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~ Trusting, Resting, and Being Disciplined ~
Many are familiar with this often-quoted passage from Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge 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, NIV).
Acknowledging Him in all our ways means keeping Him always in mind and heart, being conscious of His ever-Presence. Such keeping is cultivated through contemplative practices and “praying without ceasing.” In the original language, “straight paths” is not about direction, for our spiritual journey is best described as a labyrinth, a circuitous path that alternately approaches and moves away from the center while ultimately reaching it. Throughout Scripture, “straight” connotes a freedom from journey-stopping obstacles, allowing us to reach our goals that are acknowledged by God.
Not “be[ing] wise in your own eyes, fear[ing] the Lord and shun[ing] evil” does have wonderful psychosomatic powers for the health of the soul directly impacts the body. “Nourishment to your bones” indicates a transcending of the body into the core of the person. We feel this nourishment as a consequence of humble repentance.
But “trust[ing] in the Lord with all your heart” can be a challenging endeavor, which is why it is a prevailing theme throughout Scripture. When it comes to love, trust, commitment, surrender and following, Scripture is clear that “all” of our heart is to be involved, not a portion dedicated to God and prayer, often as a “last resort” and the rest devoted to acting on our own behalf, often fearfully and desperately, without the full acknowledgement of God.
The involvement of all of our heart bestows (not earns) the virtue of “righteousness” which is the “right way.” So “[A righteous man] will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes” (Psalm 112:6b-8, NIV). Foes include the invisible as well as the visible, adversaries of the spirit as well as the body.
How many of us can claim that uninterrupted experience of a steadfast, all-trusting, secure and fearless heart? God speaks through Isaiah, His prophet, in eloquent detail regarding this quest:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust
is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
O people of Zion...you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon has he hears he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:15-16, 18-21).
Repentance, trust, rest, quietness, strength and salvation are intimately interwoven. They are depicted as a package, not a series of events. When repentance, trust, rest or quietness is absent, strength and salvation are compromised. What a sad indictment it is that God would observe, “you would have none of it.” What is holding us back? Not acknowledging God in all our ways and relying on our own horses. Even fast, strong horses (personal resources) will not generate in us the spirit of repentance, trust, quietness, strength, fearlessness and assurance of being saved from our foes.
Yet our God incredibly and inexplicably “longs to be gracious...rises to show you compassion.” Our response can be to cry for help with all of our hearts and our eyes will see our teachers and our ears will hear that Voice of Wisdom behind us.
“If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (Ecclesiastes 11:3-6, NIV). The reference to clouds raining and trees resting where they fall echoes a pervading theme in this poetic wisdom book: Things are the way they are and it isn’t productive to ruminate over what could have been given our limited knowledge or tiny role in the scheme of things. What matters is that we take stock of the situation and move on, which is the point of the next verse. Scattering seed in the wind or harvesting while it’s raining isn’t smart. But constantly delaying the planting or harvesting out of fear the wind will kick up or the clouds will start raining results in being too late to do either. Windows of opportunity are lost when we think better ones will come along.
The last verse quoted above increases the intensity of these points, particularly in the original Hebrew. In John 3:8, Jesus talks of how we don't know “from where the wind blows or where it’s going.” That “wind” and the “wind” in verse 5 in Ecclesiastes are the same word in the original languages: Spirit. The Hebrew better renders that verse as: “As you do not know the path of the spirit, or how the spirit (life, breath) enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God...”
The same point is even more forcefully made in the Book of Job: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!...’” (Job 38:1-5a, NIV). God goes on like that for the next four chapters. “Lean not on your own understanding” indeed!
While rest and quiet are merged with this trust and humility, idleness is not. In addition to not being wind and cloud watchers, the author of Ecclesiastes advises, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (v. 6). When Christ offers, “Come to Me and I shall give you rest” He is not promising 24 hours a day of napping, reading and watching television. His peace “is not as the world gives.” His rest is from burdens of distress, affliction and the human angst that emerges from sin and relying on our own horses for deliverance.
Ecclesiastes again: “Remember him [your Creator] – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it cam from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (vv. 6-7) Or, “In all your ways acknowledge him...” This requires surrender, “losing your life so that you will find it.” This full-hearted trust is married to faith, and Christ is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
So many will have “none of it” and so many others will stumble at
the full sacrifice of one’s full heart. Here is one way God intervenes
for us: “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the
point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement
that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines
those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ ...God disciplines
us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems
pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest
of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews
12:4-6, 10b-11, NIV). Eventually, we learn to trust Him with all our heart.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © August 29, 2003
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
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