"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
It is natural to want to “lean” on our “own understanding” during times of uncertainty, disappointment, discouragement, and hopelessness. When we are overcome with fear, doubt, and anger, we tend to seek solace in our own abilities and possessions. However, Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us that our success, peace, and security in life can only be found by wholly and unreservedly placing our faith in God.
In this article, we will explore the meaning and message of Proverbs 3:5-6. We will discuss practical ways to trusting the Lord. Then we will discuss the pitfalls of leaning on our own understanding. Then we will cap it up with benefits of trusting in the Lord with our whole hearts.
Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a popular verse among many people for many years because of the inspiration and encouragement it offers. It has been a source of inspiration for creative works such as poems, songs, paintings, posters, rings, bracelets, keychains, tattoos-–the list is endless. All these works of art help people commit to memory the message and promises of Proverbs 3:5-6. The artworks are a source of inspiration as well as a powerful means of conveying the message of faith in God to our friends and loved ones.
Aside from inspiring artwork and having a positive impact on people’s lives for centuries, what is the true meaning and message of Proverbs 3:5-6? Let’s dive into it.
The Meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”
The passage begins with a positive command to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.” The command is very specific about the action it expects, the object of the action, and the means of carrying out the action. The specific action of the command is trust, the object of the action is the Lord, and the method of carrying it out is with all our hearts.
The phrase “trust in the Lord with all your heart” is the foundation, core argument, or thesis for everything said in the preceding verses. It is actually a culmination of the admonitions given in verses one through four. The preceding verses must be viewed through the lens of trusting in the Lord with all our hearts. Trusting in the Lord with our whole hearts is the glue that holds the entire chapter together. Thus, it is important to understand the meaning of the phrase.
The Hebrew word for trust is bâṭach which means to be confident, sure, bold about something, in this case, the Lord. It is to rely on or place our hope and confidence in God.
The Hebrew word translated heart is lêb which figuratively represents the feelings, the will, and the intellect. Lêb also represents the center of anything. According to R. A. Torrey, the heart also represents the intellect and affections too:
“The heart is the seat of the affections, and it is the affections that must be surrendered to God. It is not enough to give Him the intellect, the will; the affections must be yielded to Him also.”R.A. Torrey’s New Testament Commentary
This means that we should make God the center of our affections, will, intellect, and even our trust. We are to trust Him with all our hearts–with all our being.
What does it mean to “trust the Lord with all your heart?
Based on our findings above, to “trust the Lord with all your heart” means to completely surrender our will to God and make Him the object of our confidence, hope, certainty, and boldness, as well as the center of our motives, feelings, will, intellect, and everything we do. It is to make God’s will the launch pad for all of our actions, motives, and devotion.
The Life Application Study Bible agrees with this view:
“To trust in the Lord with all our hearts is to depend on Him for everything, to look to Him for guidance in every decision and for help in every trouble. It is to trust Him even when we do not understand His ways. It is to believe that He is good and that He cares for us.”Life Application Study Bible
Let us now move to the meaning of the next phrase in our passage.
“Lean Not on Your Own Understanding”
This is a negative command which contrast directly with the positive command “trust in the Lord with all your heart.” The negation starts with the words “lean not.”
The Hebrew word for “lean” is shâan, which means “to support oneself on something.” However, in Proverbs 3:5, the word shâan is used figuratively to mean to rely on, depend on, confide in, cling to, or place hope on something, in this case, our “understanding.”
But, the word lean is also closely related to the word trust. So, basically, the writer is encouraging his audience to shift their trust from self to God.
The Hebrew word for “understanding” is bı̂ynâh, which means to separate mentally, intelligence, faculty, consider, know, think, skill–basically anything involving mental activity. Thus, in the context of this verse, the negation is to shun any mental activity that shifts our trust from God to ourselves.
What does it mean “lean not on your own understanding”?
Based on our study above, to lean not on your own understanding means to “separate mentally” or shun any “mental activity” that diverts your attention away from God and toward yourself.
According to J. Vernon McGee, trusting in God with our own understanding involves the “the heart and affects the whole life.”
