24How can we know
what will happen to us
when the Lord alone decides?
25Don't fall into the trap
of making promises to God
before you think!
26A wise ruler severely punishes
27Our inner thoughts are a lamp
from the Lord,
and they search our hearts.
The wisdom writers help us to address the fact that God’s sovereignty is both a comforting and mysterious concept.
A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
How then can anyone understand their own way?
In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
that he channels toward all who please him (Proverbs 21:1).
We express confidence in his sovereignty as we make statements such as “The Lord knows” and “His will be done” and sing songs such as “God is in control” and “He reigns.” Yet we often wrestle with his sovereignty especially when events take place in our life that seem so random. When a tragedy hits a family centered on Jesus or a disease strikes a close family member in the prime of life we are often moved from a confident statement that “God is in control” to a deep cry of “Why?”
I personally have known the paradoxical moment of genuinely being convinced of the Lord’s care and control while wrestling with the reality that “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Within a moment in a seemingly indiscriminate manner one goes from feeling like everything is as it is meant to be to “why us?” As the verse from the Proverbs indicated “How then can anyone understand their own way?” (v 24).
The wisdom writers do note a pattern in life. A person takes their steps but they are ordered by the Lord. The biblical expectation is that we are to take obedient steps every day. Some of the steps are highly practical, we buckle up before we drive; we eat, drink, sleep and exercise with wisdom. We choose to be loving, gracious and forgiving. We avoid addictive and immoral patterns of living. We keep in step with the Spirit. In a lifetime the choices we make and the steps we take are many and they do bear fruit. Often they lead to a long and purposeful life.
Yet in the complexity of life a + b does not always = c. Stuff happens, and yet not out of sight and not out of hand from a loving God’s watchfulness and overall direction. He does ensure that all things work together for the purpose that we are created for (see Romans 8:28). We are his and he will watch over our steps. Sometimes we have to stop doing the math and simply trust the One who is far more qualified to work things together for our good.
“Sovereign Lord, where the realities of our life situations look random, mysterious and even painful we ask for an overflowing experience of your presence and power as we take our next steps of faithful obedience. For your glory. Amen”