“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:1 (ESV)
A few years ago, I was praying for a close friend. She had made choices that created a personal crisis. It had the power to destroy almost everything she cared about. As I prayed for her, I asked, “Lord, what can I do?” Though I was asking God for help, I was already on task.
I would offer wisdom. I would be her accountability partner. I would give encouragement to support her through the hard days ahead. I would help her navigate this crisis.
As I prayed, however, the answer tumbling into my heart was not what I expected.
This is not your assignment.
This was surprising. It seemed right to offer words of wisdom or help her make a plan. It seemed best to help her take the next step.
But that’s not what God was asking of me in this situation. As the weeks passed, I started seeing this journey with my friend as “chalk-line faith.” It was like God had drawn a chalk line around my feet. Everything within that chalk line was something I could do. I could pray. I could be present. I could love her.
Everything outside of that chalk line was either my friend’s assignment or God’s.
Years later, I’ve realized the power of chalk-line faith. It’s something God has brought to mind in other situations. It’s not easy, but I’ve learned from it.
In today’s key passage, we find a wise saying that helps us when we’re making plans, especially if those plans concern someone else.
Proverbs 16:1 says, "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.”
My plan was to rescue my friend, because I loved her. Chalk-line faith recognized that God loves her even more than I do.
My plan was to offer words of wisdom, perhaps even a plethora of them. Chalk-line faith meant I held back my well-meaning words because the Lord may have had something different to say.
My plan, though I may not have admitted it, was to help fix the situation and soften the consequences. Chalk-line faith meant God wanted to do His work in her and for her to trust in Him as she did the hard work.
Chalk-line faith wasn’t easy in the beginning. There were multiple times words bubbled inside of me dying to get out, but each time, I imagined that chalk line.
One day she called and said, “Thanks for listening. I really appreciate all the words you spoke to me. They were so wise.”
I smiled at this. I had not given one piece of advice, and the words I did share contained no plans, no fix-its, but simply let her know I was praying and I loved her.
Instead, she and God were talking daily, and He was doing an incredible work in her heart. It wasn’t an easy or consequence-free path, but it was one that was changing her.
Proverbs 17:27a says, “A truly wise person uses few words” (NLT).
My friend was not the only one God was teaching through “chalk-line faith.” I was learning as well.
Wisdom is not found in our plans or our words. Wisdom is found in allowing God to have the first and final word.
Heavenly Father, my instinct is to rush in and make plans, especially if someone I care about has made mistakes. Remind me of that chalk line around my feet, Lord. Show me when I start to step outside of my assignment. Give me the courage to trust You and allow You to work in this person’s heart and life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” (NLT)
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We may not always know what to do, but we are promised a Helper. Discover how the Holy Spirit leads us into truth and discernment in Suzie Eller’s book, The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without Borders.
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
We might equate chalk-line faith with not caring. That’s not true at all. Instead, this frees us to do our assignment well, rather than fail at what was never ours to carry.
Today, think of ways you can make a difference within your chalk line: Be present. Send a card saying you care. Listen, and then let them know you’ll pray.
What are some ways you can make a difference within your chalk line today? Be present. Send a card saying you care. Listen, and then let them know you’ll pray. Share your ideas in the comment section!
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