The Lord says, “I will guide you
along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
So rejoice in the Lord and be glad,
all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
Brutally honest relationships are awesome. Whether it is a spouse, member of your family, a coach/mentor, or just a good friend, we all need someone to save us from ourselves at times. Because of the relationship…trust, respect, and affection…that exists between you, this other person can confront you about a subject that would otherwise be very upsetting or offensive and hopefully provide constructive criticism to get you back on the right path. There is something about the human mind, the way it works to rationalize our own choices and behaviors, that makes it necessary to have this outside perspective to overcome our natural blind spots.
There have been many times when getting ready for a particular event that I would turn to my wife and ask, “Do I look stupid?” (referring, of course, to my wardrobe choices and not my face). I am self-aware enough to realize that I have all the fashion-sense of a cinder block and she always looks amazing, so I’d say she’s pretty well-qualified to help me look my best. Because she loves me and I trust her judgment, I can rest assured that she won’t let me make a fool of myself. It’s comforting to know that she is watching out for me.
King Solomon understood this concept, and described it like this: “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Prov. 27:6) On the surface, this is counter-intuitive but when you look at the motivation behind the wounds and kisses, you see who really has your best interest in mind. In another passage, he wrote, “In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” (Prov. 28:23) Flattery feels good in the moment, but it does nothing to help you grow as a person.
Hearing the truth is not always fun. In fact, sometimes it is downright painful. However, if we can push pass the pain and resist the defensive reflex, we can actually find ourselves in possession of some very valuable advice. We have found wisdom that can help us to be and achieve what we were designed to be and achieve!
When I was reading the passage from Psalm 32 at the top of this post, it felt a lot like these situations that I have been describing. Typically, I am not a big fan of being compared to a “senseless horse or mule.” But if I’m being honest with myself, there have been many times in my life that this was probably an accurate description of my walk with Him. God would show me the direction to go and because I was too scared or lazy or stubborn or proud, I would resist going where I needed to go! In retrospect, it’s embarrassing that I would even act like that.
A lot of people think of God as trying to impose some kind of arbitrary morality code on us just because He can. This reduces God to a cosmic version of “Because I’m the dad and I said so!” In reality, when you look at God’s law from a logical point of view, you see that He really is just trying to help us live the best kind of life, to avoid unnecessary consequences and experience the “abundant” life that Jesus talked about.
As we learn to walk with God, He will continually show you new areas of your life that need to be brought into obedience. It could be that God is asking you to finally get your financial life in order, or to clean up your potty mouth, or get rid of some negative thought patterns that are holding you back. The journey that you take and the issues you face will be as individual as you are!
Just as water needs to keep moving or risk growing stagnant, God knows that we must keep progressing or we will fall back into old sinful patterns. That is why the Holy Spirit will not leave you alone. He will never stop pushing, pulling and prodding. The question, then, is how you will respond. Will you resist like a stubborn, old donkey, or will you follow God’s lead?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, many times you have called us to obedience, and we have failed to heed the call. Forgive us for our stubbornness and help us to develop a sensitivity to Your guidance. Give us the wisdom to discern and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit so we can live the life of abundance that You have promised us. Amen.