“Do Not Lean Upon Your Own Understanding”
“Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.”—PROV. 3:5.
CYNTHIA’S* employer has already shut down portions of his company and has laid off several employees. Cynthia feels that she will be the next to be let go. What will she do if she loses her job? How will she pay her bills? A Christian sister named Pamela wants to move where the need for Kingdom proclaimers is greater, but should she? A young man named Samuel has a concern of another sort. He was exposed to pornography at an early age. Now in his 20’s, Samuel has a strong temptation to go back to that habit. How can he resist the pull?
2 Whom do you lean upon when facing distressing situations, making important decisions, or resisting temptations? Do you rely solely on yourself, or do you “throw your burden upon Jehovah”? (Ps. 55:22) “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones,” states the Bible, “and his ears are toward their cry for help.” (Ps. 34:15) How important it is, then, that we trust in Jehovah with all our heart and that we do not lean upon our own understanding!—Prov. 3:5.
3 Trusting in Jehovah with a complete heart involves doing things his way, according to his will. Central to doing so is our continually approaching him in prayer and making heartfelt requests for his guidance. However, leaning completely upon Jehovah presents a challenge for many. For example, a Christian sister named Lynn admits, “Learning to put my complete confidence in Jehovah has been an ongoing struggle for me.” Why? “I have no relationship with my father,” she says, “and I have a mother who did not care for me emotionally or physically. So I very quickly learned to look after myself.” Lynn’s background made it difficult for her to trust anyone fully. Personal ability and success can also cause a person to be self-reliant. Relying on his experience, an elder may begin to care for matters involving the congregation without first approaching God in prayer.
4 Jehovah expects us to make a sincere effort to live up to our prayers and to act in harmony with his will. How, then, can we balance throwing our cares on him with putting forth personal effort to resolve difficult problems? When it comes to making decisions, what caution must we exercise? Why is prayer important when we are trying to resist temptations? We will consider these questions by reflecting on Scriptural examples.
When in Distress
5 Concerning King Hezekiah of Judah, the Bible says: “He kept sticking to Jehovah. He did not turn aside from following him, but he continued keeping his commandments that Jehovah had commanded Moses.” Yes, “in Jehovah the God of Israel he trusted.” (2 Ki. 18:5, 6) How did Hezekiah respond when King Sennacherib of Assyria sent his representatives—including Rabshakeh—to Jerusalem along with a heavy military force? The powerful Assyrian army had already seized a number of fortified cities of Judah, and Sennacherib had now set his eyes on Jerusalem. Hezekiah went to the house of Jehovah and began praying: “O Jehovah our God, save us, please, out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Jehovah, are God alone.”—2 Ki. 19:14-19.
6 Hezekiah acted in harmony with his prayer. Even before going up to the temple to pray, he instructed the people not to respond to Rabshakeh’s taunts. Hezekiah also sent a delegation to Isaiah the prophet, seeking his advice. (2 Ki. 18:36; 19:1, 2) Hezekiah took steps that he could rightly take. On this occasion, he did not try to work out a solution that was out of harmony with Jehovah’s will by seeking support from Egypt or from neighboring nations. Rather than lean upon his own understanding, Hezekiah trusted in Jehovah. After Jehovah’s angel struck down 185,000 of Sennacherib’s men, Sennacherib “pulled away” and returned to Nineveh.—2 Ki. 19:35, 36.
7 Hannah, the wife of the Levite Elkanah, also leaned upon Jehovah when she was in distress over not being able to bear a child. (1 Sam. 1:9-11, 18) The prophet Jonah was delivered from the belly of a great fish after he prayed: “Out of my distress I called out to Jehovah, and he proceeded to answer me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried for help. You heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:1, 2, 10) How comforting it is to know that no matter how dire our situation is, we can call out to Jehovah with a “request for favor”!—Read Psalm 55:1, 16.
8 The examples of Hezekiah, Hannah, and Jonah also teach us a vital lesson about what we should not fail to remember as we pray while under duress. All three felt emotional pain when they were in sore straits. Yet, their prayers show that they were not concerned about just themselves and getting relief from their problems. God’s name, his worship, and the doing of his will were matters of utmost importance to them. Hezekiah was pained that reproach was being heaped upon Jehovah’s name. Hannah promised to give in service at the tabernacle in Shiloh the very son she had so desired. And Jonah said: “What I have vowed, I will pay.”—Jonah 2:9.
9 When we pray for deliverance from a troublesome situation, it is wise to examine our motives. Are we concerned exclusively with getting relief from the problem, or do we keep Jehovah and his purpose in mind? Personal suffering can easily cause us to get so caught up in our own situation that concern over spiritual matters fades into the background. When praying to God for help, let us keep our mind focused on Jehovah, the sanctification of his name, and the vindication of his sovereignty. Doing so can help us to maintain a positive outlook even if the solution that we hope for fails to materialize. The answer to our prayers may be that we need to endure the situation with God’s help.—Read Isaiah 40:29; Philippians 4:13.
When Making Decisions
10 How do you make weighty decisions in life? Do you perhaps decide first and then pray to Jehovah to bless the decision you have made? Consider what Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, did when the combined forces of the Moabites and the Ammonites came up against him to wage war. Judah was in no position to take a stand against them. What action was Jehoshaphat to take?
11 “Jehoshaphat became afraid and set his face to search for Jehovah,” says the Bible. He declared a fast for all Judah and collected the people together “to inquire of Jehovah.” Then he stood up in the congregation of Judah and of Jerusalem and prayed. In part, he pleaded: “O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For in us there is no power before this large crowd that is coming against us; and we ourselves do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you.” The true God heard Jehoshaphat’s prayer and provided a miraculous deliverance. (2 Chron. 20:3-12, 17) When making decisions, especially those that may affect our spirituality, should we not rely on Jehovah rather than lean upon our own understanding?
