When my wife and I started our life together, we had a wing-backed turquoise chair in our living room. It was vintage modern furniture from the 1960s. My dear grandmother gave it to us when we set up our new home and life together. It was the first piece of furniture I saw when I walked through the front door. I would sit in this chair and worry about things for hours. I got up from the worry chair more burdened than when I sat down—more focused on my problems than before.
On the wall facing the chair was an illustrated calligraphy of Proverbs 3:5–6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
These verses became God’s way of reminding me what to do with my worries. Slowly but surely, God taught me how to leave my worries with Him rather than wrestle with them in that chair. These two verses became my bedrock and guideline for walking by faith. I learned to trust God with childlike faith that sustained me and our family through decades of full-time ministry in the US and overseas.
I was a young believer when we married, so I had to learn how to trust God. Trusting God wasn’t natural for me. It isn’t natural for any of us. Just as toddlers exert their free will before they can say it clearly, we like to “do it by ourselves!” American culture only reinforces this innate self-willed resistance to trusting God.
As a pastor and missionary overseas, I found that trust is innately difficult for all humanity. Much of what we consider faith is more like wishful thinking, positive affirmations, or an act of ritualistic religion. So, how do we learn to trust God?
As we look more closely at this text, verse 5 tells us what to do and not do. First, trust in the Lord with your whole heart. This isn’t easy in our distraction-filled lives and risk-aversive culture, but it’s essential. The second part of the admonition is—don’t try to figure it all out. This may be even more difficult for us, especially us guys hard-wired to “problem solve.”
Genuine faith requires trust—a childlike trust. This is the very thing Jesus spoke of and taught people, including His closest followers (Matthew 6:25–34). It’s a lesson in faith that requires commitment. And wouldn’t you know it? The Lord has a way of helping us do this with reinforcing reminders, also called trials, tests, and temptations.
The easiest and simplest way to endure various trials and tests in our lives is to trust Him. Sounds simple, but how many times do we find ourselves trying to avoid them? That is where we either go into worry mode, as I did in my chair. Or we try to figure out, “Why is this happening to me?” But James reminds us that these trials are to strengthen our faith (James 1:2-4)
When it comes to temptations, our self-willed tendency is to fight them by ourselves, or just give up and give in to them. Neither approach works. If we grit our teeth and rely on our willpower to get through whatever the temptation is, it wears us down to the point of exhaustion, kind of like worrying did for me. And giving in to temptation has no upside to it at all. Just ask King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11).
In verse 6, we see how to trust God and what to expect. Acknowledging God in all our ways simply means bringing Him into our life choices before we try to figure it all out. God promises to direct us along the way of life, as we walk hand-in-hand with Him like a young child with their father crossing a street or in a crowded area. God won’t let go of us, even when we wriggle our hand out of His to go our own way.
God is faithful and trustworthy, even when we aren’t. We can choose to trust Him in daily life or go it alone in our own strength. Trust is active faith. It requires acknowledging God for who He is and our need for Him. When we become His child, we learn this step by step. This lines up with my favorite description of faith —
No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 GW)
So simple, a child can do it! The tough part for most of us who are older in the faith is to embrace childlike faith. Our life experiences, education, sense of status, and so many other things become impediments to childlike faith. After several decades of ministry and living by faith, I’m convinced most people still struggle to have genuine faith.
If you don’t struggle to have genuine, childlike faith, then realize your responsibility, yes—responsibility—to not only be an example for others but to be an encourager and mentor to those who struggle with faith.
We all need to commit our dreams and plans to the Lord before launching out to make them happen. We need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness through His Word daily. And we need to choose to bring our concerns and worries to Jesus daily and leave them at His feet.
If you’re still stuck in the “worry chair” as I was, get out of it and leave it behind. I loved my grandma dearly, and I liked that chair, but I’m glad I left it behind years ago. And If you have gotten out of that chair, encourage others to do the same. Be gracious with those who are weaker in faith and pray with them and for them (Romans 1:12; 14:1, 19).