The Steps We Take
“…but the Lord directs the steps.” Proverbs 16:9b
It was one of those epic storms! The snow began to fall in earnest mid-morning on a Friday. As the inches multiplied it was obvious that staying at home became the best option available to everybody in the region. And it snowed. And the wind blew. And it snowed some more. And the wind continued to howl. The storm finally moved on by late Saturday night, but not before it had set free thirty-six inches worth of flakes on our small town; drifts were approaching eight to ten feet. For all intents and purposes the entire community was snowed-in. It was the first time in the 135 year history of the church that services had to be cancelled. No one could get to the worship center anyway, and even if they did, the drifts in front of the doors would have prohibited their entry!
With the now-redeemed morning, the Ramsey family took on a personal mission: we determined to help those with physical challenges shovel their way out. Dad took the lead to blaze a trail through the frozen tundra, followed by the little legs of our smaller company, and finally mom who was bring up the rear. Part of the way to our first home I heard these words “Daddy, I can’t walk in the steps you are leaving behind…they’re too big!” Sure enough, what I thought was a comfortable gait was indeed too big a step for shorter legs…so reducing the strides, we were all able to make it our destination.
Reading in Proverbs again the other day I came across a verse that made me stop in my tracks. Solomon wrote in 20:24 a rather profound question: Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way? A person of tremendous knowledge and wisdom didn’t often ask questions, rather he meted out insight and advice. But this is a profound question he asked. As I process this verse several things standout to me: first, God is unquestionably the sovereign Lord and King. One cannot escape the obvious reality that God is sovereign over the affairs of our lives, even to the minutest detail. For God to be sovereign means that He is completely free to do as He chooses in and with our lives. I will tell you that His sovereignty always works out to His glory (something that He is very jealous of) and ultimately for our benefit (though if we were honest, our vision is rather dim and we can miss how some things in our lives are really a “benefit’). Proverbs 16:9 declares, The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. His sovereignty is at the forefront of our journey.
The second thing I see is that we have personal responsibility for the choices, decisions, and actions we take. The immediate context of Solomon’s question has to do with taking matters into our own hands, especially in times when we have been wronged or slighted (see verses 22-23). When we feel taken advantage of or wounded in some way, our heart tells us to “get even.” But Solomon says’ Hold your horses! God is in control of every situation of your life and it is best to let Him handle it all!” Inherent in the ways of our humanness is limitation—we simply don’t know it all, we are certainly not strong enough, we can’t possibly fix everything, and we have the tendency to make matters worse when we try! So do what we know to do and then trust God for all the steps that our lives need to take.
Lastly, because the newer testament helps us understand the older testament, we are told how the Lord want us to take those steps. I John 2:6 says, whoever claims to live in Him (Christ) must walk as He did. And Ephesians 5:8 declares …walk as children of Light. Here are some words that I think describe those steps: obedience, compassion, gentleness, mercy, righteousness, intimacy with the Father, prayerful, circumspect, Spirit-filled, love, goodness, and truth. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but a tremendous starting point. If we dedicate our journey to these kinds of steps—ordained by God—then I believe we will have an opportunity to see God glorified by our decisions, choices, and actions, and realize the ways that God is working in and through us for our benefit. And I sure His steps are not too big!!
Blessings on the Journey,