Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. [Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)]
As I pondered an important decision, I realized I was trying to figure it out on my own. Relying on my own perception and trusting in my wisdom, however, is what got me into my dilemma in the first place. Based on some of the truly stupid choices I’ve made when leaning on my own understanding, it’s only through God’s grace that my life is not a total disaster.
Of course, it all started with Adam and Eve. As they listened to the serpent’s advice, they leaned on their own understanding of God’s prohibition about that fruit tree. Thinking that eating from it would make them as wise as God, they took those bites rather than checking with Him. Look at Sarai, the barren wife of Abram, who looked to her own solution for the lack of a son. Saying, “The Lord has prevented me from having children,” she followed the custom of her day and gave her servant Hagar to her husband. Give thought to her words. If the Lord had really barred her from having children, why was she trying to foil His plan with hers? Not trusting God’s promises, she leaned on her own understanding and made a grievous error. Consider the Israelites who made it all the way through the wilderness to Canaan by following God’s plan. Men were then sent out to scout the land, not to determine if they would move into it but to determine how they would go about it. When the scouts returned with reports of giants, however, the Israelites leaned on their own understanding of the situation rather than God’s promises. That error cost them forty years. David leaned on his own understanding when he decided to take a census. Although logic told him a nation’s strength is in the size of its army, God told him the nation’s strength was in the size of its God. Because David leaned on his own understanding, Israel suffered a plague and 70,000 people died. Although leaning on our own understanding doesn’t have to result in tragedy, it often does.
In an effort to make informed decisions, we watch television, read books, magazines, and newspapers and then turn to that font of information and misinformation—the Internet. We consult experts and not-so-expert experts, advisors, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Mistakenly, we think we can make sense of things and solve every problem. Unfortunately, our human understanding is pitifully limited and our motives are often suspect. Writing and debate classes taught me that we can make a good case for any side of a question. A good case, however, is not necessarily the right one! Human nature tells me we’re going to pick advisors who will agree with us and search deepest for information that supports the position we want. We often make up our minds and then look for information to support our stand. How often do we turn to the true giver of wisdom—God—and His book of wisdom—the Bible?
“I wish I knew what to do!” we exclaim. While I can’t tell anyone what to do, I can tell everyone what not to do—don’t lean on your own understanding!