Growing Closer to God


By Stephanie Ismer

Growing Closer to God, The Series


As the New Year approaches, Christians may be considering ways to increase and augment their spiritual life and connection to God. I'd like to look at three passages in the Bible which, if we take them to heart, will do exactly that. The first is found in Proverbs.
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
This verse is one of those that gets quoted a lot. It winds up on merchandise in kitchy Christian bookstores. We quote it to friends going through tough times. Some of us may have grown numb to its meaning because we've heard it so often. But there's a reason why Christians quote this verse a lot. It is central to the Christian life. It's talking about dependence.

I'm tempted to say that dependence is particularly difficult problem for people living in the postmodern first world, but the truth is, it's difficult for all people. We naturally trust ourselves. Who else can we fully depend on? Other people can be unpredictable. They lie, they're weak, they're selfish. So are we, of course, but at least we always know where we are when we need ourselves.

God is also, if we're honest, hard to trust. Not because He is untrustworthy — far from it. I submit that most of us have trouble trusting God a) because we can't perceive him with our senses, and b) we often can't understand his motives. Why did he allow that bad thing to happen to me? Can I trust him? Look again at the words of the verse: trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. God knows that we don't understand him. Just as a mother knows her child cannot understand everything she decides — even painful or frustrating things — are for his welfare. This is where the trust comes in. This is why we have to be like children before God to access His kingdom (Luke 18:17).

The words "in all your ways acknowledge him" are interesting, too. Our default position as we walk through life is often to see ourselves as ultimately responsible for whatever happens. We think: if I work hard, I'll get paid...if I'm kind to others, they'll be kind to me. These things are not always true, of course. Sometimes people are unkind for no reason. Sometimes you do your best work and get fired anyway. But it's easy to wrongly interpret God's behavior through this default mindset. If we're good people, God will should reward us. Right?

I thought this way for decades until God mercifully showed me that He is there, He loves me, and He plans good for me, no matter what I do. I can screw up my life, of course. I'm free to do that. But He will still protect, provide, and pursue. Even when it hurts or frustrates me. And when I saw that, when I finally saw Him doing that, I realized what "acknowledge him in all your ways" means. It means we notice Him doing what He does, understanding that He does it out of His amazing love instead of as a reward or punishment for what we've done. We pray to express pain, and to ask for what we need and want, but ultimately I think peace comes from simply seeing Him work, from seeing that He's really there with us (Phil. 4:4-7).

Dependence is the doorway to intimacy. Depending on oneself gives an illusion of control. But let's face it, we are just as faulty and frail as other people. Our minds don't always come up with the right solution, the best thing to do, the right words to say. And allowing ourselves to trust others (those who desire the best for us) always increases love and friendship, and those things make us happier. It makes sense to trust, even when there's risk involved.

It's the same with God. There's a measure of risk involved. We can't always predict what He has in store for us. But he also desires the best for us — as much as any friend or family member, and more — and we know that what he does is always for our good (Romans 8:28). Remember, he has promised to "make straight your paths" as you trust in him.

Image Credit: Unsplash; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father

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Published 1-4-16