In All Your Ways!
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
Few promises mean more when practically interpreted, than that one which tells us to acknowledge the Lord in all our ways and that then he will direct our paths.
We all need direction in our life paths.
We turn to our friends for counsel, but human wisdom is inadequate. It is short-sighted, for they cannot certainly know what is best. It is ignorant and may mislead unwittingly. Wrong advice, though meant for good, has wrecked many a life destiny!
Even love may guide fatally. Peter in his impulsive warm-heartedness would have turned Jesus away from his cross. Many times human love has held back its dear ones from paths of sacrifice, hardship and loss—which were the divinely ordained paths for those feet. Human guidance is not enough; we need something truer, wiser, safer—something infallible; and that is just what we have assured to us in this promise of divine direction.
There is a condition—we must acknowledge the Lord in all our ways. The "all" is emphatic. Most of us acknowledge the Lord in some of our ways. We turn to him in the time of great trials, or in great and sore dangers. Even scoffers and atheists have been known, in the moment of peril, as in a storm at sea—to fall upon their knees and call upon God for help. The worst people, when alarming sickness is on them, or when death stares them in the face, want to take hold of the hand of God. There are none of us who do not at certain times crave the divine direction and help.
But the promise reads, "In all your ways."
Or, we acknowledge God only in spiritual things. We talk to him about our souls—but not of our daily work, our week-day life. What did you pray for, yesterday. Did you men talk to God about your business, your buying, and your farm work, your common tasks? Did you women talk about your household affairs, asking God to help you keep tidy homes, and to train your children well, to be sweet-tempered, gentle, patient, and thoughtful? We make a mistake when we take God into our counsel in only one section of our life. "In all your ways," is the condition of the promised direction.
It was a prayer of George Herbert that he might be led wholly to resign the rudder of his life to the sacred will of God, to be moved always as Your love shall sway.
A writer says, referring to this: "How much fretting, how much worry it would spare us all—if we asked our Heavenly Father that he would cause us to lean utterly, in perfect faith, in cheerful, unquestioning obedience—upon his will and wisdom, whether in life's trivial concerns, or in those shadows of darkness from which we recoil in fear."
But here again we must not forget that it is submission "in all your ways" which leads to peaceful living. We are very willing to acknowledge God while he directs us in the paths in which we are inclined to go—paths that are pleasant and agreeable to us. We can easily submit to the "sweet will of God" when it is indeed sweet to our natural taste. But how is it when God directs us to go the way we do not want to go, to do the thing that is unpleasant, and will cause pain or require sacrifice or loss?
How is it when the voice of God, answering to our question . . .
bids us to take the path which leads to a cross;
bids us to turn away from the pleasant thing that we crave;
bids us to give up the dear friendship, which is drawing us away from God;
bids us give into the Father's hand, the child or loved one we so desire to keep with us?
"In all your ways" means the hard ways, as well as the easy ways; the thorny path, as well as the path of flowers. Yet we are continually coming to points at which we hesitate. We say: "In all but this, dear Lord—I can take your way and do your will." Still the answer comes, "In all my ways, my child."
There must be no reserve, no withholding, no exception. The beloved sin must be given up, though it seems only a little one, though giving it up is like cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye.
The hard path must be taken, though it leads among thorns that pierce the feet, over the sharp stones, through fire and flood.
The painful duty must be done, though it costs us popularity, ease, or position; though it leads to poverty, suffering, or homelessness.
The bitter grief must be accepted, though it seems to take all and leave nothing.
It must be accepted sweetly, lovingly, cheerfully, with unquestioning surrender.
Here is a little story from an English magazine which serves as illustration. A poor woman in the hospital was told by the matron that she would not recover, that her illness was incurable. It is very hard to be told that one never can hope to be better, that one's life work is done.
However, this poor sufferer was not overcome by what the kindly matron told her. She did not shrink from pain and death. But there was still one point at which she could not yield to God's way. With tears she said that she gladly and patiently accepted God's will so far as her own pain and death were concerned—but she could not bear the thought of leaving her motherless children. She declared that no one could induce her to feel resigned in this matter.
The visitor to whom she said this had no words with which to comfort her. She could only say to the poor woman, "Yours is untold sorrow, far beyond my understanding—but God knows all about it; God understands. Will you not tell him just how you feel? Tell him what you have told me—all your pain, your anxiety about your children, your sore dread at the thought of leaving them alone in this world."
Then the visitor went away, promising to pray, and to ask her friends to pray for the poor woman in her sore struggle. In a day or two she came again and found the sufferer calm and patient. She had told God; she had poured out her whole heart in unrestrained prayer, and she said to her visitor, "I am just leaving everything with God—not only whether I shall live or die, but each one of my little children, if I am to be taken from them. Everything is safe with him. I feel it now—I know it."
She had acknowledged God in this hard way, as in all other and easier ways. She had acknowledged him, too, by telling him all about her trouble, by going over her anxieties with him, and now there was no trouble, no anxiety any longer. There was now no "anything but this" in her submission. To the Master's words: "In all your ways"—she could now respond, "Yes, Lord, in all your ways."
The lesson is plain. Nothing must be withheld from God, whether it be in obedience, or in submission. The darling sin must be given up. The rough path must be walked over. That hard duty must be accepted. We must acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, if we would have him direct our paths.