Reading Proverbs: Don’t Confuse Principles with Promises

“The godly are rescued from trouble and it falls on the wicked instead.” Proverbs 11:8

I read this verse in my women’s small group yesterday and immediately sensed a tension in the room.  Wait, what did that verse say? 

On first glance, it seems to be saying two things:

  1. God rescues righteous people from trouble.
  2. Wicked people get the trouble instead.

Some of the women in my group had questions about this, and, admittedly, I sometimes get tripped up here as well.

IF this verse is saying that godly people are rescued from trouble and that trouble falls on wicked people, then if I am in trouble or distress, does that mean I am wicked?

And…

How does this verse stand up against other verses in the Bible that talk about how we will face troubles?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (James 1:2)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)

Because the Bible is full of God’s promises to us, it is tempting to read Proverbs as a list of promises or conditional statements; If I do this, then God will do that.

The book of Proverbs is not a list of God’s promises for those who live a godly life, it is a collection of principles to guide those who seek to live a godly life.

When we study the book of Proverbs or any book of the Bible for that matter, it’s important to know the context, including the author’s purpose.  This is easy to figure out in this book because Soloman lays it out in the first chapter:


A Manual for Living

These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
    David’s son, Israel’s king—
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
    to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
    for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
    and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
    still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
    the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.  (Prov. 1:2-6 msg paraphrase)


So this isn’t a list of God’s promises, it is an instruction manual, advice from a wise man, to teach, guide, and give examples of how to live a life that pleases God.  It’s the “best practices” or guiding principles, not an oath, a contract, a list of ‘benefits’ for believers.

There are many articles that go into more detail about the purpose, format, writing style, etc. (see below), so let’s move to my final point here.

When reading & interpreting meaning from scripture, pay attention & read carefully.

Proverbs 11:8 doesn’t say that only the wicked see trouble, it says that God rescues the righteous from trouble.  We can’t be taken out of something if we aren’t in it!

I took a little time to do a quick check in my concordance for the Hebrew meanings of the words in this verse.  I have found this is a good practice whenever I am having difficulty understanding the concept of a verse or discerning its meaning.

I won’t go into this too much, but just know that the word ‘delivered’ in addition to meaning rescued, can also mean equipped or strengthened.  The word trouble also has roots in a word meaning ‘tight place’ like being crowded by an opponent.

This verse in Proverbs isn’t promising that God will rescue us from trouble, although there are many verses that refer to God’s protection in times of trouble.  The purpose of this verse is to remind the reader that when one is in a ‘tight place’ in this world, to practice ‘righteousness’ or act justly to glorify God.  Does that automatically remove us from trouble? Perhaps not, but focusing on God and his will, might just give us the ‘space’ we need to not to be pressed down by the trouble.

I’m glad my small group brought this up the other day.  God’s word has the power to bring so much clarity, purpose, joy, and wisdom to help us in our journey of faith, but when we misunderstand it, we can experience so much pain, shame, or confusion.  Because my friend felt comfortable enough to ask, we were able to discuss and come to a deeper understanding of this particular scripture and wisdom about how to read scripture in the future.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17


For more helpful tips & insight on reading Proverbs:
Parents, Beware: Proverbs Are Not Promises by David Mathis

For more on how to study the Bible in general:
For more about God’s Promises:

Recovery Revisited: Why I Won’t Finish This Series

I love a good series.  Give me a good blog series, sermon series, tv series, and even Pilates series, and I am IN!  I am a creature of habit.  I have a workout routine, a daily routine, a bedtime routine.  Once I find an author I like, I read all of his/her work.  Podcasts?  Don’t get me started!

I crave sameness.  If given the opportunity, I will watch the same tv show every day, Law & Order, even though I have seen all the episodes MANY times. (I scheduled my college courses to make sure I was home in time to watch the 1pm episode, true story.)

My love of scheduling does have advantages.  It made my recovery easier, because once I found routines that worked for me, I was able to ‘get in the recovery groove’ so to speak and develop good habits to replace my bad ones.  It also helps me stay healthy, well-read, and productive.

