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Love. Guidance. Protection.

Working with college students in academic success reminds me just how important it is to share the blessings we have in God’s Word and his family. We are surrounded by His love, His guidance, and His protection. When I considered the consistent Christian influence I could have on them, I decided to attach the following verses to all my email closings: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). This selection was to encourage students to be consistent on their journey through college, to look outside of themselves for help, to seek God, and then to imitate Him always.

As a young adult, my initial thoughts centered on realization that God would take care of me. This is a great first impression for any young new Christian, and it provided just what I needed at the time. As I have matured, so has my understanding of these four direct statements. For those of us who like the straight truth and no gray areas, there is no misunderstanding the message found in Proverbs 3:5-6. Ideally, the depth of that understanding will increase as our experiences grow.

What is “trust”? Trust is “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” As children, we naturally trust our mother and father to provide for our basic needs. Hopefully, those who reared us also taught us how to evaluate someone or something as trustworthy. This skill is developed through experiences and training with proofs or evidence. As we mature, we may lose confidence in people, things, or even ourselves. When this happens, we may build up barriers and become self-reliant. We may say, “I can take care of myself,” while thinking, "I don't want to be let down or hurt.” The more painful the loss of trust, the harder it is to regain. No one likes the unpleasant feelings associated with being misdirected, let down, or hurt.

The writer tells us we should trust in the Lord, and God, knowing our need for examples, has provided proof of His reliability throughout the Bible, beginning with creation (Genesis 1:1).  Later, God told Noah a flood was coming, and it occurred as He said (Gen. 6:17; 7:11-24). God told Abraham that the aged Sarah would have a son, and she did (Gen. 17:16; 21:1-3). What other examples can you recall where God foretold an event and it happened? Isaiah wrote of our Savior's suffering, a role and service Christ filled (Isa. 53; Matthew 27). Why is this last example the greatest? Because it represents the most significant expression of service in self-sacrifice (John 3:16). All these demonstrate that God is consistently trustworthy.

We are also told how we should trust Him–with all our heart. When you decide to walk down the sidewalk, to the store, to work, or to school, your whole body goes with you. However, your body may go in one direction but your thoughts elsewhere. The writer did not say to trust the Lord with all your body, but rather, with all your heart. When we do something with all of our heart, it is an all-consuming commitment. What biblical examples can you think of that demonstrate a wholehearted trust in the Lord?

The only negative word in these verses, “not,” is used to guide someone away from relying on their “own understanding.” What does “own understanding” mean? It means depending on one’s own wisdom or knowledge. Human wisdom often introduces those murky, gray, unclear areas that do not come from God. Why would someone rely on their own understanding? Possibly they have never been taught about God. Perhaps someone is ignorant because their pride stops them from seeking God’s guidance. The Bible also provides examples of choices made by persons who used their “own understanding” and the unfortunate consequences which resulted (e.g., Cain, Lot, Nadab and Abihu).

If we are not to lean on our own understanding, there must be something we should do. God asks us to demonstrate our trust in Him by acknowledging Him and practicing the principles He teaches. Consider how self-wisdom may manifest itself in an everyday family situation: “Mom, can I spend the afternoon at my friend's house after school?” In such a scenario, an acknowledgement of God’s wisdom might be to ask, “Are these persons Christians? What kind of influence will they have on each other? Are they and their parents trustworthy?” So a good response would be to take the time to thoughtfully contemplate the now familiar question, “What would Jesus do?” Remember, the Lord said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.”

Certainly, we should acknowledge God and His ways always. Keeping godly wisdom present should not be only on a fixed schedule, like Bible study or planned church activities, but a fluid moment-to-moment process. It should be a natural outgrowth of study and a life spent representing God in every facet of living. 

Although I started this article thinking about college students, it applies to each of us. Any of us should consider how we can apply divine wisdom to our daily Christian walk as mothers, sisters, children, and friends. These powerful verses from Proverbs 3 remind all people to depend upon godly wisdom and then enjoy the peace that comes by following the Lord.

Perhaps we could summarize the content of these verses in this way–they tell us:

The What is trust, which brings comfort–help is here.

The Who is the Lord–our Creator.

The Why is His demonstrated guidance–reliable directions.

The How is full commitment–which brings consistency.

The Warning is trust not your own wisdom–ask for help!

The Where and When is always in all ways–manifested in self-management.


By Lieh Brumback

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