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 your paths straight.
There it is folks: the most-quoted proverb… and it’s a good one. There’s so much more wisdom in Proverbs 3, yet these two verses stand out for good reason. Solomon starts with a major presupposition here: if we lean on our own understanding, things will not end well. As Christians, we surely understand this in an eternal sense, but we fail to live by it while our feet are still planted on this planet. We fail to realize where our sinful hearts can take us, which is why we don’t give God our whole heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
I wake up daily, though, with a renewed sense of my need for Him. I need straight paths in the world in which I live. Even if those paths involve pain, trials, or suffering, they are still better than the zig-zag paths of my “own understanding.” This is a common theme in the Proverbs. Duane Garrett, professor & linguist at Southern Seminary, offers great commentary on these verses:
Subordinating one’s own understanding to the Lord is in keeping with the major thesis of Proverbs, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Trust in the LORD is necessary for fulfilling any of the wise ways of life taught in Proverbs; trusting the Lord is closely connected to “fearing” him. With all your heart indicates that trust goes beyond intellectual assent to a deep reliance on the Lord, a settled confidence in his care and his faithfulness to his Word. Do not lean on your own understanding further explains trusting in the Lord. One’s “understanding” in Proverbs is his perception of the right course of action. The wise will govern themselves by what the Lord himself declares, and will not set their own finite and often-mistaken understanding against his. To make straight a person’s paths means to make the course of the person’s life one that continually progresses toward a goal. In Proverbs, the emphasis is on the moral quality of one’s life path (here, its moral “straightness”).
Questions For Reflection:
- What stands in the way of you trusting the Lord with all your heart? Explain.
- Do you have an example of a time in your life where you leaned on your own understanding, and how that was detrimental in some way?
Let’s share, boast in our weaknesses, and learn from each other as we pursue straighter paths in Christ.
By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor