Are you a "figurer"? You know - the one who has to have a plan worked out, all the steps in order, constantly vigilant for even the slightest change in course? Many of us have a tendency to "over-work" the plan - sometimes so much so as to never fully step out in the plan because we are still working it! In fact, some of the TV commercials I see today are addressing the issue with us "planning", but not doing the "acting" on the plan. There is a popular Christian dating website proclaiming "you might be waiting for God to act, but God is saying it is your time to act". Now, I don't agree we need to act, but we also need God's direction prior to acting. The problem with most of our "plans" is the one doing the planning - us! WE don't control the circumstances, so even the best laid plans don't always work out the way we counted! Solomon wants to leave his sons with some advice related to turning the plans over to God - the only one who controls circumstances.
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. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this. (Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG)
Solomon points us to our attitude in the circumstances we are trying to "figure" our way through. He reminds us to "trust", not to be "independent" in our actions, and to "listen". If this is not enough in the way of instruction to us, he adds for us to cease flying by the seat of our pants, assuming our plan is the best plan. Then, just as strongly as he tells us what "not" to do, he tells what our attitude should be - honoring God with all we have, giving our best to him, and embracing his discipline. As we explore each of these "instructions" to us, we see none of them are "sedentary" instructions. In other words, they are words which require action - we just don't "wait and see" in a passive kind of way, but we don't spin our wheels "planning" either.
- Trust God from the bottom of your heart. Since the heart is the seat of emotions, he is telling us to rightly order our emotions - fear, doubt, anxiety, etc. - on God, not on how well we can "figure" the solution to our problem. I have been through times of losing jobs, having to pull in my spending to almost nothing, and then let God see me through to the next opportunity. Guess what I did in those moments? I "figured"! I worked and reworked the budget, finding every penny I could muster. I calculated different salary options to see just "how little" I could actually live on and still have ends meet. Now, how silly was that? In the first place, where does it ever say in God's "plan" for my life (his Word) that I will only have "ends meet". Nowhere! God has always allowed the "ends to meet" - even in the rough times. In fact, he has always blessed me with some form of abundance in those times, as well! How silly for me to spend all that time "figuring" and so little time "trusting"! Instead of bringing my emotions to God, I allowed those emotions to direct my actions. Silly girl!
- Listen to God's voice. Now, this one comes with a condition - all the time, in everything we do and everywhere we go. As you probably guess by now, I am going to tell you "listening" does not mean just sitting around until you get some revelation from God! Act on what you know to be true about how God wants you to respond and what he wants you to do - then allow him to guide you in the rest. In acting, keep an open ear. Be listening for the guidance to respond to the stuff you just don't see an answer to at the moment, but don't just sit "figuring" out the plan. God wants us to remain faithfully active in the things he has already revealed to us to do. In those times when I was without the job, I cut coupons, price compared, and made my "menu" for the week. I knew to do this - not because he sent me some type of audible voice, but it was practical and kept me on track! Sometimes we think even the practical stuff has to be put on hold while we wait for God to speak - not so! God just wants us to remain attentive to his leading.
- Stop assuming we have the plan all worked out. This is probably the "crowning" point of this passage. We "assume" a lot. What I have come to understand is when we "assume", we are taking it for granted something will occur based on something we do or don't do. It is a dangerous place to be found! Taking anything for granted is silliness. To take for granted our health will always be there and then never spend any time dedicated to keeping our body in good health is just plain bad news! Go long enough eating what you want, exercising less and less, and you will slow your metabolism, put on excess weight, and begin the processes of damaging the "good structure" of your body. We have a tendency to "assume", or take for granted the stuff we have grown comfortable with. In fact, the more we "count on" something, the more comfortable we are with it. I had the battery die on my car a few weeks back. It was not a convenient time for it to occur - I had just loaded mom in the car on the way to a doctor's appointment for her! Drat! What happened? I "assumed" the car would start - not because I actually checked the fluid levels in the battery on a regular basis, but because it always did every other morning! I had grown comfortable with the routine! Sometimes we have to get our routine ruffled a little to make us more attentive to the stuff we have been taking for granted!
Not earth-shaking revelation here - just practical advice from one who struggles just as much as the next with the tendency to spend a whole lot of time "figuring" and a lot of lost time "trusting"!