“We are to trust God with all our hearts, and not to lean on our own understanding. It is not enough to have an intellectual faith, but it must be a faith that takes hold of the heart and affects the whole life. When we trust in God, we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways. This means that we are to seek His guidance and direction in everything we do.”J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible
“In All Your Ways Acknowledge Him”
“In all your ways acknowledge Him” means to recognize and honor God in every aspect of your life. It means seeking His guidance and wisdom in everything you do and making Him a part of your daily thoughts and actions.
The Reformation Study Bible puts it this way:
“To acknowledge God in all our ways means to seek His guidance and wisdom in all that we do, recognizing that He is sovereign over every aspect of our lives.”The Reformation Study Bible
And He Shall Direct Your Paths
“And He shall direct your paths” means that God will guide and lead you on the right path or course of action. It suggests that if you seek His guidance and wisdom and trust in Him, He will show you the way to go and will help you to make good decisions. Matthew Henry puts it this way:
“He shall direct your paths, not by miracles, but by His word and His providence.”Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
Proverbs 3:5-6 isn’t just a source of inspiration; it’s a spiritual compass for the faithful. It not only deepens our bond with God but also guides our everyday choices to align with His will. For those of faith, this verse is more than words—it’s a path to a closer relationship with the divine.
What Are the Pitfalls of Leaning on or Trusting Your Own Understanding?
According to the Bible, some of the pitfalls of leaning or trusting in your own understanding include:
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18 NIV)
When we rely on our own understanding, we may become proud and think that we don’t need God or anyone else’s guidance. This can lead us to make foolish and selfish decisions.
“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15 NIV)
Relying on one’s own understanding can lead to foolishness, as it ignores the wisdom and guidance of God (Proverbs 12:15).
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12 NIV)
When we rely on our own understanding, we may be deceived into thinking that our own perspective is the right one, even if it is misguided or flawed. This can lead us down the wrong path and have disastrous consequences.
- Lack of wisdom:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:5 NIV)
When we rely on our own understanding, we may lack wisdom and make poor decisions. By asking God for wisdom and submitting to his will, we can avoid this pitfall.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3:7 NIV)
Trusting in one’s own understanding can lead to disobedience to God’s commands and teachings. When we rely on our own understanding, we may defy God’s commands and fail to follow his will for our lives. This can lead us to suffer the consequences of disobedience.
- Distortion of truth:
When we rely on our own understanding, we may distort or twist the truth to fit our own beliefs and agendas. This can lead us to propagate false ideas as truth.
- Estrangement from God:
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Romans 8:7 NKJV)
Relying on one’s own understanding can lead to a separation from God, as it indicates a lack of trust in him. When we rely on our own understanding, we may turn away from God and become estranged from him. This can lead us to experience a lack of peace, joy, and fulfillment in our lives.
By contrast, the Bible encourages us to seek wisdom and understanding from God, rather than relying on our own limited perspective. Proverbs 4:7 says,
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7 NKJV)
By seeking wisdom and insight from God, we can avoid the pitfalls of relying on our own understanding and make choices that are grounded in truth and guided by his will.
Why is it important to trust in the Lord with all your heart?
Here are four reasons why it is important to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding:
- God is sovereign and all-knowing:
God knows what is best for us, even when we don’t fully understand his plans or ways. Psalm 18:30 says,
"The Lord's ways are perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." (Psalm 18:30 NIV)
By trusting in him and submitting to his will, we can have confidence that he is leading us towards what is ultimately best for us.
- Our own understanding is limited:
We are human and have limited understanding and perspective. We may not see the full picture or have all the information we need to make the best decisions. Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
Trusting in the Lord allows us to rely on his greater wisdom and knowledge.
- Trusting in the Lord brings peace:
When we trust in God, we can have peace even in difficult or uncertain situations. Philippians 4:6-7 says,
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
We can rest in the knowledge that he is in control and working everything out for our good.
- Trusting in the Lord helps us grow in faith:
Trusting in God requires us to step out in faith and rely on him, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. Hebrews 11:6 says,
"Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)
This helps us grow in our faith and trust in him more deeply.
