On the Lack of Lightning Bolts
by Katherine Britton
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.
I memorized these verses years and years ago, along with John 3:16 and other verses that good little children in Sunday School learn. In my five-year-old mind, I associated the proverb with a mental picture of a road stretching out for miles until it merged with the horizon. That was the “straight road” that I could so easily understand – clearly marked, unswerving, and, most importantly, unchanging. All I had to do was trust God and keep following that path. Little did I know, right?
At times the journey has felt more like an anecdote that Abraham Lincoln told of a man traveling through a thunderstorm. Through the mud and the sheets of rain, the poor traveler felt that he would lose his way entirely. The thunderclaps seemed right overhead, jolting his senses every few moments. Only the flashes of lightning helped him keep to the road. Finally, after a particularly loud crash, the man fell to his knees and cried, “O, Lord God, if it’s all the same to you, I would like a little more light and little less noise!”
The major and minor uncertainties I’ve encountered – and will encounter in the future – often leave me with that sentiment. I think back to the promise of paths made straight and grumble that the signposts would be a lot easier to follow if they were in neon. We all ask, is this the career path you want me to take, God? Is this the man you want me to marry? Should I buy this house? Are we supposed to settle at this church? In what kind of school should we enroll the kids? God, I could really use a lightning bolt to clarify things!
It’s easy to forget that the proverb reserves the promise until the last quarter of the verse, not the first. Review the wording of verse 6 with me. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I memorized this verse years ago, but I’m still learning it by heart. Task-oriented person that I am, it’s easier to visualize myself making “progress” towards a goal than it is to stop and refocus on inner attitudes. It doesn't occur to me that part the plan is simply standing still, waiting, and listening. I demand lightning bolts to see God’s working rather than taking responsibility for the part assigned to me. My part lies in the trusting, the repudiating of self, and a settled confidence that he will work all things for his purpose. Then… the path is straightened. We may not even realize it this side of heaven, but the promise is that he guides our feet when our eyes are on him.
I fully believe that the Lord guides us in specific ways – through the Word, through the counsel of godly mentors, through nudges of the Holy Spirit – and yet we get caught up in the road metaphor a little too much. We’re so distracted looking for the path that we forget a lifestyle of worship. To an extent, it matters less what we’re doing than how we’re doing it. As Paul wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The wonder of God’s plan for us lies in this – in taking our eyes off the road at our feet and looking to him, God finds our way for us.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Step one: trust in the Lord with all your heart. Step tw do not lean on your own understanding. Step three: in all your ways acknowledge him. Result: whatever your path, he will direct your steps and make your path straight.