This is one of the notable proverbs from Scripture. Most of us know it by heart, but do we understand the depths of its meaning? And do we really live as the proverb suggests?
Let us first break down the key words: Trust and Lean. Below are the Cambridge dictionary definitions.
Trust: To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable.
Lean: To move your body away from a vertical position so that it is resting against something.
So beginning with trust in accordance with its definition, we must believe that God is good, faithful and has only our best interest in mind. We also must believe that it is safe to trust him because he is reliable all the time—even when things go contrary to expectation.
We therefore should NOT lean (put our trust) in what we seem to understand but rather completely on God. The definition tells us that when one is leaning there has to be a shift from that comfortable and stable upright position. And this is the same with God, we must let go of that seemingly reliable thing we are trusting and lean back on him. That is when our faith becomes active and he can work.
Now let’s go to the second part of the proverb: In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
The easiest way to submit to God is to submit to his Word because they are one. In all that we do, whether it is work, family, finances, relationships or anything else, we should let the Word of God lead us in our decision making. Once we do this, then we are submitting to him. And that leads us to the final part of the proverb.
He will make your paths straight. The ‘path’ in this case meaning the way or process that leads to the manifestation of whatever we asked of God. When we take everything upon our shoulders life can be stressful and full of difficulty, but when we trust God to do what we cannot, we rest and the journey is peaceful.
Let us consider the example of the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-30. This man had a lot of wealth and believed in God but still was not happy. He went to Jesus and asked why it was so and Jesus said “You still lack one thing. Sell all you have and distribute to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.” What was Jesus saying? Trust God with ‘all of your heart’. This was a test but the rich ruler could not give up his wealth so he walked away in sadness.
Shortly afterward, when the ruler had left Jesus said “Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house, parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom who shall not receive many times more in this present time and the age to come.”
God was more than able to bless the rich man with more if he had given it up. It was supposed to help him trust God and give him the peace he desired not to make him poor.
Likewise, all that God tells us is supposed to make us rely on him so he can help us and at the same time give us rest and peace.
I must add that waiting on God (without trying to assist him) is also very important. More often than not it does not take God so long to move but we keep getting in his way, trying to change the situation or trusting then doubting then trusting–then doubting. Trust him with ALL of your heart and keep trusting. Do not lean on what your circumstances are telling you.
Ps: There is a story in the Bible that illustrates how to trust God consistently, that is the story of Joseph. I happened to write a book about his experiences. You can read an excerpt from Joseph Of Egypt and decide if you would like to read the book.