Routines are good.  Many of us feel that if we just had a good routine, things would be better.  “I need a good workout.” (or diet plan or Bible Study)  “I need to get the kids on a schedule,” we say.  And, to some extent, this is true.  Developing good habits requires practice, routine, a series of days of repetition.

However, there can be a dark side to routine, to doing a series of things repeatedly, for being scheduled.  From a workout perspective, too much repetition or lack of flexibility in your schedule can cause injury.  And most people who have been through eating disorder recovery will tell you that only having too much routine in eating can be a slippery slope.

Even if we are too regimented in the books we read, podcasts we listen to, or tv show we watch, we can fail to see the multi-faceted world around us.

Yes, I want to write a series about my recovery now, years after my initial struggle.  I want to compare ‘new’ in recovery to ‘now’ in recovery.  But after my initial post, I realized something.  Although routine and following a series of steps helped me recover and helps me stay recovered, life doesn’t happen in a series.

My daily life may be scheduled, but the issues and circumstances in my life are not.  I cannot predict what life is going to put in my path on a given day.  I cannot predict what lessons I will learn.  I cannot always describe in words what I am being taught, how I am feeling, or the growth that is happening.  These things take time, sometimes a long time, and trying to fit these lessons in a ‘series’ doesn’t always work.

So though I walk in recovery every day by making a series of choices, practicing learned routines that help me stay well, I will not write about my recovery or my life in a series.  Instead, as I learn, grow, discover new things, I will share them in hopes that they, in turn, encourage, inspire, and cause you to learn, grow, and discover new things.

See you soon, but I’m not sure when…no schedule, let’s just go with the flow.

 

Recovery Revisited: When The Emptiness Returns

In recovery from my eating disorder, I had to learn the right way to be empty and to achieve fullness.  I wrote about the struggle to sit in my physical fullness and the realization that nothing could fill me but God.  That time in my life was, for me, an experience that God used to show me that I needed Him. Not just to be filled with the life He had designed for me, but also to be emptied with all the things that were keeping me from that fullness.  While I was trying to empty myself of the wrong things, God was using my disorder & my recovery, to empty me of the habits, misconceptions, and circumstances that were keeping me from being able to be filled by His presence.

When I went through that time, I thought I had discovered the secret, found a way to stay emptied of the bad and filled with the good.  But as I have traveled through the last few years of life, it is obvious to me that this is an area where I am, once again, experiencing emptiness.  How can I feel at once so full and so empty simultaneously?

I have found myself feeling so very, very empty yet seemingly choking on the many things crammed in my schedule, in my life, and in my thoughts.  And, in my quest to not be ‘stuffed’, I have emptied myself.  Not of food necessarily like I once would have, but of the very things that used to bring me joy, and the fullness of God’s presence.  I wrote in the original post (referenced above):

“There is also a spiritual hunger within me…one that seeks fullness.  I need both of these.  The hunger drives me more and more into God’s Word; into fellowship with Him.  Seeking the fullness is the most worthwhile pursuit of my life.”

 

Seeking the fullness of Christ, of His presence in my life is my most worthwhile pursuit, yet I have forsaken that for the day-to-day pursuits of trying to be ‘worthwhile’ for my job, for my family, for, let’s face it- myself.

And now, I am full, yet empty.  I am drowning, yet thirst for more.  Consuming, yet hungry.  Why? Because I am full of my own empty attempts to ‘feed’ myself and my soul, bathing in the excesses of the world that promises satisfaction, yet still, and more deeply,  I remain empty of His Presence.

So now I must revisit recovery.

Just like my nutrition needs must be met daily, I must, too, meet my spiritual needs daily.  I also cannot assume that what I once needed to nourish me will still suffice today.  Our needs change, what my body needs for fuel may be different than it once was.  What my spirit needs to be filled by God’s presence may be different than it used to be.  However, I can’t go seeking physical fullness by using counterfeit nutrition, things that promise ‘no more hunger’ but lack the nutrients my body needs.  I similarly can’t go running to counterfeit spirituality to find fullness that only comes from Christ.  That said, trying new ways to experience God, seek Him, and enter His presence are all pursuits that might be the very thing that revives my wounded and weakened spirit.

