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
The above is one of my favorite passages. Life would be much easier and more positive if we could do what it says we should. The advice for us, as well as the promise, is clear enough: Have complete trust in God’s faithfulness, never depend upon our own perceptions and understanding of things, in every way acknowledge him, and he’ll direct us. It sounds easy, but here’s the problem. We just can’t seem to do it, or at least do it for very long. It seemed to work last night, but this morning our trust seems gone.
Attempting to “trust in the Lord” seems one of the most impossible of all biblical commands. It stacks up right alongside the injunction to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute and abuse us. We grow discouraged as we find ourselves failing to do the very thing God commands us to do.
Don’t worry. Every saint who every tried to follow even one of the great commands of God has run up against the same thing. The power to do it isn’t in us. So the only solution is to pray like Saint Augustine, who discovered that God’s highest commandments are humanly impossible, “O Lord, command what you will and give what you command.”
In other words, we may approach our Father and ask, “Lord, I understand what you want me to do. I want to do it, but I realize that I can’t be that good and faithful. Please empower me to fulfill your commands.”
God’s response is not, “Don’t come crawling to me to do what you need to do for yourself.” Sadly, this is how some people envision God. Rather, he says to us in so many words, “I know that you can’t be that good or faithful, so I determined long ago to give everyone who comes to me the power to obey and please me.”
Where does this power come from?
The power referred to in Scripture is the Holy Spirit. God has already given his Spirit to the church on the Day of Pentecost. Through this power, we can fulfill his will and purposes in a way the people of the Old Covenant could never do. Faith is never a do-it-yourself program, but is always and forever a gift. God gives us his power to do his will, for his glory and our benefit, and then rewards us lavishly for doing it. That is grace and mercy at work.
For this coming new year, ask God for the impossible, trust him to bring to you in his time and in his way what he deems best for you and your family. Trust him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.
-St. Augustine of Hippo