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.
Three launchpads for meditation. The first is a reflection on the Hebrew word for heart. It’s the word ‘lev’, and it carries with it some different associations that we might have today for the word heart.
So your heart is not only where you experience emotions. It’s also where you think, make sense of the world, experience desires, plan, decide, and commit. Your heart is the entirety of your existence.
With your thoughts, we can see this in Mark 2:8 where Jesus describes people as thinking in their hearts. Your heart is also where you make sense of the world like in Psalm 77:6 where it says “I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked”.
And of course, your heart is also where you experience emotions: pain, fear, and depression but also positive emotions like comfort, calmness, and joy. We can see this with the story of Hannah, where in 1 Samuel chapter 1 Hannah is downhearted because she cannot have a child. But then in chapter 2 Hannah has a heart of joy rejoicing in God giving her a son.
Your heart is also where you experience desires, like in Psalm 37:4 where it says “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”.
Your heart is also where you plan, decide, and commit, like in Proverbs 16:9 where it says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”.
So since the heart is more than just emotions, since it is about your thoughts, desires, and plans, it is important to guard your heart because from it flows your whole life, as it says in Proverbs 4:23.
So by understanding the Hebrew word for heart, Proverbs 3:5-6 is about trusting the Lord not only with your emotions, but also with your mind. Not only with your fears, but also with your future. And not only with your feelings, but also with your thoughts. It’s trusting God with the entirety of your being.
The second launchpad for meditation picks up on the parallel usage of the word all, both in verse 5 and verse 6. In verse 5 we have ‘all your heart’, and then in verse 6 we have ‘all your ways’. It’s trusting in God with everything you are in verse 5, and then in verse 6 in everything you do recognizing God’s prevailing providence.
And it’s in all of your ways. Not just in your public life but also in your private life, not just in your sacred life, but also in your so called secular life, not just with your work but also with your leisure. So as you trust in God with all of who you are, reflect upon all of who God is, and rest assured that He is in control.
The third launchpad for meditation is about the context of these verses, reflecting upon the structure of the entire book of Proverbs. This book actually does not start with these short wise sayings or proverbs, but instead it starts with a collection of speeches given from a father to a son. And that’s what we read in Proverbs 3:5-6, part of one of those speeches.
We can get a sense for how these speeches are connected by looking at Proverbs 1:7 where it says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”. So the father is building upon this thesis statement, fleshing it out in this collection of speeches. And what he is saying is that in general, if the son avoids the folly of relying upon his own false wisdom and instead seeks God’s infinite wisdom, then he will experience skilled living and success- his paths will be made straight.
But it is important to keep in mind that this is the book of proverbs, not the book of promises. Because there are people who trust God with all of their heart and acknowledge Him in all of their ways, but whose lives are difficult, whose paths are not straight. And that’s because the book of Proverbs is not meant to be read in isolated. Along with Ecclesiastes and Job, Proverbs is part of the broader Hebrew wisdom literature, exploring in a sophisticated and realistic way what kind of world we are living in. It’s a world where right living is often rewarded, but as Ecclesiastes explores there are plenty of exceptions.
So yes, trust in the Lord with all of your heart and acknowledge Him in all of your ways, but do not turn this into a formula for success. Because, indeed, we are to trust God in all of our ways, even when our paths are not straight.