 

It would be easy for me to give up, to give in, to fall into the trap of believing I can fill my empty spirit with more food, or more fitness, or more work, or more ‘good deeds’ or more sleep…or. or. or….But God created us to hunger, created us to need something more than we can provide for ourselves.   As long as we are trying to be the one that nourishes our own spirits, we will wind up eating ourselves up.  There will be nothing left.   So I am ok with feeling the emptiness for now, knowing that the fullness will come, but also knowing that, if not nurtured, and nourished, the fuel that keeps my spirit running, will eventually burn out.  This is an awareness that I did not have as I walked through recovery the first time and I am exceedingly grateful that God has allowed me to feel this empty again, so that I know that He longs to be the One that fills me again…and again…and again.  So I begin to revisit recovery of my spirit, my mind, and yes, my body, in the hope of receiving the restoration only Christ gives.

 

FAITHful Fitness Friday: You Are Wonderfully Made.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

One reason that people often say that they are not worried about having a “hot body”, they just want to “feel better about themselves.”  After all, if you Google “benefits of exercise”, you will find articles claiming that exercise can make you happier, smarter (yep!), and better than you are now.  Although I do not think it is problematic for us to use physical exercise to help us reduce a little stress, we must be careful not to base our mood on whether or not we get to exercise.  Another thing that can happen is that we tend to let our mood or opinion about ourselves be determined by what others around us are doing at the gym, (or what they look like compared to us.)

A few years ago my husband and I trained to climb a mountain in Colorado.  We prepped ourselves here in Florida for months and even did several practice hikes before we attempted our ascent of Mt. Bierstadt, a 14,000 ft mountain.  I can tell you that we were both feeling like we were accomplishing something great–physically, mentally, and spiritually.  That is until we were passed by SEVERAL groups of people including one man who was running with his dog (he actually passed us twice, once on the way up and then again as he made his running descent with his energetic doggie still keeping the pace.)

Maybe you haven’t experienced that, but have you ever joined a gym to try to improve your health?  You sign up for classes, make a plan that seems challenging yet possible for you, only to be discouraged when you can’t understand the directions in yoga or you feel like your heart rate is at is “max” only to have the lady next to you ask if you are almost finished with your warmup!!!

What is good for you does not have anything to do with others.  Your fitness goals do not have to “measure up” to anyone else’s.  At the end of that June day in Colorado….the man who ran up the mountain covered the same ground as Mark and I…and we got to enjoy more of the scenery!! (That doesn’t make his goal less valid than ours, but, in the end, we both accomplished what we set out to do, the way that was best for us!)

Sometimes we think we need to exercise in order to feel better about ourselves, to be “better”.  Yes, there are benefits to exercise and we need to learn how to incorporate exercise into our routine in order to maintain good health.   However, nothing we do–the amount of exercise, the foods we eat, how much time we spend volunteering, cleaning house, or (this one’s for me) writing blogs:)…none of these things should be where we place our mood or our value of ourselves.  Our true worth only comes from God, through His Son, Jesus.

In today’s verse, we see that we are cherished creations of God.  He thought, planned, and designed us–not just our outsides, but into our innermost parts.  How might thinking about yourself (body and soul) as ALREADY wonderfully made change the way you exercise and take care of your body?


 

Recovery Revisited: Looking Back & Moving Forward

Three years ago I did a blog series called CORErecovery: Out of the Valley of Dry Bones.  I wanted to walk through, step by step, sharing my story of how my faith in God helped me recover from my eating disorder.  More than just a memoir or a diary, this series was intended to provide practical helps for people of faith who were seeking to recover.  At the time I wrote, things were going well, I felt strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Every now and then, Facebook will show me one of these posts in my “memories” and I look back at it.  Sometimes I smile, or even giggle at my writing style- (still rather new back then.)  Other times I wonder how I wrote all of that- how confident I seemed, how sure, how bold.  It definitely was a time where I felt very firm and secure.  We hear people talk about being ‘on fire for Jesus’-well, that was what the blog series was for me…my fire for Jesus.

In the years since the original posts, my blog has changed focus, my life has changed dramatically, my perspective on some things has shifted, and my understanding of God and my relationship with Him has continued to develop.

My recovery, too, has changed.

