I hate being lost.
Few things are more frustrating to me than taking a wrong turn and having no idea what to do next. I am, as they say, directionally challenged, so I have made many a wrong turn in my life.
It was a happy day when someone invented MapQuest, and then even better, a GPS so that accurate directions could be right at my fingertips. Not only that, but when I sometimes make a wrong turn EVEN with GPS, my phone automatically reroutes, so that, basically, I can never be on the wrong track!
If only the rest of life had a GPS.
There are so many areas of life where I still feel lost. Wondering which way to lead our church into the next season of ministry. Unsure of how to help my children learn life skills. Not sure where I should be prioritizing my time.
Fortunately, God speaks direction into our lostness through a very well-known Proverb. I memorized it long ago, even wrote a little tune to help me remember it. But it was only recently that I discovered something surprising in it that entirely changes its focus for me. It reads like this:
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.’ -Proverbs 3:5-6
The outcome is something we value: God will make our paths straight. That is what He says He will do. Before that, there are three things for us to do:
1 – Trust in the Lord with all our heart. Not half your heart, not most of your heart, ALL of your heart. Reminds me of another command: to LOVE the Lord with all your heart. We are to believe in, have faith in, rest in God’s goodness and promises with all that is in us.
This is in stark contrast to what we typically do, which is…
2 – Do not lean on our own understanding. Maybe it’s because we’ve been burned by others so many times, but we so often fall back on our own judgment, because after all, who else is going to care more for my well-being than me, myself, and I?
But God calls us away from this self-reliance to focus our reliance on Him. And here’s where I discovered the surprise that opened up this proverb to me in a fresh way:
3 – In all our ways acknowledge Him. I have always understood this to mean that I should give God a nod in every area of my life. I should let it be known, to myself and to others, that God deserves recognition. Kind of like a Christian football player pointing toward heaven after a touchdown to acknowledge that God is really the One behind the achievement.
If I read the proverb this way, I might think that if I just recognize God in the confusing circumstances of my life, if I give God a nod, He will show me which way to go.
Then I can take the right (straight) path, succeed in my endeavor, and life will be grand, right?
Only I don’t think that’s what this proverb is saying.
One day I did a little digging into the word “acknowledge” and discovered something fascinating. The Hebrew word translated “acknowledge” is ידע (yada), which appears over 950 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is only translated “acknowledge” 6 times. By far the most common translation is “know” (over 500 times). This includes close, experiential knowledge – including the intimacy between husband and wife, as in “Adam knew Eve his wife” in Genesis 4:1 (one of many examples).
With over 900 occurrences, there are scores of other shades of meaning to this rich word, but I find it fascinating to employ the definition of “know” in Proverbs 3:6, as follows:
In all your ways know Him…
In fact, the Amplified Bible reflects this idea:
In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him…
This puts a whole different spin on what I am to do when I’m lost.
Yes, I put my trust fully in the Lord, and I stop leaning on my own ideas.
But rather than just giving God a nod, rather than just giving a shout out so that He knows I still believe in Him, so that He might bless me with the direction I’m supposed to go – RATHER than that my goal is to know Him better.
To know Him experientially, closely, even intimately.
Instead of using God to find direction, use your need for direction
as an opportunity to get to know God better.
The more I get to know God, the more I experience His inherent goodness, His benevolence, His kindness, His love. And as I know those qualities more deeply, not just as academic or theological principles, but as the warm expressions of a real Person Who calls Himself my Father – as I truly know Him, I will trust Him more deeply.
And stop trusting myself.
May THAT be the desired end of my search for direction in life. Not a directional sign that tells me what step to take, so I can continue my journey on my own, “thank You very much God for the help, I’ll call again when I need You” – but rather that my goal is to KNOW Him better, to trust Him more deeply.
Then God making my path straight is just icing on the cake – my Companion on the path is the real reward.
Question: How would it change your life to seek to know God better when you need direction, rather than using God to get direction?