Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5, 6 - NIV)
Last summer Rhonda and I did something that we are not going to be able to do in this summer in our Covid-19 world. We ticked an item off my bucket list, traveling to Washington D.C. and to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. We hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail and drove the Skyline Drive, an historic 105-mile route that traverses Shenandoah National Park.
Each time I drive in the mountains I am reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6 and a personal question gnaws at me: Why does trusting in God lead to “straight paths” instead of a life filled with wonder and adventure around each corner? I wonder if people in Saskatchewan or Kansas understand this verse differently from those who live in British Columbia or Colorado?
Those who live on the prairies know about straight roads that seem to stretch for hundreds of miles without a curve. The Prairies are known for their open skylines, spectacular sunsets, and country roads that stretch before you into an infinite horizon.
But people who live in the Rocky Mountains – or the Blue Ridge Mountains – only know a straight road as a small uphill section which allows a couple of fleeting seconds to pass a slow moving truck. The words straight line and mountain road don’t go together.
My life resembles a curve-filled road with unexpected challenges or circumstances around each bend. If I reflect on it, my life has few straight stretches where I knew how everything would work out.
A deeper understanding of the Hebrew word piel, translated “to make straight,” gives some insight into the meaning of this popular text. The word-picture is that of a furrow in the soil, plowed to enable the flow of water along a direct path. The person who places himself or herself in this “straight way” can experience God’s guidance, direction and blessing (Prov. 16:9 and 20:24). Acknowledging that the ways and plans of the Lord are right leads to a purpose-filled and fruitful life (Hosea 14:9).
My work on a survey crew helped me understand how even a curve-filled road can reflect a master plan with a well-defined purpose. The preliminary work of the surveyor establishes a road’s center line. An engineer takes that work and plots the course of a road and everything revolves around the blueprint or plan he forms. Building the road hinges upon the center line, guiding every foot of pavement that is laid. Once the asphalt has cooled, a line is painted to guide drivers around corners. Although they can’t see around the curve in the road, motorists trust that a well-meaning engineer placed the line to protect them.
I believe that the Master Engineer has placed a center line for us to follow. It is found in the wisdom of His Word, seen in people who don’t have all the answers, and experienced when we place our trust in Him; even when we don’t always know how things will turn out.
What is one situation or circumstance where you need direction from God today? Has the uncertainty of the pandemic left you paralyzed? Read and personalize the words of Psalm 48:14 as a prayer: For this God, He is my God for ever and ever; He will be my guide, even to the end.