknown. Because He's been there, through all of this; He bore our sin and walked in our shoes as Jesus Christ.
Understanding that God's ways and thoughts are "higher" than our ways and thoughts is not God admitting to you that he has a "better-than-you-do-perspective (which don't get me wrong he does);" it's Him simply stating that there is more than the physical eye can see. At the end of Job, God never answers his questions he prayed through his suffering throughout the book. He simply gives Job insight into the complex workings he oversees on the regular day to day basis. This, is similar to what he states in Isaiah 55:8-9, because He has an eternal perspective that He's not revealed to us. And whether we like it or not, He didn't reveal it to us for good reason. God doesn't show you every future outcome of "what's next," because as limited beings, we wouldn't be able to understand it. It's either a raw truth you have to let sink in, or it's comforting the way it's intended to be. He loves us; His all-encompassing love gives us this compassionate method of trusting in his perfect ways to completely take care of us in all life circumstances which he summarizes in Proverbs 3:5-8.
Instead of trying to have it all figured out, Proverbs 3:7-8 encourages us that it's a lot easier (and will be a much more peaceful route) if we just trust Him to do that for us. That's what it means when it says "it will be health to our bodies and nourishment to our bones." Because in reality, mental and emotional stress can do major damage to the physical body if not kept in check. So it's Him pleading with us, through his wisdom and compassionate love, to just BELIEVE that He will take care of it. Rest in him because it's true; He most certainly will.
"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1 ESV