Straightening Our Paths
“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.”- Proverbs 3:5–6
The teaching on wisdom we find throughout the book of Proverbs is often based on simple observation of the world around us and does not always call attention directly to the Creator (for example, 6:6–11). However, that does not mean that Solomon and the others who wrote the sayings collected in the book operated from a secular worldview. Throughout the work, there is the assumption that true wisdom comes only when men and women fear the Lord and serve Him (1:7). Today’s passage is one of many in Scripture where this understanding is presented with clarity.
Proverbs 3:5 exhorts us to trust in the Lord wholeheartedly, a call not for mere intellectual acknowledgment of God and His ways but for an intimate personal relationship with the Maker of heaven and earth. The sense is that to trust in the Lord is to walk with the Lord, and this has a direct bearing on wisdom, for if one becomes wise by walking with the wise (13:20), the only way to attain true and lasting wisdom is to walk with the One who is wisdom Himself. God blesses those who walk with Him (1 John 1:5–10), and one of the ways He does this is by granting them wisdom (1 kings 3:1–15; Prov. 2:6; 28:5).
If trusting the Lord means walking with Him intimately, seeking His face and guidance, the opposite is to walk alone, to rely on one’s own skills and knowledge to navigate life well. Thus, we are not to lean on our own understanding as we trust in God (Prov. 3:5). adam’s chief sin was to rely on Himself, to believe He could correctly discern right from wrong apart from divine revelation. He ended up giving in to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. Wisdom means turning to the Lord for understanding, and not to our plans and schemes.
As we trust in our Creator and lean not on our own understanding, He makes our paths straight (v. 6). Matthew Henry comments: “Those that put themselves under a divine guidance shall always have the benefit of it. God will give them that wisdom which is profitable to direct, so that they shall not turn aside into the by-paths of sin, and then will himself so wisely order the event that it shall be … for their good. Those that faithfully follow the pillar of cloud and fire shall find that though it may lead them about it leads them the right way and will bring them to Canaan at last.” The paths of life on which the Lord leads us often seem winding and bumpy to us. Yet from God’s perspective—which is the only perspective that matters—these paths are straight and smooth, taking us exactly where He wants us.
Hindsight, as they say, is always twenty-twenty. When we find ourselves in the place where the Lord wants us, we can often look back and see that the circuitous path it took us to get there was actually perfectly straight, that what seemed like twists and turns at the time were necessary steps along the road. When we feel as if we are wandering, we must remember that if we are trusting in God, He is actually guiding us on His straight path.
Passages for Further Study