From the beginning of my time recovering from the eating disorder, I have maintained that I believe that recovery is not merely something you walk through and leave behind. Rather, it is a choice to live daily in freedom from whatever was holding you in bondage.  In the early days, that meant moment by moment decisions about food, physical activities, and avoiding things that triggered negative thinking.  By the time I wrote the blog series, these things were more like habits,  I wasn’t having to focus so hard on recovery, it just was.  My life moved freely, for the most part.

Today, three years later, I still say that I have recovered from my eating disorder, but things are different now.  In recent months, there have been times when I felt like my recovery, my life in freedom, was in jeopardy.  I have doubted and been afraid.  I have wondered about relapse and how it could happen to me.  But instead of just frantically trying to escape relapse, to merely avoid doing those things that would suck me back in, I decided to stop running.

I stopped, turned around, and stared relapse right in the face.  With clenched teeth and teary eyes I looked at the very thing I feared— relapse-and I said, “Not today.”  I will not live my life running from something—eating disorders, relapse, or any of the other myriad things I fear from time to time.  I am going to live my life running toward something—my goals, my dreams, my Creator.

So instead of relapsing, I’m going to Revisit Recovery.   In this new blog series, I will revisit my old posts from CORErecovery: Out of the Valley and discuss how my experiences over the last three years, especially the last several months have changed my recovery, how I maintain it, and how I believe in and understand God’s grace and mercy over my life.

Whether you are new to recovery, are a ‘long-timer’ like me, or perhaps are just curious about what recovery is like in real life, I encourage you to join me on this new journey…

Recovery Revisited: Looking Back and Moving Forward

FAITHful Fitness: All or Nothing

Faithful Fitness Friday [Repost]-First posted 11/2/2013

Restore Your Core

 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

This might look like the beginning of a post about resting in fitness, but it is not.  In fact, it is a post about work—hard work.

I have been thinking about hard work lately.  Recovering from an injury to my back made all of my fitness “work” go from requiring what one would consider a normal amount of effort to requiring more than I thought I could give.  Sometimes, knowing that I could not do what I once could and even being unsure what I COULD do made me feel like just giving up.  I questioned if it was even…

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Faithful Fitness: When You Feel Like Quitting-RESIST!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Often when I teach a Pilates class, I hear people saying things like, “Well, I can’t do this or that because I am so weak.” You know what I say to that? “All the more reason to do it!” You see, in order to build strength in our bodies, we have to actually USE our bodies. If you want stronger arm muscles, you will have to use your arm muscles! It is easy to give in to our weaknesses. It is much more difficult to RESIST! It is here, in the act of resistance, that we find and build our strength.

In physical fitness, resistance training is, “…any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance.” (Source: eMedicineHealth.com)

One of the simplest ways to practice resistance training is to use our bodies as the “external resistance”. When we use our own bodies–even in their current “weak” states–we can make them stronger through resistance training. In our weakness, we become stronger.

In order for this to work, however, we must follow a few guidelines. In Pilates, for example, we first must be properly aligned and then engage our core strength (whatever that may be) through breathing. When our bodies are aligned and the proper core muscles recruited, we are best equipped to start building more strength.

The same is true for our spiritual strength. We want to be stronger in our faith, but we often feel weakened by “external resistance”. When life places the “heavy things” on our shoulders (stress, depression, relationship or health issues), we collapse, we cannot stand. We cry out in our weakness for God to save us from these external forces. Instead, perhaps we should choose to RESIST! I do not mean avoid these heavy things, as so often that is not possible, but knowing that WITH GOD all things are possible, we can resist, push back, engage our spiritual “muscles” in order to build strength and endurance!

How does this work? Much like our Pilates steps… In order to utilize God’s strength in our lives, we must:

1) Align ourselves to His Will

2) Engage the CORE of our faith which is CHRIST

3) BREATHE in the Holy Spirit through prayer and study of God’s Word.

Yes, in our own spiritual selves we are too weak to resist the external resistances of this world, but with CHRIST as our center, we can move with His Power in us. The heavy things do not rest upon us then, but on Him as we do the same. The Power of Christ is revealed in us as we allow Him to move us to push back or resist in our weakness.

We will continue to look at physical and spiritual principles of strength in posts to come…until then, RESIST!