Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Some can feel like all.
Some measure of trust in God can be mistaken for total faith in him. Some measure of love for God can be mistaken for wholehearted devotion to him. Some measure of obedience to God can be mistaken for total surrender to him. In each case, however, a misunderstanding occurs. Partial trust, love, and obedience, though better than nothing, fall far short of full faith, devotion, and surrender. We may understand this in theory, acknowledging the reality of human sin and frailty even for believers. Still, we assume that all is well when our lives carry on comfortably, when we examine our souls and find evidence of faith, love, and obedience. Comfort can blind us to our need for continued growth in godliness.
As John noted years ago, “What we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). We who have been justified are not yet glorified, not yet finally freed from sin and its corruption. While we await the coming of the Lord and the fullness of our identification with him, we walk forward in sanctification, hoping in him as we are purified after his likeness (1 John 3:2-3). This is God’s will for us in this season of life (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
But how does this process work? How does God shape us into the image of Christ if we can’t even see what needs to be done?
I believe he accomplishes this work through discipline. The author of Proverbs goes on to write, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12). God, because of his great love for his children, corrects them and guides them when they stray. As they seek him, he makes their paths straight (Proverbs 3:6) and provides for their needs (Matthew 6:33). And he uses tension to accomplish his purposes. Both Paul and James address God’s use of suffering and trials to grow his people in faith and maturity (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Through difficult circumstances, tragedies, and confusion, God reveals our weaknesses and insecurities. He shows us how far we are from where we thought we were, and he opens our eyes to see more clearly our need for growth. Tensions, though painful, reveal our dissimilarity with Christ and our need for further sanctification.
Thankfully, tensions also reorient us, revealing Christ’s love and illustrating God’s delight in us (Proverbs 3:12). Rather than crushing us with despair or condemnation over our weaknesses, Jesus calls us to rest in his strength. He speaks to us the same message he spoke to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And through the chaos we feel in the midst of tension cuts the truth that our lives find foundation not in our circumstances but in our Savior. Contentment depends not on what we possess or what we lack, not on any level of sutuational comfort, but on our relationship with Christ (Philippians 4:11-13). The discipline of God exposes our need and drives us to the one who can make us whole, teaching us along the way that Christ is greater than any gain or loss we may experience, a truth sometimes forgotten when we grow comfortable in life (Philippians 3; 2 Corinthians 11-12).
We rarely see ourselves as we truly are. Thankfully, the LORD knows and tests our hearts (Proverbs 17:3), and he works all things for good for his people (Romans 8:28). So we can confidently seek his help and trust his discipline to reorient us when we lose focus. He exposes our need for our good and for his glory, introducing discomfort into our lives to draw us into truer comfort. He will not lead us astray or forget us. He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Trust him then, and hope.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.