No arguments here; trusting in the Lord is a good idea. Challenging at times, yes, but still a good idea. It’s the “lean not unto thine own understanding” part of this passage that, until recently, left me puzzled.
Our own understanding, I reasoned, is how we get through life — understanding the need to steer clear of a hot stove, our neighbor’s need not to hear our stereo, and the relative insignificance of the things we worried about last month or five years ago. We are put on earth to learn, grow, and understand in order to be better earthen vessels of God’s love, right? So why would we not lean on that while we trust in the Lord? Are the two mutually exclusive, as the verse seems to suggest?
The passage above is the King James Version. The New Revised Standard Version, which was our regulation study Bible in seminary, is not much help, wording it: “Do not rely on your own insight.” The Living Bible even kicks it up a notch: “Trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.” Yikes.
Not trusting ourselves, our intuition, and what we have learned hobbles us in life and decreases our ability to trust and serve God. If we trust that God put us here — gifts and flaws and all — for a reason, and we do not trust ourselves, are we really trusting God?
More doubts creep in: “What if I’m not doing it right? Look at all my mistakes . . . sure, God forgives, but I can’t forgive myself. Of course I can’t trust my own understanding.”
So we look to someone or something else — a parent, therapist, partner, our work, our politics — to measure and determine our worthiness. Talk about slippery slopes and shifting sands.
Clarity on this Proverbs passage eluded me for years until a friend and I were talking about prayer — not the talking, requesting, praising, or thanking part, but the listening part of prayer. We talked about the importance and challenge of letting Spirit reach through the clutter of our minds, especially the mental chatter that cuts us down, and speak to our hearts. That’s when she mentioned the “trust in the Lord with your whole heart” verse, her new favorite.
And that’s when it all clicked. That still, small voice that lifts us up — not the one that tells us we’re not good enough, nothing we do makes a difference, and that some other human being always knows better — is what we can trust. It comes directly from God to us . . . but how do we know which is which?
Doreen Virtue explores this in her book “Divine Guidance: How to Have a Dialogue with God and Your Guardian Angels.” Divine guidance comes from God and God’s creations, including our higher self, angels/ascended masters, and our loved ones on the other side, Virtue says. False guidance comes from our or others’ lower self (or ego). Our higher self is set at the factory, so to speak; it is perfect, whole, and complete, just as God created. The ego is created not by God but by ourselves as we and those around us operate under the dark illusion that we are separate from God.
Virtue includes charts that break down the distinctions between the higher and lower self, and between true and false guidance. True guidance, for example, is gentle, loving, empowering, says the same thing repeatedly, and most often emerges in response to prayer. Even if we are being warned about something, that information is given calmly, constructively, and in a way that encourages us to respond rather than react. False guidance is anxious or angry, critical, disempowering, switches topics and perspectives impulsively, and comes in response to worry.
This all fits with what I have learned and experienced about intuition, our God-given communication and navigation tool. The ego is easy to hear; it’s loud, in your face, and always has a fire to put out or someone to please. Clearing that clutter to tap into our intuition can require more conscious effort, such as prayer, meditation, or exercise (or all of these), though some intuitive insights seem to come out of the blue. In either case, intuitive or God-given information is delivered in an uplifting way. Human beings may reprimand, condescend, or rebuke; God is greater.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” — not just with thine brain. If we can hear God with our hearts and put these overloaded brains of ours to use following through on that guidance, our paths may not be smooth or straight — but they will be our paths, and God’s.