25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
In our western, 21st century culture of fast-paced living, keeping our eyes ahead and our gaze affixed directly before us is about as hard as it gets. ADHD is the name of the game these days, but I can’t help but wonder how much our trouble is less about cognitive attention or neurological disorder inasmuch as spiritual, heart-attention.
In truth, we need to ask the most fundamental question: What are looking at exactly; to what are to have our gaze affixed? I want to suggest that Solomon does not have a career in mind – he does not have retirement accounts, political status, popularity or any variety of this-side-of-heaven sort of things. And these are the “good things”.
What about suffering? Isn’t is easy to fixate on some wound someone inflicted on us years ago; to nurse a grudge because for sure we know better. We can be prone to perseverate on our lack where not only does depression become our closest friend, but anxiety and fear are our nearest neighbor who knows us by name.
So much of my work as a counselor essentially involves helping people learn to divert the gaze of their eyes off their suffering and on to Christ.Tweet
And this is what I think we are called to think about in light of this passage. When Solomon says, let your eye look ahead, the Christian is to look to ahead to Christ. In other words, we need to ask less, what am I looking at and more who am I looking at.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Why do we have so much difficulty keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus?
In part, I think much of it has to do with us not giving careful thought to the paths of our feet. We run to the left and to the right, sometimes directly into sin, and other times it’s a mere evasion of steadily holding on to our God-given responsibilities.
Mature commitment to the core things in this life such as our families or our local church can take second place when something more pleasurable catches our attention.
It’s one thing to heed this advice in our head, and desire wholeheartedly to live out this passage of giving careful thought to the paths of our feet, but what does this passage really mean?
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Application One: Ask Questions Continually
It’s hard to give careful thought. Giving careful thought involves asking questions about our heart we might not otherwise like to ask in a given situation: Should I marry so-and-so or why do I avoid dating altogether; do we have another child; why am I really looking at porn; why can’t I stop flirting with this person who is already married; why am I so angry; what I can’t stop raising my voice.
You get the point.
In many ways, this is what counseling is: To help others give careful thought to the paths of their feet. Oftentimes, folks come to counseling not really wanting others to speak into their life. Sometimes folks come to counseling believing they’ve already given careful thought to things and assume the therapist will help them check the box for their self-justifying ways.
Sometimes the best counseling is not merely reflection on problems inasmuch questions about our heart.
Giving careful thought means we welcome hard questions; questions we need to ask of ourselves and questions we need to let others ask of us.Tweet
Application Two: Let others into your heart
Giving careful thought requires letting others into the life of our heart. We do well to involve others in our lives who love us and who are given freedom to speak to us when it seems to them we are not giving careful thought to things.
This isn’t necessarily a free pass for anyone, but it is a necessity for long term sustainability of this passage. Additionally, this doesn’t necessarily mean seeking out a professional or formally trained counselor. Mature brothers and sisters in Christ are designed for this very purpose (See Rom 15:14 and Col 3:16).
I have to watch myself, too. Things aren’t always as they seem even from an outsider’s perspective. Moreover, I cannot assist others when my own life as a counselor is run amuck with not only little thought about my own life, but if I am also prone to turning to the left and right in flippant and sinful ways. I must lead by example.
Application Three: Think about sin
What I mean by this is that we are to give careful thought to the ways we may be prone to erring to the left or to the right. As an extension of verse 27, do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil, careful thought will always involve a keen awareness of the way sin is working itself out in our heart.
When a Christian gives careful thought to the paths of their feet, it will involve carefully thinking about sin that may be lurking in their heart waiting to have us, (See Genesis 4:7).Tweet
Wise and mature Christians will take the journey of being honest with themselves and with others in their inner circle to face sin head on by avoiding it, fighting it, repenting of it, confessing it, putting in the light and never giving up in this battle. Romans 7 is a helpful treatise in realizing what lay ahead for all Christians in their fight against sin.