“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” (Prov. 3:5-6).
What does this call to “trust” God mean? And how does trust shift our “own understanding”? As we face issues do we need to take unique spiritual steps? Should we ask, “What should I do next, Lord?” even when we’re buying a pizza? Do we read a Bible verse or say a special prayer? Should we try to avoid thinking through issues before we step ahead?
How does it work?
Before we explore our place in this exchange let’s ask about God’s place. How do I fit into his reality? Does he really want my heartfelt trust? When I come to him is he somehow there, waiting for me “in Person”? Or, given the size of the universe and the vast number of other people on earth, isn’t he likely to be pretty busy?
And if he does, somehow, engage us all as individuals, what analogy applies? Is he like a divine queen bee who treats us like a hive of glory-producing worker bees? Or is he more like an earthly father who loves each member of his family?
Trust, in other words, has a range of options. It can be like my assurance that the pilot on my recent flight to Germany knew how to fly our Boeing 777. I didn’t meet him in person but the flight went well. Or it may be more personal and engaging: like a husband and a wife who enjoy sharing thoughts and experiences together.
Let’s presume the latter. The language of the proverb—to trust God “with all your heart”—speaks more to a marriage or family analogy. “Heart” is also the premier affective measure we read in the Great Commandment (in Deut. 6:5 & Mk 12:30). And any feeling we might have in trusting a pilot’s competence is nothing compared to this invitation to love our Creator.
So an associated question about God’s ability to handle huge numbers of bonds points to a certain type of trust: to our embrace of God’s immeasurable capacity for relationships. And to his offer of a reciprocal devotion: that he is asking for something he offers in return.
We also need to ask if his love is both affective—caring—and immediate. These are questions we can only explore by stepping into them. If we think God offers us this kind of devotion shouldn’t we ask him to show himself to us in our life experiences? And shouldn’t we read what he writes in the Bible to see if he answers our life questions? Affective assurance only grows through affective encounters.
If we ask God some of our big questions, here’s a starter: why did he create us? And given the mess we’ve made of his creation as sinners why should he stick with the relational goals he might have had at first for a sinless Adam & Eve? After the fall why does God stick with us?
One answer is that he’s persistent. He regularly reveals himself as a jilted lover who is determined to recapture his bride’s heart! We see this in Hosea and elsewhere—in sections of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and more. It’s also the point of God’s expressed love in John 3:16-19. And he’s sure he’ll succeed—at least with some of us. The narrative thread of the Bible, after all, ends in Revelation with the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Once again, let’s go back to the Proverbs. The collection as a whole reminds us of the folly of broken relationships. There are a host of crooked pathways cited again and again: lying, cheating, adultery, sexual immorality, and more. So the wise person who fears God is set out as a happy alternative to the fool who ignores him. And a complete response to God is the ultimate expression of wisdom.
So if we read Proverb 3:5-6 as God’s invitation to live in his love we finally get the point. We will never have straight pathways until we have a clear beacon to guide us. Or, as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Trust grows as we seek one who is completely trustworthy.