My Own Understanding Gets Me In Trouble

Lean not on your own understanding…

Does anyone else wonder what this means? I was born in church (for all practical purposes) and I have never heard anyone go into depth on this verse. One day I thought, “I honestly have no idea what this means.”

It’s preached from the pulpit on a regular basis but without much explanation. Every single one of us who hear this verse spoken or read it most likely won’t acknowledge that we possibly, just maybe, lean on our own understanding instead of God’s wisdom. I mean, who is going to admit to it? Including me. We all dutifully nod our head that, yes, we shouldn’t ever lean on our own understanding, but at least in my case, until recently, I never considered the fact that I was doing exactly that – leaning on my own understanding.

Ironically, that’s because most of us have no understanding of what it means to “lean on our own understanding”.

The fog is starting to clear a bit for me in this respect. Last week I made the comment, “Even though I did the best I could with the understanding I had at the time, I kept making wrong decisions.”

Aha! A light went off. I was caught with my own words.

I may have prayed about every situation, and even asked for wisdom, but I was unable to receive any because I was relying on myself to interpret or figure it out with my limited thinking.

…in all your ways…

The thing is, I was doing the best I could with the understanding I had. That was the problem. 

My problem-solving could not come up with a proper solution or direction in every instance. Thus, my life was entirely directed by circumstances and emotions. (i.e. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do”, or “obviously X happened, so that means I need to do X”). Often ignoring or not noticing little inward nudges or thoughts until afterward when I realized that something IN ME was telling me what to do and I missed it.

…acknowledge Him…

Gratitude is the #1 key to everything, and it is impossible to be grateful without acknowledging God. Not a feigned, courtesy gratitude, but the “sacrifice of praise” which springs forth when we open our mouths in obedience, especially in the most difficult moments. Gratitude is the point where we invite God into our moments.

Sometimes there is a situation that we can not come up with a solution that works because it involves the will and choices of another. Whether it be a spouse, coworker, or family member. We can only alter our thoughts, choices, and perspective.

Switching our thinking from “our understanding” to “God’s wisdom” starts with praise. (Not always easy in the midst of tears and clenched teeth.)

But in obedience, when we open our mouths (literally) and acknowledge God in our circumstances by giving thanks, we invite Him to direct our steps in order the avoid the pitfalls we inevitable find.

Here is one prayer to acknowledge God in our situations:

“Father, I thank you that You are fully aware of my situation. I do not want to lean on my own understanding. Your word says that if I acknowledge you, You will direct my paths. Your word is true and I believe it. So I invite you into this situation. I’m frustrated and don’t know what to do, but I thank you that You do! Ephesians says that You created a plan for me long before I was born. I give you all glory! Direct my paths today. Open my eyes so I can see the path, open my ears so I can hear Your whisper, and bring understanding to my heart. Show me where I need to alter my thinking or perception in this situation. Teach me to love those involved like You love them. May I show others the same patience, grace, and mercy that You have shown me. All glory and praise to You!”

The release of wisdom

Interestingly, once I start to genuinely give thanks, it’s like an old water pump. It feels dry for a few moments, as I continue to pray, with the help of the Holy Spirit (especially when I don’t know where to start), soon the waters of gratitude freely gush and my spirit lifts. I start to think of more and more ways to be thankful.

It is in that moment of unhindered praise that God can direct my steps.

Wisdom, the supernatural intervention of God, direction, and understanding all come in the moments of praise. Now we are no longer leaning on our understanding, but allowing God to direct our paths.

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