“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
I love hearing a good story, don’t you? I especially enjoy historical novels that are so well written that as the reader I feel as though I have been transported into the midst of what happened long ago. If you think about it, history is really a compilation of stories. Everyone has a story to tell and what I find particularly interesting to hear are the stories of believers who talk about God’s impact on their lives. As a counselor, I consider it a privilege to listen as the women I work with talk about their lives and why they are seeking counsel. As I listen I pray, asking God for wisdom and sensitivity to what is being shared and to gain insight into where they see that He fits into their story. I also ask God for direction in deciding where to look in the Scriptures that will be the most helpful to my client. I find it interesting that no matter what the problem we almost invariably (probably 90% of first-time sessions) start in Jeremiah 17:5-10.
You may well ask, “Why begin in Jeremiah 17?” Because of the simple way the passage demonstrates how our stories as well as our perceptions are impacted by where we place our trust. This is especially important for Christians to think about. We live in a fast paced, oft times overwhelming and opinionated culture that says, “Live for the moment” and “Follow your heart!” It is very easy to be caught up in that kind of thinking unless we make ourselves familiar with what the Bible teaches. We learn in Jeremiah that the decisions we make in life fall into three categories of trust.
- Verses 5 and 6 describe what happens when we rely on other people or things for fulfillment: This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” Having battled depression at various times in my life, I am always struck by the painfully accurate picture given us by our Creator in Jeremiah: “cursed . . . not seeing prosperity when it comes . . . parched . . . alone . . . .” The more deeply depression is experienced, the more negatively skewed perceptions become and the more intensely the darkness of hopelessness seems to distance our hearts and minds from God. Sometimes though, our distance from God isn’t quite so dramatic,we may not even be aware that there is a gap between ourselves and God. It can happen when we’re focused on the “if onlys” that we think would fix our lives: “If only I had . . . I would be happy” or “If only she/he was . . . then life would be perfect.” To serve an “if only” is to serve a lie and to distance ourselves from God.
- Jeremiah continues talking about making choices in verses 7,8: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” What a contrast! From a cursed lonely existence to full lives of blessing and confidence in the faithfulness of a loving God. One of the things that I love in this piece is the way God tells us that trouble will continue to be part of life on this earth. Always the Shepherd of our hearts, He does not want us to be naive living on this earth. The blessing is that His faithful provision will sustain and shelter us through the storms of life.
- The last piece of the passage is very surprising to many who read it for the first time: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” I will always remember one of my first clients reading verse 9 for me. She stopped reading mid-sentence like she’d been stung by a bee. As she lifted her head and looked at me with her huge brown eyes she exclaimed, “But I thought we were supposed to ‘follow our hearts!'” Certainly that is what our culture teaches but the Scriptures are clear, only our Creator is worthy of our trust. To follow your heart is to court disaster at many levels.
The challenge in all of this is to prayerfully consider two questions: “Where are you putting your trust?” and “Where does God fit in your story?” Is your primary motivation a desire to honor God in your life? Or does what motivates you have more to do with gaining the admiration of others? Perhaps you look for fulfillment in crossing off a “bucket list” of personal goals but are finding little real satisfaction once it is done. Whatever season of life you are in right now, it is never too late to get things straight with God through His Son. How? Through repentance and faith . . .
Thank You God that you sent Your Son to die that I might live my life well for You. Forgive me for my selfishness. Please take over my story Lord as I trust in You no matter what!
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26