“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will set your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5.

Expectations are a dangerous thing. They have their rightful place, like anything else, we should expect our coffee to be hot so we don’t burn out tongues and we should expect traffic so we don’t become roadkill. If we expect it, then we won’t be surprised. However we don’t know until we take a drink or look both ways. When we treat expecting as knowing is when the danger creeps in. For me I often put expectations on days and people. I love traditions and I have this expectation of what Christmas or Easter or whatever special day it is, should be and feel like and I treat it like it is going to happen and when it doesn’t I am crushed. I put expectations on my husband and kids and wait for them to line up with this perfect picture in my head and become so frustrated when they don’t. I often feel like I know exactly how something should happen and when it doesn’t come about I am left with a pile of unnecessary emotions.

Israel had an expectation of their Messiah. They wanted a political hero, an undefeated king to place on their throne and pull them out of the hole they were in.  They wanted Rome to taste its own medicine and see what it was like to be the conquered while they sat on their high horses experiencing the power of being conquerors. We know this isn’t what happened, but can you imagine being one of the Israelites who threw down their coat as Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem only to find out He died days later? Thinking He was heading in to take His place on a throne only to be placed on a cross? They believed their Messiah would be a political power so strongly that when He stood before them they shouted “crucify him!” They rejected Him. Or imagine how the disciple felt, leaving everything behind to follow their Messiah, only to find out they would die. They would die for the man who would save them, if you didn’t know the ending it would sound so backwards and wrong, and yet they still followed Him.

The difference between the Israelites who rejected Him and those who followed Him comes down to understanding. The rejecters trusted in their own understanding, the followers trusted in God’s. We can take a step back and look at this story from beginning to end and see who made the right choice, but if you have ever had an expectation, even a small one, that you took as truth then you know how hard it is to let go. I can’t confidently say that I wouldn’t have been a scorner because so many times in my life I have leaned on my own understanding and not his. When He told me to pick up my cross and follow Him I said, “No thanks, the path without the cross looks easier,” and I followed it to my detriment. We don’t get to stand above our own lives and look ahead, so the only gas we have to go on is expectation and so we lean into our own understanding and follow it to ruin. God, however, has the big picture. He sees beyond our world into eternity and He knows what is best for us. The disciples died horrific deaths, but they spread the Gospel, and in eternity they will be given positions of leadership (Matthew 19:28). The scorners may not have died horrific deaths, but they are being eternally punished for their sins.

We can’t look down on our own lives and see where each path leads so we have a choice: we can lean on our own understanding, or we can lean on Him. We can expect, plan, assume, and try to understand but we can never know what is ahead and living that life is mentally and physically exhausting. You will fall more, you will fail more, you will never be able to expect every scenario and trying will make you crazy. Option two, you trust God. You let Him look ahead and guide you, you believe that he is for you and not against you and even if it means tragedy and hardship in this world it will be a reward in eternity.

For me Proverbs 3:5 is the most peaceful verse in the Bible, it is the verse that helped me to finally, finally, let go of all the chaos in my head and life. I need the constant reminder to “Lean not on your own understanding,” because my brain can take off fast and I have followed so many wrong paths based on expectations built on my own understanding, but when I remember the truth, that I need to trust in Him and not lean on my own understanding, I can turn off my brain, pick up my cross, and follow trusting that He is on the throne and will lead me in the way only a loving God can.