“Trust 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
Have you ever raised your hand in class, proudly answered a question, and then felt really embarrassed when you find out you were wrong? That happens to me sometimes. I can be so sure that I know the answer but then I realize that I don’t and should have read the textbook before going to class.
Last Christmas, I put up and decorated my family’s Christmas tree by myself. When it came time to put up Christmas lights on the outside of my house, I didn’t do it alone but had help from the rest of my family. If I had tried to do it alone, I wouldn’t have been able to. I may have been able to get some of the lights up but I wouldn’t have finished. I would have gotten tired really fast and the lights I did put up wouldn’t have looked that great.
These are examples of what it’s like when we rely on our own strength to do something instead of relying on God. Sometimes we can do things by ourselves, like when I put up the Christmas tree. But most of the time we will get tired and not be able to do it all, even though it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that we can do everything.
I can’t do it. The only way I can do it is by not doing it myself, but by letting God do it. Sometimes I think that I can have patience and stay calm all on my own strength when I’m around someone who annoys me easily. Whenever I try doing that though, I wear myself out.
That’s what the verse means when it says lean not on your own understanding. It goes beyond what you know and extends into every aspect of your life. We can’t rely on ourselves because we can’t do it all. We can’t love everyone, we can’t have joy in every situation and we can’t make ourselves right before God. There’s no way that I in my own strength can do all of those things. But God can.
So what do we do instead of leaning on our own understanding? We trust in God.
We give it to Him and say, “Help me do this because there is no way I can do it without you.” And the great thing is that He does do it. He helps us out when we need Him (which is basically all the time) and He delights in doing it because He loves us. We recognize that we can’t do things on our own (that’s the acknowledging part), and then we give it over to Him.
Not only does God help us, but He does it way better than we ever could have. It’s like He’s waiting for us to give up our futile attempts to do things on our own. Once we hand it over to Him, He steps in and takes control and gives us more strength, more patience, more love, and more grace than we know what to do with. He helps us be kind to the person who frustrates us. He helps us have a good attitude when it’s our turn to take out the trash. And He does it all while delighting in us and helping us to trust in Him more.