“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.”
I love hearing a good story, don’t you? I especially love listening to the stories of Believers who talk about God’s impact on their lives. As a Counselor, I consider it a privilege to listen as Clients talk about their lives and why they are seeking counsel. As I listen I pray, asking God for insight into where they see themselves fitting into His Story. To help them begin to look at their lives before God, we almost always (probably 90% of first-time Clients) 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 of depression given in Jeremiah:: “Cursed . . . not seeing prosperity when it comes . . . parched . . . alone.” The deeper the depression, the more negatively skewed perceptions become.Sometimes however, our distance from God is not so dramatic and we may not be aware that there is a gap between ourselves and God. It can happen when we focus 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 look ti 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 even as trouble continues to be part of life on this earth, the faithful provision God as our Shepherd will sustain and shelter us through the storms of life.
- The last piece of the passage is often puzzling 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 question Jeremiah challenges us with boils down to choices. Will you serve the whims of men? God? Or yourself? How you answer that question will impact where you fit into God’s Story.
“The Lord is righteous in all His ways
and faithful in all He does.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him,
but all the wicked He will destroy.”
. All to His Glory!