There she is, guys: the girl of your dreams.
There he is, ladies: Prince Charming, alive and in the flesh.
This is the one. You may have been wrong before, maybe multiple times. But this time you’re sure because, this time, you’re putting God first.
So much so, you’ve quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 on your Instagram, “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.”
This is what you’re going to do, and this time it will produce the desired result.
Coffee Cup Commentary
This is a “comfort verse” and it tells you that trusting in God means believing Him to work out the circumstances for you and letting His wisdom guide you in how to do things. Verse six tells us to put God first and He’ll make our paths straight by making life the way we want it to be. Putting “God first,” as this verse tells us, is a sure way to get what we desire. And quoting verses like Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great way to start.
This verse also serves as a go-to when things do not go our way. After we’ve exhausted our solutions, we can turn to our Bibles and be reminded that God wants to show us the path.
Proverb 3:5-6 is a call to live heart, soul, and mind in a God-ward way. There is a progression to these verses we often miss. It begins with “heart,” moves to “understanding,” and ends with “ways” or actions. It’s only after each of these we actually discover what God will do. The implication is that God “making straight our paths” is what happens as we trust Him with our heart, turn from our own understanding, and live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Verse five exhorts us to place all our confidence in His providence, acknowledging that our wisdom is flawed and limited while His is perfect and limitless (Jeremiah 10:12). God is not only able to provide what we need, but He also understands what is best for us. “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
“Trusting in the Lord” does not begin with having faith during specific, difficult, circumstances. It begins with following Him in areas on which He has already spoken clearly (Psalm 37:3). For instance, if we do not trust Him by following what He says about covetousness, lust, speech, and gathering with believers (Ephesians 4:29; Hebrews 10:25), we are not really trusting Him with our circumstances either.
The terminology, “Acknowledging Him in all our ways,” moves past simply acknowledging God in hard circumstances or on Sunday mornings. It calls for every area of our lives to be lived with reference to God. Recognize His power to work, His wisdom to guide, His love to discipline. Live in light of His justice and mercy, kindness and knowledge. It involves seeing who He is and living in response by obeying and loving Him.
These verses are more than promises that good things will result from us trusting in the right way. Proverbs 3 is an “admonitory discourse,” meaning it contains admonitions or instructions on how to live. The Proverbs often graciously provide incentives along with principles for living, such as “He will make straight your paths.” But the main principle we should notice is that this is a way of life that we should strive to adopt, not something we use to serve ourselves.
When we are trusting in God’s way and not our own, living with reference to Him, He is already making our paths straight. He has made clear the way in which we are to live. The burden of wondering how to please Him is removed. There are benefits and comforts in this promise as well: God is able and willing to “make straight our paths” by removing obstacles and marking the way for us (James 1:5).
The book of Proverbs is not a book of guarantees that if we do A, God will automatically do B exactly how we want. The book contains principles for a happy and prosperous life in God’s covenant community. It involves living according to God’s commandments and giving Him the supreme place in our hearts and lives.
What we miss
When we take a proverb, and any other verse, out of context, we may be doing more than removing them the surrounding passage; we can be moving them away from the overall context of knowing and serving God. The Bible exists to glorify and reveal God through the person of His Son (John 5:39). So every verse and promise is for Christians as they seek to live for Him. Isolated from this, Scripture texts are taken alone and used as a means of making our lives easier rather than helping us to love and follow God.
The truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 is that we can trust and know God, and live with reference to Him in a way that will transform our lives. We will lean less on our understanding not because we’re not getting what we want, but because we know and believe that God’s way is better.