As I lay sobbing on my bed, unfulfilled longings making my heart ache, God spoke to me.
Wednesday evening I sat sobbing on my bed under a cloud of hopeless despondency. It was an outburst provoked by a picture and a message, and undoubtedly fuelled in part by floods of helpful hormones. There was a guest waiting downstairs, my mother was about to serve dinner, and here I was having a mini breakdown, hating myself for it, and throwing jaded, hurt-laden questions to the heavens. I sniffled my way to bed that night, feeling unreasonably despairing. You know those moments when you realize God is really trying to get your attention? When something keeps coming up again and again and again?
A particular verse had been appearing repeatedly, whether verbatim or simply in concept. Social media feeds. Messages from friends. Books. "Verse of the day" in my Bible app. The text was everywhere.
It's a verse I could recite in my sleep, and perhaps for this reason I hadn't paid it much attention, but when it popped up again on Thursday morning, this time it spoke to my heart, which was still slightly fragile from the night before.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT)
"OK, God, what are you saying with this repeated passage?" As I pondered the verse, journal and cup of tea in hand, two thoughts occurred to me.
First, this was God's encouragement to me. In my moments of discouragement, I had thought, "Can I really trust that God is guiding me?" It had been one of my tearful questions the night before. Now, I knew this verse was whispering an answer. I sensed God addressing my heart:
"Haven't you been seeking my will? Haven't you been open to whatever that was, with all the honesty of your will you could muster, regardless of your feelings?" "Yes, I have." "Then I have honored that; you can trust that I am leading you. Stop second guessing all the time just because things aren't always going as you would like or expect! You are learning to listen to my voice, and you know that I am actually guiding you, and that it's not a product of your imagination. You can trust Me to direct you."
Second, this verse was also a much-needed reminder not to rely on ("lean on," as some translations phrase it) my own understanding. I think that's a huge issue for many of us. It is for me. How easy it is to look at our lives sometimes and compare our current circumstances with how God has been leading or speaking to us -- or even just to look at one or the other without the comparison -- and think, "I don't understand!"
Often, we're relying on what we think we know to try and figure things out.
"The key to receiving answers to prayers for guidance is to let go of our constant attempt to 'figure things out.' Really, it is almost incessant; I will be in the midst of seeking the God of four hundred billion billion suns on some issue of guidance, and in the midst of asking him, I am thinking through the options, trying to figure it out as I pray." (John Eldredge in Moving Mountains)
Often we're relying on our own ken, our perspective, our interpretation of situations, even when we purport to be trusting in God. I know I do that, and I can get frustrated and discouraged as a result.
In fact, the concept came up in my reading a couple of days ago: "Learn also to wait on God for the unfolding of His will. Let God form your plans about everything in your mind and heart and then let Him execute them. Do not rely on any wisdom of your own. For many times His execution will seem so contradictory to the plan He gave. Simply listen, obey, and trust God even when it seems highest folly to do so." (Streams in the Desert)
Learning not to lean on my own understanding is a struggle, but for every time I complain, "God, I don't understand why..." this verse reminds me of how God responds: Trust Me. "But in my perspective, this is..." Trust. "God, You said this, but it looks like..." Trust. "But so and so thinks...and they may have a point." Trust. "Are You sure I shouldn't/should do this?" Trust.
As if I needed a little extra confirmation or emphasis to the message, the same thing has been circling round my head for the last couple of days in Portuguese. The lyrics of a song I hadn't heard in ages popped into my mind, and I pottered round the house humming to myself, "Confia, confia! [Trust, trust!]"
Today I looked up all the lyrics to the song. They say, in part,
"Trust Him who has chosen you, in Him who has promised you, trust, trust, trust. Trust, even if there is no way out -- even if there is no more life -- even if everything went wrong -- trust. Trust, even if He is on the cross -- even if the light is buried -- trust, for on the third day death will not hold you. Trust, even if He is silent -- even if the world is over -- trust, He will arrive in time to bless you."
What is the secret of being able to trust, of being sure that God is directing your path? There is a clue in verse 6: "Seek His will in all you do," or "In all your ways acknowledge Him..."
This is not only about asking for guidance, though, or tagging on to your prayers the phrase, "Your will be done." The Hebrew word translated as "acknowledge" or "seek" is actually the word for "know."
Thus, the verse could also be rendered something like this: "Know God in all of your ways, and He will direct your paths."
It comes down to relationship. To friendship. God wants that personal, intimate connection with you. He wants you to know Him as He knows you. He wants to speak into your situations. It is possible.
I love that reminder.
"If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me." (Jeremiah 29:13) "I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me... My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10: 14, 27)
So here I am. The cloud of despair and of doubtful questioning has lifted this morning. I am reminded, and I am aiming to obey -- to trust God and not rely on my own understanding, to know Him in all of my ways, and to rest in the resulting surety that He is showing me the right paths to take.
First written in 2017