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Learning to trust

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. – Prov 3:5-6

Such was my level of confusion for many years, that I could not understand these simple verses. How could I not trust my own understanding? If God were to impart wisdom to me, wouldn’t it become manifest in my understanding? How then could I continue to reject “my own” understanding? Would I not ultimately be rejecting God’s direction?

That line of reasoning actually makes some pretty good sense, but you can see I was intellectually bound up. The key to the proverb and to moving forward lies in distinguishing between God-imparted wisdom and the wisdom of man. Once we have God’s guidance, we should accept it and conform ourselves to it.

But the even more basic question is, how does one trust God? Failing in that will keep one in a holding pattern. We need to trust God, for if we trust God, we will be open to Him. And if we are open to Him, we are going to hear from Him. And if we hear from Him, we are going to be empowered.

So I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at how one person, David, learned to trust God, eventually for great things. Then we can apply what we learn to our own situations.

For You are He who took Me out of the womb, causing Me to trust while on My mother’s breasts. – Ps 22:9

There are two things going on here. First, David had a godly mother who nurtured him both physically and spiritually. David the psalmist was able to look back on his childhood, and though undoubtedly he could not specifically remember being at his mother’s breast, he could extrapolate back through his early years and trace his nurture and discipline back to those most formative, earliest years.

The love David’s mother showed him taught David that, though the world is a dangerous place, there is also a goodness in it that is real. No matter what kind of trouble David got into, he knew he could come back to his mother and receive the protection and nurture he needed for healing, restoration and growth.

Second – and this is absolutely crucial to David’s amazing spiritual development – David was able to make the leap between the love of his mother and the love of God. He was able to look through the horizontal relationship and see that the source really was vertical. It was God’s love and provision that was coming through David’s mother to him.

Because David could see this, he was able to take the love and nurture with him wherever he went. Even if his mother couldn’t be with him, God could. When as a young man David’s father Jesse sent him out to tend some “few” sheep, David was able to overcome feelings of boredom, rejection and bitterness. He used his many hours alone in the pastures to study nature and see God’s good hand in operation. While others could have been stuck grousing about a dead-end job tending a bunch of smelly sheep, David took in the glory of the fields, the streams and the sky, and proclaimed,

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse proclaims His handiwork. – Ps 19:1

David saw God everywhere, and in everything. This awareness was born of a humility that put him in sensitive, intimate relationship with his Lord:

When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have established;

what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man, that You visit him? – Ps 8:3-4

So the first step in learning to trust the Lord is to enroll in the classroom of fellowship with Him. On a constant basis, we need to learn to see His goodness, provision and justice in every aspect of our lives. As David did with his mother, we need to learn to look past whatever the natural conduit of grace and discipline may be, to the actual Source Himself. Once we have made that shift, we will continue to experience God even when our circumstances change, as did David’s when he went out alone to the pastures.

But as we know, classrooms involve more than just study, there are going to be tests as well. David wasn’t given a wonderful intimate relationship with God just so he could loll around and compose devotional music, as wonderful as that is. God had important plans for David with regard to His people, Israel, and for David to complete those plans would require personal growth and development. So bring on the lion and the bear.

And David said to Saul, Your servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock.

And I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb out of its mouth. And when it rose against me, I caught it by the beard, and struck it and killed it.

Your servant killed both the lion and the bear. And this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God. – 1Sam 17:34-36

Can you imagine facing a lion or a bear, alone and with only the most basic weapons? Most of us would simply say, “Ok, Mr. Lion, you can have that lamb, just get out of here and leave me alone.” But David had seen God as his own shepherd, so consequently the shepherd-sheep relationship was sacred to him. Just as God would never abandon David to the enemy, David would not let even one sheep be lost.

This is the true shepherd’s heart that Jesus would later reveal as His own:

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

But he who is a hireling and not the shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away. And the wolf catches them and scatters the sheep. – John 10:11-12

Through David’s actions, we are seeing into the very father-heart of God.

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