My son and I enjoy hunting together, and if we have a successful season, we have enough meat to feed our family all year. On one occasion, we were walking back to the truck bundled up in camo on a cold night. He said something to me, and I quickly snapped back at him. Later, I lay in bed and thought about my reaction. I tried to figure out the source of my frustration and realized it was due to some struggles I was facing and what seemed like a barrage of unanswered prayers.
I thought about recent prayers where I had pleaded with God to work. They weren’t selfish prayers, just requests to God to correct prevalent evil or work in situations where people were suffering. Why wasn’t God working? Why hadn’t he swooped down and righted the wrongs I was praying against? Why hadn’t he delivered?
The most natural answer is that there must be something wrong with me. Perhaps I wasn’t believing enough, or maybe it’s some sin in my life. While these are certainly possibilities to be considered, they are not always the answer. Oftentimes, the Lord works in ways we don’t understand, and he never seems to work on the timetable we’ve established.
Proverbs 3:5-6 repeated over and over in my mind:
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 (ESV).
These verses are so popular they’ve become cliché, however, they are the word of God so don’t let their familiarity cause you to overlook them. Perhaps they’ve become so popular because they deal with one of the most difficult things we as humans struggle with: trusting God instead of ourselves.
“Lean not on your own understanding.” It can often be true, perhaps more than we realize, that our understanding is often opposed to trusting in God. What seems, to our finite minds, the right way that God should answer our prayer can simply be wrong. Proverbs 14:12 states, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” We can pray for his will to be done then still get upset when he doesn’t do ours. When we can’t understand why God hasn’t worked the way we think he should, we are to trust that the Lord knows better than we do. We are to trust his ways instead of our understanding.
I see this in my relationship with my kids. As much as I love them, I oftentimes have to withhold something that seems good to them. Their young minds can’t understand why I won’t let them ride their bikes in the street, eat another candy bar, or stay up later. It seems like such a harmless request to them, but I have a better understanding of what is good for them and make my decisions accordingly. Sometimes I give them their requests, but other times I love them too much do so. Trying to explain it to them often doesn’t work, so I just look into their tear-filled eyes and tell them, “I know you don’t understand, but trust that I love you and I’m doing what’s best for you.”
It’s easy to trust the Lord when he works the way I want him to. It’s easy to trust the Lord when my life seems to be going well. It’s easy to tell others to trust the Lord when they don’t understand. But, the truth is, when I don’t understand what God is doing, trusting him can be one of the hardest commands to keep. The Lord never promised that we’ll understand all his ways, but he promised he’ll always work for our good and his glory. When I don’t understand, the Lord uses Proverbs 3:5-6 to look into my tear-filled eyes and tell me, “I know you don’t understand, but trust that I love you and I’m doing what’s best for you.”
He’s never failed me before.