In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.
These verses begin the second of T.S. Eliot’s four quartets, and vividly illustrate a cycle of renewal and decay that Europe had come to know all too well. Writing during the beginning of the Second World War, Eliot was not the only person to blame the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles for creating an atmosphere in which military conquest once again became an attractive option for Germany. And this, it seems, is only the most recent iteration of a cycle that began even before memory.
As an American living abroad, I am asked constantly about the upcoming presidential election. People are curious about the electoral college, about what makes a swing state swing, about why red and blue are the conservative and liberal party colors (they’re reversed in the UK).
The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun. In this season of transition when we welcomed a new baby into our family and prepared for an international move, these words (and the song they inspired) keep running through my head.
Moments of change and transition are challenging. When we step away from familiar routines, places and people, it makes us much more aware of how vulnerable we are. This is especially true when we don’t have control over the change as it happens.
It's simple. It's short. Yet it's incredibly powerful. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible–with good reason. It sets forth a life-changing truth that is worthy of our attention. Spend three minutes reading this article, and see if you agree. 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. Let's break down this life-changing truth to make sure we understand it.
Trust in the Lord.It starts with trust. Any real relationship has to start with some level of trust. It's the only way a friendship will endure. It's the only way a marriage will work out. It's the simple reason why an employer hires workers, or why the workers stay employed. It's all about trust. Trust in the Lord, however, takes on an entirely new dimension. This is our trust in an eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God. He is worthy of our trust. The trust is important, not just because of who God is, but because of the way in which we must trust him: with all your heart. It involves every fiber of your being. That's the kind of trust we can have in God–a complete, unshakable, deep, abiding trust. If you are a Christian, you trusted God for salvation. You can trust Him with the rest of your life, too–every detail. Read part 2, Don't Lean On Your Understanding
Read part 1 first, Trust In The Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 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.
Don't Lean on Your UnderstandingThe verse involves a positive–something you must do. But it also involves a negative–something you must not do. Don't lean on your own understanding. Basically, the verse is telling us that we ought not to be self-reliant. We cannot pursue a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship, or an educational choice, simply based on our own understanding. It must be founded in our trust in God. Self-reliance is such a deceptive trap. We begin to pride ourselves in something–our savvy, our looks, our intellect, our spirituality, our family, whatever. And when we do, it takes away our trust in the Lord. It has become trust in self. The result is a dangerous compromise that will lead to destruction.
Instead, Acknowledge God. In Everything.The antidote to this self-reliance is found in the first command of the verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Which is developed in the next verse: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” The word “acknowledge” isn't merely a polite tip of the hat to the Man Upstairs, or a few words of grace over your meal, or even perfunctory attendance at church to let Him know we're still cool with what He's doing. It's way more. It's allowing Him access, control, command, and involvement in all your ways. What's the result of this? Will God ruin your life? Will he be a Sovereign Killjoy? Will He rob you of fun? The verse ends on a promise. What is it?
He will make your paths straight.The promise is put in the form of a metaphor. What does it mean to have straight paths? Several things. First, paths lead toward an end–a destination, a goal. Thus, trusting God wholeheartedly in every area of life gives your life a sense of purpose and priority. Second, it indicates that there will be a clear understanding of where you are going and what you are doing. It makes daily decision-making an easier and less painful task. You realize you are trusting Him. He, in turn, is making your paths straight. Thus, the way ahead is more apparent. Third, “straight paths” suggests moral purity. It suggests a life that has less of sinful compromise and more of wholesome attitudes, actions, and behavior. That's the kind of life that God promises. It's the kind of life that you can have. It begins with trust. It involves acknowledging God in every way.