Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

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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 make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
Proverbs 3:5-7

Have you ever tried to stop leaning on your own understanding? It isn’t like avoiding other temptations. In many situations, you can avoid giving into temptation by avoiding the object upon which your temptation fixates. When tempted to overeat, you can set limits for yourself and avoid keeping food nearby. When tempted to look at things you know you shouldn’t look at online, you can set up content filters on your devices. But how do you avoid leaning on your own understanding when you can’t avoid your mind or heart?


When Scripture calls us to trust the LORD with the fullness of our hearts and to lean not on our own understanding, it’s speaking of more than emotion or thought. The call is to make God, not self, the foundation of life, to stop basing life on us and to start basing life on God. We are to rely not on our own ability or understanding or strength but on God’s. In other words, we are to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Biblical faith is no blind leap, however. Though Scripture calls us to lean not on our own understanding and to be not wise in our own eyes, the emphasis isn’t on the absence of understanding but on the object of trust. We won’t know best in most cases. We won’t see what God sees or know what he knows. In the midst of a trial, we likely won’t know the future, won’t remember the past, and won’t be able to properly evaluate the present. We’ll be lost if we try to live the Christian life in the strength of our understanding alone, for our hearts are weak. Our only hope for finding sure footing is to look to the one who makes our ways straight, the one who has proven himself faithful innumerable times in our lives and throughout history.
How does this work? How do you trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding? Paul may give us a way forward.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

Maybe the answer isn’t in avoidance but in renewal. As we learn to fear the LORD, we learn to see all of life in light of him. We recognize that our understanding is limited, unable to guide us through the storms of life. Our limited understanding shouldn’t trouble us, however, when we understand that our lives are held by the sovereign LORD. Though we don’t know, he knows. Though we can’t see, he sees. Though we struggle to understand, he remains on his throne. We surrender, then, focusing not on our lack but on his sufficiency. We trust him, choosing transformation by the Spirit over the ways of the world. Our minds will doubt, our hearts will fear, our eyes will strain as they attempt to find answers ahead. Through it all, we remind our souls of God’s presence, surrender our doubts to him, and find rest in the fear of the LORD. We trust in him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding by acknowledging our inability and surrendering to his sufficiency, trusting him to meet our needs as we follow him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7


Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

Thanks to Maci for her help in editing and thinking through today’s post.

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