“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13 NKJV).
When I first began traveling in South Asia I was continuously shocked at the lack of guard rails and other protective structures in places of danger. One can go onto the roof of a 10 story hotel (or much higher) and there is no wall, rail, or barrier at the edge. Similarly, roads and paths have little or no barricades at dangerous curves and drop-offs. When I commented on how “unsafe” this is, my companion smiled and said, “You Americans are spoiled; we watch where we are walking and driving.
There are at least two approaches to making such areas safer. One is to protect the people by building barriers to prevent them from falling. The other is to train the people to be careful and watchful so they will not fall. Both have their value, but I would argue that the second way is the most likely to provide safety. When we trust ourselves to watch and take precautions we establish a habit of safety. When we become dependent upon others’ devices we enter upon the unknown; when will they have failed?
The Hebrew writer suggests a combination of self-preparation and improvement of the hazardous situation. First, he urges that we strengthen our hands and knees which are weak. We are to prepare ourselves for successful and safe negotiation of the perils we face. We must gain knowledge of God, spiritual strength, and faith that we will be able to resist evil.
Then he also tells us to “make straight paths.” Do not be an unquestioning victim of circumstance. We have abilities to alter our situations, to change our routes, and to improve the conditions in which we live. It is too easy to say, “I couldn’t help it; the pressures were just too great.” Like the righteous man of Psalm 1, we may refuse to listen to the counsel of the ungodly, to stand with sinners, or to sit with the scornful (Psalm 1:1). Those groups will always be around; we do not have to remain in their midst.
Like the people of South Asia, the Hebrew writer places the responsibility on us. We must strengthen ourselves; we must improve our own situations. There is far too much willingness to blame others for our failures. Let us trust in God and address our own weaknesses and needs. “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31?