Learning to Lean

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

– Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Lean not on your own understanding.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to lean on things a lot. When I walk in a room to talk to someone, I lean on the doorpost. When I’m sitting at my desk at work, I lean on the armrest of my chair. When I’m driving, I either lean on the car door or lean on the center console. When I’m sitting at a table, I either lean forward on the table or lean back in my chair. Blame it on my poor posture, physical weakness, or just plain laziness – I’m not sure why I do it, but leaning just seems to come naturally to me. It’s not that I couldn’t stand up straight if I wanted to, or support my own weight if I needed to, it’s just more comfortable not to.

And it’s the same way in life.

I lean on my friends, my family, my church, my work, my talents, my hobbies, my finances, etc. I depend on these people and things to be there when I need them to be there – I depend on them to meet my needs and satisfy my desires. I look to them for comfort, and I lean on them for support. I seek their advice, their counsel, and their understanding.

I trust them, because I see them. I hear them. I feel them. I’m not Thomas, I can’t touch the holes in Jesus’ hands and side… so why should I trust Him? I can’t see His plan, so how could I understand?

When I make these kind of excuses, I am a hypocrite. Why do we condemn Thomas and label him by his faults when we ourselves doubt God’s power every day. Meanwhile, we lean on our own understanding and put our trust in weaker powers.

In the book Live Loved, Max Lucado writes,

“You take steps of trust daily, even hourly. You believe the chair will support you, so you sit your weight on it. You believe water will hydrate you, so you swallow it. You trust the work of the light switch, so you flip it. You have faith the doorknob will work, so you turn it. You regularly trust in power you cannot see to do a work you cannot accomplish. Jesus invites you to do the same with Him.”

Trust in a power you cannot see to do a work you cannot accomplish – that’s what it means to lean on Jesus.

I love the perspective of trusting Jesus in this video, please take the time to watch:


How often do we find ourselves in this same situation? We have ourselves convinced that we understand God’s plan, that we’ve trusted Him completely… But it’s our own understanding we’re leaning on. God  is calling us to bigger and better things and yet we find ourselves crippled with fear, crippled by doubt.

There is a reason Scripture tells us not to lean on our own understanding – It’s for our good. It’s meant to protect us from falling flat on our face, or flat on our back, or falling flat in whatever direction our leaning is leading us.

Our understanding is based on our thoughts, our opinions, and our views of the world and how it operates. Look at all of the leaning we see in politics – There are people who lean left, and people who lean right. There are people on the left who lean a little the right, and there are people on the right who lean a little to the left. Then there are people who lean so far one way or the other that I find myself wondering how they haven’t completely lost their balance and toppled over yet.

When we lean on our own understanding, we are leaning on the belief that our understanding is correct – absolute truth, completely trustworthy. But in the wise words of The Black Eyed Peas’ song Where is the Love… it’s our “lack of understanding leading us away from unity.”

Romans 3:11 tells us, “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” and Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

We can’t even begin to understand the plans of God – His ways are higher, His thoughts are  higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). Scripture tells us no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can comprehend the things God has prepared (1 Corinthians 2:9).

So why do we trust so much in our own understanding, and so little in His? Why do we choose to lean on our lack of understanding, rather than leaning on the One who gives understanding?

Isaiah 29:16 says,

“You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?”

This world is full of division because we are all trusting in our own understanding. We are all so convinced that our plans are the best plans, and our thoughts are the best thoughts, that we close our minds to anything contradictory. The anger and hostility, the arguments and hateful words – It could all cease if we would simply learn the right way to lean.

What a world this would be if we would only learn to lean into each other rather than away from each other, if only we would learn to listen simply for the sake of listening rather than listening in order to form a rebuttal, if only we would learn to seek to understand rather than seek to be understood. I think that kind of world would look a lot more like the Kingdom of God, a lot more like the body of Christ – living and active, working and moving together. But in order for that kind of world to exist, we must be fully trusting and fully leaning on the power of God – the power that gives us the strength and ability to do a work that only He can do. We must lean to learn, and we must learn to lean.