“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Understanding. I am obsessed with it. I NEED to know why things are. I love rules and quickly get lost in gray areas. I lean so heavily on my own understanding that I very often wander down the crooked path of “Why?” The age-old question of, “Why does a God of love allow so much pain?” plagues me more often than I care to admit. It’s sometimes accompanied by, “What is our purpose in life?”, and “Why did God even create us in the first place?”
I want things my way or no way. I don’t want to acknowledge God in the gray areas with a faithful, “God is God and I am not” mindset. I want Him to take AWAY the gray areas so that I can be more comfortable.
I’ve been studying Isaiah 45. It’s a beautiful passage about God moving King Cyrus to build a temple for Him in Jerusalem. Much opposition surrounded the building of the temple, but the people of God pressed on in spite of their fear (Ezra 3:3). When only the foundation was completed, the people gave such a great shout of joy and praise that it could be heard from far away (Ezra 3:11, 13). They clearly cared more about accomplishing a task for God than they feared the uncertainty of the people around them. The king of Assyria tried to oppose the building, but God changed his attitude so that he not only stopped opposing them, but he actually assisted them with the process (Ezra 6:22). God said, “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight” (Isaiah 45:13). Would you look at that!? Cyrus acknowledged God and God made his paths straight! Sound familiar? In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.
But, what if I don’t acknowledge God…because I want so badly to lean on my own understanding? What if I am too afraid of the unknown to let God be God? Here’s the answer. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me” (Isaiah 45:5). This verse brought me to my knees. God will strengthen me, even when I don’t acknowledge Him. When I am wandering the crooked paths of fear and “why?”, God is still giving me strength for my wanderings. HE IS STILL OFFERING ME STRENGTH EVEN WHEN I AM QUESTIONING HIS WAYS.
When God leads me on His straight path, it definitely doesn’t always feel like the easiest way. During times of uncertainty, instead of allowing Him to take my right hand (Isaiah 45:1) and lead me, I start flailing in anger and fear, trying to get away from the Glorious methods I don’t have the capacity to understand. In my struggle, I actually hurt myself more, fumbling around in the dark through the jagged, mountainous terrain. If only I will stop trying to understand Ways that are much higher than my ways, if only I will take God’s hand in trust, acknowledging that He knows better, the power of what God will do for me is staggering. God says, “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:2-3).
God will level the mountains of our trials, cut the bars of our bondage, help us find treasures in the darkness, and He calls us personally by name as He leads us on the straight path. But even when we wander down the crooked path of fear and questioning, He still gives us strength. What kind of Love is this?
“All the way back, she had imagined him gloating and taunting, rubbing her face in her own broken pride. Instead, he knelt before her and washed her dirty, blistered feet.” This part of my favorite book, Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, pierces my heart every time. I imagine myself wandering around in the darkness in fear, feet catching the sharp rocks, tripping over the questions and doubts, covered in the dirt that I throw at God when I don’t like something He’s doing. And yet, because God loves me more than I can fathom, He still gives me enough strength through the crooked path to make it back to Him, crawling and broken, groveling in the dirt, face to the ground before the Almighty God. I deserve my wounds rubbed in my pride, fear, and doubt. I deserve the mud I’ve flung to be flung right back at me exponentially. But instead, Jesus kneels down on the jagged, dirty rocks of the crooked path, washes my filthy, doubting, wandering feet, takes me by the right hand and leads me down the straight path.
Strength for the crooked path. Strength for the straight path. I’d rather take the straight path and be led by the One who knows the way. Help me, Jesus. Amen.