Proverbs 16:9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Proverbs 20:22 “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?”
These two Proverbs have been very meaningful and comforting to me lately in the midst of many changes, decisions and experiences (with many more to come!). God has been reminding me of His faithfulness and how He is God over and in my life. I have been challenged recently to truly trust Him not only for, but in every step and direction I take even when I may doubt or be uncertain of decisions I need to make.
I have always had a fear of making “mistakes.” For example, when I played baseball, I dreaded more than anything making an error. I hated making errors. On the one hand that “fear” was one factor that drove me to practice perhaps more than anyone else and become very good defensively. On the other hand, that fear could be crippling in many ways psychologically!
Likewise, because I am under no delusions regarding myself, I know how much I need God. It drives me to “look to Him” sometimes perhaps more than others that are more “confident” in themselves, decision-making skills, experience or “intelligence.” However, the issue is, I may be aware of my need for Him but do I really trust Him? The problem especially arises, (as I am sure many other people find a common struggle) when I am uncertain or unsure of what decision or course God wants me to take…but I need to make a choice. Then I worry and am terrified that I will make the wrong choice.
However, two recent experiences really reminded me of the Proverbs above and God’s faithfulness (and therefore convicted me of my lack of trust in Him!). The first was while in Myanmar (Burma) on a mission trip in April. The situation was this: the cost of a flight within the country was more than anticipated. Due to that and other things we had already committed too, it didn’t look like we could really afford to fly back to where we started (which we needed to get back to as our return flight to the US would be from there a day later). So we began to look at other options.
One option was to take a six-hour car ride and then wait about four hours and then take an eight-hour bus ride overnight to get to where we needed to go. It was cheaper (and “enticing” just to say we did it!), but not time-conducive, convenient or comfortable for four of us (we then would have a three-hour flight, a four-hour layover, fourteen-hour flight and for me a four-hour car ride back home…only to then that very week be loading all our stuff on a truck to move to another time zone thirty hours away! Needless to say that would be tiring enough in and of itself!) But it also was potentially risky because of traffic or other hazards that if faced, could really be problematic, especially when you have a flight to catch and need to be there in time for it! If something where to go wrong, it could end up costing much more than we may have other wised saved! However, this was the course I finally “resolved” in my heart we would do, even though I was uncertain when having to make that decision.
But then God showed us that while we may make our plans, He directs our steps! It turned out that due to certain circumstances, we ended up saving half of the money we had planned or budgeted for in another area. Not being sure though if we would be able to book a flight that quickly (process is very different inside the country!) we decided to try…and were able last-minute to book the flight.
And this is where the testimony really comes into play. Because of this, we were able to have our morning open and therefore were able to minister in a center where over 200 adults, teenagers and even some children are sent because of various addictions. As I shared with them about God’s grace, his heart for the lost, and how He is a God of redemption and restoration who delivers and saves, His anointing was clearly evident. In fact, even though what I shared with them was very similar to what I shared all that week in other places, His presence and power and the passion with which the message was delivered was “stronger” there than anywhere! It actually was a personal highlight of the trip…and it was something we had not originally planned for at all! I don’t know what all God did in the hearts of those there, but His heart clearly came through and we all acknowledged the reality that God ordained and orchestrated our steps!
It happened again in regard to moving out to Colorado. Originally the plan was to leave on Thursday, arrive Friday and unload/move in on Saturday. However, the rental company pushed our move in date back a few days and by then my family had already bought return tickets back to PA for Sunday. This meant they would not be able to stay and help us unload and we would have to stay with someone or in a hotel for a few days. However, upon arriving, not only were we exhausted, but the weather was horrible with hail, rain and snow! It would have been miserable, if not impossible weather to try to unload and move everything in. This coming week however, will be gorgeous!
The point of these two examples (among many other examples I could cite) remind me that God is in the details or very “steps” that we take. He is Sovereign and knows the end from the beginning. He sees the future and all factors. He knows which “way” we should take and go, even if we are unsure. He knows things we don’t know. We may make our plans (and planning has its place to a certain point) but we are not God, nor should we try to be God or trust in ourselves or our “decision making” abilities/understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6 instead advises: “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.”
This doesn’t say we will “figure it all out” if we trust the Lord. Rather it says, as we trust Him and submit ourselves and our ways to Him, He will direct our steps as we go. He will “guide our steps” so that our “path is straight.” If we wait until we have it all “figured out” or “understood” we will never “go.” And think about this: God can’t make straight a path that isn’t being traveled! And if we did “have it all figured out” why would we need to trust, depend on or even have need of God and relationship with Him? Faith is not having all the facts or having it all figured out. Hebrews 11:8 says about Abraham that “when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Don’t miss that last part. Abraham made a move and went before having all the answers and information, simply because God told him to go. He didn’t know everything about where he was being called to go, but he knew he was being called to go there!
Like Abraham, God will test our obedience to Him to see if we truly trust Him even when we don’t have all the “answers” “information” “specifics” or “details” in advance. We like to believe or “be” in control but God wants us to set us free to not only know He is in control, but so we come to trust Him in the affairs, direction and course of our lives.
This is what God was reminding me of in regard to trusting Him. As long as we are not deliberately disobeying His direction or commands, and as long as we are truly submitting our life, will and ways to Him, (allowing Him to guide and lead us according to His will and for his glory), we need not fear making a “wrong decision.” The problem only comes when we are being stubborn, rebellious or disobedient and try to go our own way. As one old saying puts it: “They who will carve for themselves shall cut their fingers.” But if I surrender my will and ways to Him as my Lord and shepherd, then I need to trust Him that He will lead, guide, bless and direct. Consider the following promises from scripture:
Psalm 37:5-6: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
Proverbs 16:3-4: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The Lord works out everything for his own ends —even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
This is where we (I) need to trust God completely. If I am “leaning” and “looking” to him, as well as “committing” all to Him, then I can trust He will sovereignly orchestrate and make “straight” my paths. He will direct and at times redirect so that I am not going off course. He is a faithful shepherd. Does not a shepherd lead his sheep? Sheep don’t need to know everything. They need to trust and follow their shepherd, for it’s his job to lead them to all they need and through all the “ways” they need to traverse! And God is not only a faithful shepherd; He is also a Sovereign Lord. He not only leads and guides…He also orchestrates and ordains as we depend on and commit our ways to Him!
I think Matthew Henry sums it up well in his classic commentary: “The best man is no better than God makes him; and every creature is that to us which it is the will of God that it should be. Our enterprises succeed, not as we desire and design, but as God directs and disposes. The goings even of a strong man (so the word signifies) are of the Lord, for his strength is weakness without God, nor is the battle always to the strong. We have no foresight of future events, and therefore know not how to forecast for them: How can a man understand his own way? How can he tell what will befal him, since God’s counsels concerning him are secret, and therefore how can he of himself contrive what to do without divine direction? We so little understand our own way that we know not what is good for ourselves, and therefore we must make a virtue of necessity, and commit our way unto the Lord, in whose hand it is, follow the guidance and submit to the disposal of Providence.”