One of my favorite passages of scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (The Message: 2002, NavPress).
This passage is a very special watchword. It has been with me through many different life experiences over the last several years.
In the summer of 2014, I had three experiences outside of my normal pastoral role. Each challenged me to respond to an invitation to enter a life-threatening crisis. None of these families were part of my congregation. Because this was so, I found myself risking more to listen to the pain, and to follow God’s leading to share myself. As a result, I literally saw the power of Proverbs 3:5-6 come to life.
In all three situations, it was clear I had no idea what to do, what to say for encouragement, or how to help. All I could do was trust God. I invited these families to do the same. I found myself repeating a simple phrase – “Stop expecting God to just show up; start expecting God to show off.” It was my way of saying what is found in Proverbs 3:5-6.
It takes a deep trust to reach for God when life is at stake. The pain and fear for these families was overwhelming. Fortunately, no one was putting God in a box by demanding a certain outcome. While they all hoped desperately for a miracle, I witnessed three families opening themselves up to the presence of God’s love.
I suppose it would have been amazing if one family took me up on the challenge to let God show off through their daily challenging journey. I never anticipated all three would. Waiting and anticipating God meant surrendering any sense of control over to God, while taking control of being intentional about sharing love.
One person was a young father with throat cancer. One person was a grandmother watching her husband of many years fade rapidly after a devastating stroke. One was a 13-year-old girl on life support from a misdiagnosed infection. You may not be able to control what’s going to happen medically; but you can control who you love and how you love moving forward. No matter how difficult this gets, you will not remember much of messy pain; but you will remember everything about how you choose to love.
“Trusting God, to the bottom of your heart,” can mean different things to different people. It just be acknowledging the presence of God in your life. It can be a reminder to be aware of how God has been at work in your life situation. But this phrase becomes a very different thing when you earnestly seek God’s direction – from navigating a life-threatening illness to discerning the decision to change jobs. How those families navigated their situations putting God first, was nothing short of profound.
“Don’t try to figure it out all on your own,” became a more natural response. Since they were trusting God moment to moment, and expecting God to truly show off through the ordinary interactions of each day, they began to sense the presence of God more fully. This led to taking further steps into surrendering anew to God’s work in their lives in each situation.
“He will keep you on track!” Each family discovered an awakening to God’s love and their love for one another. In each case the one who was ill eventually passed away that summer. But in each case, the family was transformed by the journey they took with God and each other.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is guiding star when the way forward is confusing. It reminds us it takes effort and energy to hear God’s leading and to follow Him. It points us vertically to connect to God, and horizontally to connect to each other, as well the community and the world beyond the focus of our personal struggles.
It reminds us that God is up to something and through Jesus we are invited to be partners with God in His mission to this immediate community! It is a perfect word of scripture for launching out into a new God-called, God-prepared, God-given adventure!
Dr. Neil Routh is pastor at Grace Moravian Church.