Yesterday, we looked at a couple of New Testament examples (one negative—Martha, the other positive—Jesus) of people under stress. Let’s now go back to the Old Testament and lift out some familiar words of hope to those clenched in the vise-grip of worry.
The following passage is so well known to most Christians that we have perhaps missed its significant message. Read slowly the words of Solomon:
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 your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
Go back and read these words again, please; this time aloud.
My Part, God’s Part
Let’s do a little digging. I’d like to suggest three important observations in what we just read.
First, there are four verbs—words of action—in these two verses:
- do not lean
- make straight
A closer look will reveal the first three verbs are commands. They are directed to the child of God, the Christian. They represent our responsibility.
Trust...do not lean...acknowledge....
The fourth verb is a promise. It declares God’s part in the transaction, His responsibility.
...He will make your paths straight.
Putting this observation in the form of a simple diagram looks like this:
Do not lean!
He will make straight...
A second observation: The same term is used no less than four times. Can you find it? Look again at the verses. Circle the word your. God is really emphasizing the personal nature of this truth. He is also telling us we must enter into it individually—no one else can apply it for us.
Your responsibility in your circumstances is to trust with all your heart...and to refuse to lean on your own understanding...acknowledging Him in all your ways...so that He might make straight your paths.
Get the picture? Responding to life’s situations is your choice. No one else can do it for you.
One final observation: The first phrase is linked to the last phrase, giving us the main idea. (Trust...He will make straight.) The two middle phrases merely amplify the main idea. (Do not lean...acknowledge.) Let me explain.
I am to trust in my Lord without hesitation and without reservation—with all my heart—so that He might step in and take control, making my way meaningful and straight. And what is involved in trusting with all my heart? Two particular decisions: one negative, the other positive.
- Negatively, I am not to lean on my own understanding.
- Positively, I am to acknowledge Him in the whole battleground.
The Swindoll Amplified Version
We’ve taken a deep look into these verses and examined the vital parts. Taking into account the meanings behind several significant terms, we can put the thought back together and see the whole picture in a new light.
Throw yourself completely upon the Lord—that is, cast all your present and future needs on Him who is your intimate Saviour-God—finding in Him your security and safety. Do this with all your mind and feeling and will. In order to make this possible, you must refuse to support yourself upon the crutch of human ingenuity. Instead, recognize His presence and concern in each one of your circumstances. Then He (having taken full control of the situation) will thoroughly smooth out and straighten your paths, removing each obstacle along the way.
What a magnificent promise to all the “Marthas”—of both sexes—reading this devotional!
Applying Your Personalized Version
As I think all this through, several specific truths seem to bounce off the pages of Scripture:
- This is a personal promise for anxiety-prone people to claim right now. God has preserved this statement just for you. Claim it!
- God will do His part, but first we must do our part. He will keep His promise if we obey His commands. Keep in mind that our response to His commands precedes His part in the transaction
- God wants our total trust. Yes, total. Nothing held back. No games. No empty, pious-sounding words. No, He commands our absolute confidence
- There is no area which He is unable to handle. Did you note the twice-repeated “all”? God is a specialist in every circumstance. That includes yours. Today
- Since this promise is to be personally applied, how about filling in the blank with your current stress right now? Instead of reading:
....in all your ways recognize Him, and He will smooth out your path, removing all obstacles.
you fill in the space:
...in _______________________ recognize Him...
Right this moment, take that worry that is eating away at you like a rapidly growing cancer, and turn it over to Him as you write or envision it in that blank space. Refuse to brood over it any longer! Cast aside doubt and fear and leave it all with Him. Then stand back and watch Him work.
Excerpted from Stress Fractures, copyright © 2004 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.