12 What should we do when confronted with situations that may seem easier to resolve—perhaps because past experience allows us to think of a solution quickly? An account involving King David provides insight in this regard. When the Amalekites raided the city of Ziklag, they carried off David’s wives and children as well as those of his men. David inquired of Jehovah, saying: “Shall I chase after this marauder band?” Jehovah replied: “Go in chase, for you will without fail overtake them, and you will without fail make a deliverance.” David complied, and he “got to deliver all that the Amalekites had taken.”—1 Sam. 30:7-9, 18-20.
13 Sometime after the Amalekite raid, the Philistines came up against Israel. David again inquired of Jehovah and received a clear answer. God said: “Go up, for I shall without fail give the Philistines into your hands.” (2 Sam. 5:18, 19) Shortly thereafter, the Philistines once more came up against David. What would he do this time? He could have reasoned: ‘I have faced a similar situation twice before. Let me go up against God’s enemies, as I did then.’ Or would David seek Jehovah’s direction? David did not rely on his past experience. He again went to Jehovah in prayer. How glad he must have been that he did! The instructions he received this time were different. (2 Sam. 5:22, 23) When faced with a familiar situation or problem, we must exercise caution that we do not rely solely on past experience.—Read Jeremiah 10:23.
14 Being imperfect, all of us—even experienced elders—need to be on guard against failing to look to Jehovah for direction when making decisions. Consider how Moses’ successor, Joshua, and the older men of Israel responded when approached by shrewd Gibeonites who disguised themselves and pretended to have come from a distant land. Without inquiring of Jehovah, Joshua and others went ahead and made peace with the Gibeonites, concluding a covenant with them. Even though Jehovah ultimately supported the agreement, he made sure that this failure to seek his direction was recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit.—Josh. 9:3-6, 14, 15.
When Struggling to Resist Temptations
15 Having “sin’s law” within our members, we need to put up a strong fight against sinful inclinations. (Rom. 7:21-25) This is a fight that can be won. How? Jesus told his followers that prayer is vital in resisting temptation. (Read Luke 22:40.) Even if wrong desires or thoughts persist after we have prayed to God, we need to “keep on asking God” for wisdom to cope with this trial. We are assured that “he gives generously to all and without reproaching.” (Jas. 1:5) James also writes: “Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well.”—Jas. 5:14, 15.
16 Prayer is essential in resisting temptation, but we must be cognizant of the need to pray at the right time. Consider the case of a certain young man mentioned at Proverbs 7:6-23. During the twilight hours, he is walking down a street where an immoral woman is known to live. Misled by her persuasiveness and seduced by the smoothness of her lips, he goes after her, like a bull that comes to the slaughter. Why had this young man gone there? Since he was “in want of heart,” that is, inexperienced, he was likely struggling with wrong desires. (Prov. 7:7) When would prayer have benefited him the most? Of course, praying to resist temptation at any time during his encounter would have been valuable. But the best time for him to pray would have been when he first had the idea of walking down that street.
17 Today, a man may be trying hard to resist viewing pornography. However, suppose he were to visit Internet sites where he knows there are provocative pictures or videos. Would not his case be similar to that of the young man referred to in Proverbs chapter 7? What a dangerous path to begin walking down! To resist temptation to view pornography, a person needs to seek Jehovah’s help in prayer before starting to go down that route on the Internet.
18 It is not easy to resist temptation or overcome bad habits. “The flesh is against the spirit in its desire,” wrote the apostle Paul, “and the spirit against the flesh.” Therefore, “the very things that [we] would like to do [we] do not do.” (Gal. 5:17) To meet this challenge, we need to pray fervently when wrong thoughts or temptations first come to mind and then act in harmony with our prayers. “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men,” and with Jehovah’s help, we can remain faithful to him.—1 Cor. 10:13.
19 Whether we are dealing with a difficult situation, making a weighty decision, or trying to resist temptation, Jehovah has given us a wonderful gift—the precious provision of prayer. By means of it, we demonstrate our reliance on him. We should also keep on asking God for his holy spirit, which guides and strengthens us. (Luke 11:9-13) And by all means, let us trust in Jehovah and not lean upon our own understanding.
Names have been changed.
Do You Recall?
• What did you learn from Hezekiah, Hannah, and Jonah about trusting in Jehovah?
• How do the examples of David and Joshua emphasize the need for caution when making decisions?
• When especially should we pray about temptations?
1, 2. (a) What situations may confront us? (b) When dealing with distress, making a decision, or resisting a temptation, whom should we lean upon, and why?
3. (a) What does trusting in Jehovah involve? (b) Why may some be inclined to lean upon their own understanding?
4. What will be discussed in this article?
5, 6. How did Hezekiah respond when he was threatened by the king of Assyria?
7. What comfort can we derive from the prayers of Hannah and Jonah?
8, 9. What concerns were expressed in the prayers of Hezekiah, Hannah, and Jonah, and what do we learn from this?
10, 11. What did Jehoshaphat do when confronted with a situation that he did not know how to handle?
12, 13. What example did King David set in making decisions?
14. What lesson can we draw from the way that Joshua and the older men of Israel dealt with the Gibeonites?
15. Explain why prayer is important in resisting temptation.
16, 17. When seeking help to resist temptation, when is the best time to pray?
18, 19. (a) Why can resisting temptation be challenging, but how can you meet the challenge successfully? (b) What is your determination?
[Picture on page 9]
In resisting temptation, when is prayer most beneficial?