Overall, trusting in the Lord with all our heart and leaning not on our own understanding allows us to rely on God’s wisdom and guidance, experience peace, and grow in our faith.
How Can You Trust in the Lord with Your Whole Heart?
The following are eight ways to trust in Lord with the whole heart:
- Let God take the reins:
Trust God with every aspect of your plans. Our key verse urges you to “submit to Him” all your ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). Acknowledge that you can’t do it all on your own and make the conscious decision to surrender the control. Trust that he knows what is best and will guide you in the right direction.
- Seek guidance from the Lord:
Before making any decisions, pray and seek guidance from the Lord. James 1:5 reminds us:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5 NIV).
Be open to God’s leading and be willing to adjust your plans as needed.
- Practice patience:
Trusting in the Lord sometimes requires patience, as we may not always understand his plans or timing. The word of God encourages us to:
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:14 NIV).
Practice waiting on the Lord and trust that he will reveal his plans in his own time.
- Remember that God is sovereign:
Trust that God is in control and working everything out for your good and his glory, even when it doesn’t make sense to you. The Bible reminds us that God, in His sovereignty, has the power to override our plans:
"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).
Hold onto this truth when you are faced with challenges or uncertainty.
- Study the Bible:
Reading and studying the Bible can help you to understand the character and nature of God, which can increase your faith and trust in him. Make the word of God your lamp and light:
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105 NIV).
- Practice gratitude:
Focus on the blessings and gifts that the Lord has given you, and express gratitude for them. Learn to be grateful in all situations as the the scripture admonishes us:
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).
This will help to increase your trust in God’s goodness and provision.
- Recall God’s past faithfulness:
Reflect on times when the Lord has been faithful to you in the past. The psalmist reminded himself of the deeds of the Lord:
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago" (Psalm 77:11 NIV).
This can help to build your confidence in his ability to guide and provide for you in the present and future.
- Seek guidance from the godly:
Turn to trusted and god-fearing mentors in your church or community for guidance and support as you seek to trust in the Lord.
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22 NIV).
What Are the Benefits of Trusting God and Not Leaning on Our Understanding?
- Peace and contentment:
Trusting in the Lord can bring a sense of peace and contentment as we let go of the need to control every aspect of our lives and place our trust in a higher power.
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." - Isaiah 26:3
- Ability to handle adversity:
When we trust in the Lord, we are better able to handle difficult situations and adversity because we have faith that everything will work out for the best.
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." - Romans 5:3-4
- Positive outlook on life:
Trusting in the Lord can help us to have a more positive outlook on life, even in the face of challenges.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13
- Increased Resilience:
Trusting in the Lord can help us to be more resilient and better able to bounce back from difficult situations.
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31
- A Closer relationship with God:
Trusting in the Lord can bring us closer to God and strengthen our relationship with Him.
"Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods." - Psalm 40:4 (NIV)
Journaling Prompt Based on Proverbs 3:5-6
Reflect on a time when you trusted in God and relied on his guidance. How did this affect your decision-making and the outcomes of the situation? How did you feel during this time? How do you think trusting in God can bring peace and wisdom in your life?
Prayer Points Based on Proverbs 3:5-6
- Pray for a deeper trust in the Lord and reliance on Him rather than relying on your own understanding or strength.
- Pray for a willingness to submit to God’s will and guidance in all aspects of your life.
- Pray for God to direct and guide your paths, making them straight and clear.
- Pray for the strength and courage to follow God’s leading, even when it may be difficult or unclear.
- Pray for a heart that is open and receptive to God’s will and direction.
Prayer based on Proverbs 3:5-6
“Dear God, I trust in You and submit to Your will for my life. I lean not on my own understanding, but I put my trust in You. Please guide my paths and make them straight, according to Your will and Your plan for me. I pray that You would lead me and direct my steps, so that I may follow You and serve You in all that I do. Amen.”
Trusting in God means relinquishing control and allowing Him to guide our steps.The Deep Things of God
Last modified: December 10, 2023