It was early, and the alarm’s chirp was much too cheery. Shuffling down the stairs, I turned on the overhead light which immediately dispelled the shadows in the room but not my mind.
Sitting on the sofa, I flipped my Bible open to Acts 16. Paul was on his second missionary journey. He had endured many hardships, angry mobs, and physical suffering; yet he was still proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Both his gratitude for the amazing grace that saved him and his desire to spread the good news of Jesus Christ pushed him on from town to town.
No doubt Paul had prayed over his itinerary, but in verses 6-8, the Spirit prevented him and his companions from entering some of those cities. Rather than questioning God, they just moved on. They let go of their plan and took hold of the Lord’s.
Scripture doesn’t explain how the Spirit prevented them, but what it does show is that Paul trusted the Lord with all his heart. He leaned not on his own understanding but on God’s. He submitted to him, not just in this journey but his whole life. And God showed him the path to take. Paul was putting Proverbs 3:5, 6 into practice before my eyes. Now I was awake.
Proverbs 3:5, 6
Ever since that morning I have been mulling over Proverbs 3:5, 6. At the start of Chapter 3, the author advises his son to follow his instructions, which are based on God’s wisdom. He’s teaching his son−and us−how to live and that trusting in God is crucial.
Trust means to rely on, depend on, or believe someone or something. I trust that my car will start when I crank it and my laptop will work when I open it. On a much deeper level, I trust that my husband will be faithful to me always. I trust that my friend will hold in confidence the deep things I share with her.
Last year, before we took our daughter to college, I struggled mightily with letting her go to a school in a huge city far from home. I know that she is in God’s hands, but he still had to (gently) pry my fingers loose before I could let go. I realized then how much I need to grow in this area.
Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart
God tells us here and throughout Scripture (50 times in Psalms alone) to trust him. Why? Not only is he all-powerful and all-knowing, he is trustworthy and good. Out of his great love for us, the Father sent his only Son to die the death we deserve so that we could be in relationship with him now and forever. His grace covers our sin and washes us clean. He gives his Holy Spirit to guide us. When God looks at us, he sees his perfect Son. We who know him are his children, his heirs, and his delight. These are foundational truths, yet they are too stunning to fully grasp.
In addition to adopting me as his daughter, he has proven trustworthy in other ways. As I look back at hard times in my life, like miscarriage, divorce, chronic pain, and my father’s death, I see how God worked in those circumstances. My lack of control and dependence on him for everything have never been more crystal clear. He comforted and strengthened me. He never left me (Hebrews 13:5). He brought beauty from ashes, like he said he would (Isaiah 61:3). And my trust in him grew.
Not only are we to trust him, though; we are to do so with our whole hearts. God places tremendous value on the human heart. He wants not just a piece but the whole thing. Fortunately, he works with what we offer him. The Holy Spirit can take our desire, no matter how small, and grow it. When we entrust our heart to him, he makes it more like his.
Lean Not on Your Own Understanding
Last year I was driving on a rural two-lane highway. A bright autumn sun slanted across the fields and cast its light on a barn in the distance. The abandoned building with its rusty roof and grey-brown walls leaned to one side. A strong wind would surely topple it.
Leaning on our own understanding is like leaning against that barn for support. It could collapse and send us sprawling. Regardless of what we might think, we don’t have unlimited knowledge about our circumstances or the future. Plus, our limited understanding is often skewed, weakened by our flesh nature, the world’s perspective, and the enemy of our souls.
God’s understanding is infinite, his perspective perfect. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. Leaning on him means leaning on the solid rock, not a construct of human insight that will crumble. He desires to share his understanding with us: he reveals himself to us through prayer, his Word, the Holy Spirit, and wise counsel from other believers. And if we want wisdom, God invites us to just ask (James 1:5).
In All Your Ways Submit to Him
We see Paul submitting to the Lord throughout Acts. He kept going on his journey despite grave danger and spiritual attacks. In addition to teaching daily, he worked hard as a tentmaker to earn a living. Later in chapter 16, he sang hymns in jail, stayed put when his chains fell off, and led the jailer and his family to the Lord. Paul understood surrender.
“Submit in all your ways” means surrendering to God every area of life: marriage, parenting, career, service, leisure. It means offering up my time, energy, heart, and mind to him in those big areas, certainly, but also in little things, too. For me, that might mean volunteering for childcare when I’d rather be with my Bible study group, using my writing time wisely when I want to read instead, listening attentively to a woman whose personality and needs overwhelm me.
Surrendering can be hard, yet when I think of what he has given out of his love for me, I want to reciprocate because I love him too. I am his, and he is mine.
He Will Make Your Paths Straight
Last year on a marriage retreat, my husband and I took a walk on the retreat center grounds. My favorite part was a long, gently-curving path up a grassy hill to a beautifully-designed chapel. It was a glorious sight.
The paths of our lives are often not so picturesque. Mine has been made up of twists and turns, dips and valleys. I have veered off the path, too, following rabbit trails of worry and what-ifs that lead to nowhere good. When I wake up and realize I’m not trusting, submitting, or leaning on him, he always welcomes me back.
Regardless of how our paths might look, we can be sure of where they ultimately lead. If we are followers of Jesus, our lives have purpose, meaning, and hope that is firmly rooted in him. He is on the journey with us: before and behind us, around and in us. He is always with us, and ultimately, he is our destination, too. A glorious sight, indeed.
Freelance writer LeAnne Martin frequently writes for The Lookout and regularly writes about the beauty around us on her blog at www.glimsen.net.