February 19, 2013

Cease from Man, part 2

Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed? Isaiah 2.22

“Cease from man,” as the KJV puts it. And perhaps the man (or woman) that many of us need most to “cease from”; perhaps the person we need, most of all, to “stop regarding,” is the one who looks at us in the mirror each morning! Solomon puts it like this: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3.5, emphasis mine). “Cease from man” – including and especially yourself!

How badly I need to learn that! How many times have I found myself in a mess, or a period of uncertainty, and tried to dig my way out of it by my own ingenuity, or ‘wisdom’, or sweat? And how many times do I end up making matters worse because of it? I think back to the botched paint ‘touch up’ that I did to the church’s back door last year. Leaning on my own understanding (which, in painting with oils, is very limited), I determined to make a fix at all costs … and ended up just making matters worse; and costing myself a lot of trouble in the process. I’ve done the same thing, sometimes, with pastoral situations – interjecting my own thoughts and solutions with little prayer, and even less biblical wisdom – and often hurting relationships or laying unnecessary burdens on people in the process.

The problem in both cases – and in every case where you and I foolishly take matters into our own hands – is two-fold. First, and most obviously, we are not trusting the Lord. And then, secondly (and exacerbating the problem), we are trusting ourselves in the Lord’s place; leaning on our own understanding … which is almost always extremely limited! This is where a great deal of our worrying comes in, is it not? When we find ourselves in a tight, we start to make decisions and project the future based on a very limited amount of understanding … and we worry, and sometimes even panic, in the process.

Suppose you begin to have several medical symptoms. You begin to have stomach pain, and to have to use the restroom more frequently. You’re a bit concerned about it … so you head to Google and start trying to figure out what’s wrong. After a good hour of searching and reading the message boards, you’re convinced that you probably have some dreaded disease that will take your life within a year. But then you actually go to the doctor – the one who has a thousand times more understanding than you do (even with your Google search!) – and he doesn’t seem concerned at all. Not because there is not a problem, but because he actually knows what the problem is, and exactly what he is going to do to correct it.

Leaning on your own understanding, you panicked. But going to the expert, there was calm and a clear plan. And so it is, on an even grander scale, with the Lord. When we lean on our own understanding, there is so often fear and worry. We can only see a little sliver of the whole picture … and so we panic. But God sees the whole thing, and never has the slightest change of pulse when considering your dilemma. He knows exactly what He is doing, and will do.

Let me say again that I need to learn these lessons, not just teach them. That has been painfully evident to me in recent days. So learn the lesson yourself. “Cease from man” – especially from your own man.

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