Proverbs 3:5, 6
I would like to express my sympathy to you, Levi and also to the rest of the family. When you were wondering what life would be like without being able to drive wherever you wanted to, now suddenly you need to think about what life will be like without Mary. After 61 years of marriage, it will take some getting used to for you to learn to live without her companionship. For you as children, you have always had the one who gave birth to you in your life and now to think that you will not be able to call her or enjoy her smile, will be a change in life for you as well. These changes are hard, especially when they are forced upon us so suddenly. It seems like such a short time ago that we heard that Mary was having problems with her stomach and now she is gone.
Yet even though you grieve, you also recognize that for Mary this is a blessing. She feared what life would be like without being able to drive and she feared that dementia could also be a problem for her. She did not suffer long with the cancer and today is set free from all pain and all limitations. We think that she is dead and we are alive, but she is more alive than any of us. She is now alive eternally. John 14: 1-3 encourages us, "“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Jeanette, you suggested that Proverbs 3:5, 6 were verses that were important to your mother. She had given them to you as a word of encouragement and challenge. As I thought about these verses and about her life, I realized that they are indeed verses which fit well with her life, what she believed and what she experienced. In these verses we read… As we reflect on them in the context of her life, may they encourage us also to follow Him.
These verses call us to trust, but what does trust look like? Trust has an element of hope. It points in the direction of God and tells us that there is hope in that direction. It has an element of confidence. It reminds us that God is faithful and that we can count on Him. It has an element of rest. When we trust, we don’t have to fret and worry but we can rest knowing that though there may appear to be turmoil, we can be at rest because of whom we trust. In which areas can we have this hope, this confidence, this rest?
We can trust that God has accomplished salvation. The gospel story is a wonderful story of God’s actions. It was God who took the initiative to redeem when we were utterly lost. Disobedience to God had broken our relationship to God and resulted in a separation from God called death. The fact that Mary has died is a consequence of that sin and separation. But God took the initiative to do something about that. God sent Jesus to die on the cross in order to take our sins upon Himself and so to make it possible for us to have all our wrong doings forgiven. God took the initiative to raise Jesus from the dead in order that we also can receive eternal life. This was God’s great gift to us. It is available to any person on earth who believes in Jesus. When Proverbs 3:5, 6 calls us to trust in the Lord, this is the first and most important area in which we need to trust Him.
Mary trusted God for her salvation. As a young girl she received Jesus as her Savior and she lived in trust for that salvation for the rest of her life. She was very concerned that other people also receive that gift from God. She supported Union Gospel Mission and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. They were important to her because she desired to see many others also trust in the Lord for salvation.
A second important area in which we are called to trust in the Lord is in the confidence that having begun with Him and having received salvation, we can have hope that He will keep us and bring us to the eternal life which He has promised.
There are times when Satan tempts us to doubt. There are times when he accuses us that we are such terrible sinners that we can’t possibly deserve the gift of salvation. Yet the Bible is very clear that we can know that we are God’s children. 1 John 5:13 assures us when it says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."
To trust in the Lord is to live with assurance and to be able to rest in the confidence of God’s promises of forgiveness and eternal salvation.
This assurance was important to Mary and I want to talk a bit more about it in a moment. It was important to her because she did not grow up in a home where assurance of salvation was taught. You mentioned that she was determined to have a home in which there was such trust in God.
If we trust in the Lord, for salvation and live with the assurance we can have because of the grace of God, then we can also go through life with trust in God. Life often throws us many challenges. We expect certain things, but instead we need to face things which are not only unexpected, but hard for us to deal with. Yet if we know that God has demonstrated such love for us that He sent Jesus, we know that we can also live with trust in Him in all the rest of life.
How did Mary live her life trusting in God? There are so many ways in which we see evidence of a life of faith. You mentioned that when you as children were young, your parents took you to an Alliance church in Winnipeg. It demonstrated a faith in God that He was bigger than just the experience of faith that you had in Rosenort. I wonder to what degree having a clean house was an expression of her faith. You mentioned that even though she liked a clean house, yet she was always welcoming of your friends and you could play in the house. The house was not a museum, but to be lived in even though it was also to be kept clean. You also mentioned that she was very strict about honesty and insisted on it in all of life. You also spoke about how she had to be both mother and father because your dad was often on the truck. All of these things point in a direction of a life lived by trust in the Lord. Not only that she did these things, but also that she did them in a way by which she sought to obey the Lord.
So when we read “Trust in the Lord” it means that we are called to trust Him for salvation, for assurance and for all the details of life.
In this verse there are also a number of statements which talk about the quality of that trust. It is intended to be a compete trust.
