“I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
The piece of advice which perhaps best captures the spirit of our age is this: Follow your heart. We are told over and over today to do this. We see it on kids’ shows of every kind. We see it in movies and in books and in magazines. We hear it in popular music. It is everywhere we look.
In most cases, it sounds like great advice too. If you aren’t sure about the path you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to go, just look inside and choose the route that best resonates with who you know you are. Follow your heart. After all, who knows the shape of your desires better than you do? Who is more suited to see them come to reality than you are?
Yet the tough truth is that this is awful advice. It’s terrible. It will lead us to nowhere but heartache and hardship. The Scriptures tell us why again and again. On our own, we don’t know the best way to go. There is a way that seems right to people, but it’s end is death. Or, as Jeremiah puts it here, the way of man is not in himself. It is not in us to direct our steps. If we try, we only set ourselves up for trouble.
Better is to trust in the ways of the Lord. Let Him be the one who guides your steps. Let His ways be the ones you follow most closely. Let His Word be the path to which you commit your feet. His way won’t always be the easiest, but it will always be the right way.
When Lisa and I lived in Colorado, we had the opportunity to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak several times. It was unfailingly a stunningly beautiful drive. But, the path to the top of the mountain was 19 miles of weaving back and forth, tight turns, and switchbacks. It took upwards of two hours to get to the top. When you looked at a map of the route it seemed crazy to weave all over the mountain in order to get there. Why not just drive straight to the top? Or, when coming down, why not just head off the side and roll? Because that path would have been impossible. It may have been shorter in theory, but in actuality the pitfalls and cliffs along the way would have wound up taking several times longer…if you were even able to navigate it.
If we take a path other than the path of God, if won’t get us where we want to go. If we look inside for our direction and drive, we will find only a stalled engine and an unreliable map. There are two paths you can take from here to there: God’s path or all the others. Take the one that will get you where you really want to go.