“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. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)
Most people are familiar with Proverbs 3:5-6. We take comfort in the knowledge that God will make our paths straight when we acknowledge Him, and we encourage those who are struggling to simply trust in the Lord. But when it comes down to actual application, what does this mean? What does it really mean to acknowledge God? And, in the words of the less familiar verse 7, how do we keep from being wise in our own eyes? What exactly is involved with trusting the LORD with a whole heart?
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines “acknowledge” as, “accepting or admitting the truth or existence of [something]”. Thus, if we want to acknowledge God in all our ways, we must start by admitting that He exists and that He has something to say about whatever we’re doing at the time. So often, we rush into things, never stopping to ask God what He thinks about the situation. When it comes to big things, we do usually pray about them. But here’s the thing: the verse doesn’t say, “In all your major life decisions acknowledge Him”; it says, “In all your ways.” Before we do anything, whether big or small, we must first accept the truth that God has an opinion on it and humble ourselves before Him by seeking His will.
After we do that, we can move on to not being wise in our own eyes. This is perhaps one of the most difficult things for us to do. As humans, we’re all sinful, and sin often manifests itself in pride. We like to think we know everything, and we certainly don’t need someone guiding us every step of the way. It’s one thing to admit God’s presence in our lives; it’s quite another to confess that He is far wiser than we are and knows exactly what we should do. But that is exactly what Solomon teaches in this proverb. When we do our own thing without listening to God’s instructions, we are wise in our own ways. We are telling God that we don’t need Him to guide us. Yet whenever we go our own way, it will lead to destruction. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) This is the fate of every step taken without God. It is only by obeying Him that we will come to the good things He has promised. Following Him will give us healing and refreshment, will instill in us absolute peace. God alone can see the end; that is why He alone knows the paths we should walk in. When we acknowledge Him and submit to His wisdom, He leads us in the right way. Our own understanding is frail; but God alone will never fail.