The trust we are called to is to be a “with all your heart.” The word heart speaks of the deepest inner part of us. Today kitchen cabinets and furniture is sometimes made of sawdust or chip board with a veneer of wood. If you scratch it, or if the veneer comes off there is not much you can do to repair it. Real wood furniture is different. It is wood all the way through. If the surface is damaged, it can be resurfaced. If we claim to trust in God, how do we respond when trials and difficulties and distractions come into our life? If trust is a veneer of respectability, these things will reveal that there isn’t trust deep within, but if trust remains, then it can be seen that we trust God with all our heart.
The text also calls us not to lean on your own understanding. This is interesting in the light of the rest of Proverbs where we are called to gain understanding and seek wisdom. What is the difference between the understanding that wisdom brings and the understanding that undermines faith? I think the difference is in the word “lean.” The Bible and Proverbs in particular call us to seek God given wisdom. But if we don’t recognize the source of wisdom as coming from God or if we begin to trust in our perception of things instead of in God, then we may begin to lean on our own understanding. What this phrase calls us to do is to lean, to rest our whole weight completely on God and not on what we can figure out on our own. We need to live by the understanding that God can see farther than we can.
A further thought about complete trust is that it happens when our focus is set on God. The text says we are to “acknowledge” Him. The actual word here can mean several things. It can mean to gain knowledge, to know by experience, to be acquainted with or to confess. All of these ideas are great ideas in coming to trust in the Lord with all our heart.
It is as we know who God is and learn more about Him that we come to trust Him. It is as we discover His grace in a relationship with Him that we come to lean on Him. It is as we admit or confess our confidence in Him that we express faith with our whole heart. It is with our faces towards God that we acknowledge Him.
The question is, did Mary trust in the Lord with all her heart?
You indicated that she did not grow up in a home in which assurance of salvation was held with confidence. There were times when she struggled with that hope. There were times when she went through emotional struggles because of what she had experienced growing up. Yet slowly but surely she came to have assurance of salvation. The fact that she was determined to have a home in which such fear did not exist was a sign of the direction she hoped for in life. Although she seems to have wrestled with it at times, that does not take away from the trust in the Lord which she had. When doubt and struggle showed itself, faith also shone through in the end. The final evidence was demonstrated in the hospital in the last days. She was at peace. She knew that she was saved and she was hopeful of eternal life. The smile on her face and the peace with which she faced her death demonstrate a faith which was in her heart.
As we have known you, Levi, and your wife, we have walked with you through a number of trials in the last few years. About ten years ago she had a number of surgeries which didn’t all go as hoped. About five years ago she had a car accident. Her siblings have wrestled with dementia and you have had other disappointments and struggles. The stroke she had, the struggle with her driver’s license and many other trials have been your experience in the last decade. As we visited with you, we heard the struggles, but we also heard about the faith by which you faced them. I have always appreciated the confidence in the Lord which you both expressed. On October 4 I visited her and when I asked her how I could pray, her response was “thy will be done.” After all the trials and struggles of the past ten years and particularly the last two months, the fact that she was able to come to such a confidence, such a place of rest shows that her faith was not a surface faith, but a faith that went deep into her heart. I was moved by the affirmations which I saw in you and in her as I read Psalm 23 and talked about walking through the valley of the shadow of death the day before she died.
What a great example for all of us. Especially you as family who know the depth of her struggles but also that her faith was genuine.
What is the outcome of a life lived like that?
The end of these two verses contains a promise. The promise is, “He will make your path straight.”
The imagery here is that of road building. Levi, you have spent so many hours on the road that I am sure you understand the value of a piece of road that is straight. As we have watched Hwy. 75 being built over the last two years it has been interesting to see what they were doing, how they were doing it and finally arriving at a road that is much smoother and much better to drive. The promise of this passage is that if we put our trust in the Lord it is He who will build such a road for us. Currently there are still bumpy stretches and just as we wondered what the construction companies were doing on Hwy. 75, we sometime wonder what God is doing to build the straight path for us. But in trust we soon find out that God is building a wonderful, straight path in our lives.
Levi, right now it feels like a very bumpy road, but I want to encourage you to keep on trusting God with all your heart. Just as He provided peace for Mary as she faced her last days, He will also provide peace for you in the coming days. He will give you the strength and help you need to face the uncertainty and challenge of life without Mary. He will be your comfort. He will be your strength and He will be your help.
God is not one who brings death. Yes death comes to us because we are separated from God, but when we trust in Him, He will bring us to life, both now and for eternity. So this is an invitation to keep on trusting in Him.
Mary’s life was an example for all of us. It was not a perfect life or a life without struggle. In fact it was a life which experienced many struggles and trials. Yet it was a life in which her heart shone through. The struggles did not cause her to deviate from her path. They led to a straight path of love for the Lord, to peace in the final days and to the fulfillment of her salvation, the promise of eternal life. She lived by Proverbs 3:5, 6 and the Lord made her path straight.
May her life also cause us to put our trust in the Lord and especially as you face the coming days, may trust in the Lord see you through with comfort, peace and direction.