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
This passage is familiar to many and is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. And what often happens when something becomes familiar to us is that we just gloss over it. After all, we know it. But the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6 has some incredible truth that can challenge us in our life and faith.
In this blog post we are going to dive into the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6 and break it down piece by piece. I believe if you spend a few minutes reflecting on this incredible verse your faith will be encouraged.
The Context Of Proverbs 3:5-6
It’s important to start with an understanding of what the book of Proverbs is because it’s a unique book of the Bible. This book centers around wisdom, how to find it and how to live it.
If you were to read through a few chapters of Proverbs you would find the writing style quite different than other books. John Collins describes it this way, “To read straight through a few chapters of Proverbs is like trying to have a conversation with someone who always replies with a one-liner.”
These little snippets found through Proverbs center around how to get and use godly wisdom. Not get rich quick schemes, success formulas, or how to live your best life now. No, Proverbs is all about principles and priorities.
In the immediate context of Proverbs 3:5-6 we see Solomon (the author) writing about peace being the benefit of wise living. And as he wraps up this section he makes an appeal to seek wisdom.
It’s in the context that we find this plea to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” This is how we can live at peace, when we do what God says is best rather than what we think is best.
The Meaning Of Proverbs 3:5-6
To help us better understand the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6 and what it means for us today we are going to break down these two verses into four sections.
Trust In The Lord With All Your Heart Meaning
The word “trust” here implies both the decision to trust God but also a commitment to create a habit of trusting. Simply put, trusting in God isn’t a decision we simply make in our head. That’s the first step. But we have to follow it up with action.
When you first follow Christ you are making a decision to trust God. Following that decision comes a commitment to actually follow through. This means that throughout our daily lives we are actively placing our trust in God.
This isn’t an instant process. Placing our trust in God is something that we have to learn. In each situation that comes our way we have to take it and place it in God’s hands.
The word “heart” describes to the extent to which we are to trust in God. This word indicates the center of our being. In other words we are to trust God with everything we are and everything we have. No exceptions.
Trusting in the Lord with all your heart means that you have placed your hope in Christ alone. Nothing else. No one else.
Lean Not On Your Own Understanding Meaning
The second part of this verse contrasts what we should do with what we shouldn’t do.
Even after placing our trust in God we will be tempted to resort back to our old way of living: leaning on our own understanding.
The concept of “trusting” and “leaning” have similar meanings, but differ. To trust means to put yourself fully at the mercy of another. To lean is not simply reclining against, but relying on something for support to stay upright.
Many Christians still lean on their own wisdom even though they’ve declared they trust in God. The problem is you can’t do both. You can’t say you trust in God if you haven’t let go of everything. After all, we aren’t called to trust God with SOME or MOST. Rather with ALL our heart.
Rather than looking for wisdom within ourselves or this world, followers of Jesus need only look to God.
In All Your Ways Submit To Him Meaning
As we enter the next verse we see a continuation of the exclusive language. In ALL your ways, not some, but ALL your ways submit to him.
In Proverbs 3:6 Solomon chooses the word “submit” or “acknowledge” rather than trust. This word means to be in fellowship with God and not just a casual relationship. This means that we obey God’s direction and rules for our life.
Again the point is similar to Proverbs 3:5. We are to submit every part of our being to God. Rather than doing what we want, we pursue what God says is best.
He Will Make Your Paths Straight Meaning
This Proverb ends with a promise. If we trust in God. If we lean not our own understanding. If we submit to God. THEN he will make our paths straight.
The reality is when we trust in ourselves and lean on our own wisdom, it doesn’t work out so well for us. It never leads to the life we hoped it would. Lasting joy can only be found in God.
Now we should be careful. Prosperity Gospel teachers have taken this to mean that those who trust God will have a good life by the world’s standards. We need only to look at Jesus’ life and what he went through to know that’s not the case.
The Proverbs 3:5-6 meaning isn’t that everything will always work out in our favor if we trust God. Sometimes we will face difficulties and go down dark and difficult paths as part of following Jesus.
Our limited understanding can make it seem like the trials of this life mean God isn’t in control or good. But what Proverbs 3:5-6 is communicating is that what appears to be right in the moment, isn’t always the case. And what appears to be doom and gloom in the moment can be used for good if we trust God.
As Romans 8:28 says, “all things work together for the good of those who trust God.” The Bible doesn’t promise us an easy life. Rather it promises us that God is with us and one day we will be able to see the full picture.
Our paths might not appear straight in our finite view of things. But for those who trust in the Lord, he is guiding us and one day we will see the fullness of what he has done.
How To Trust In The Lord
I want to end by giving you some tangible ways you can actively apply the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6 to your life.
1. Give Your Worries To God
In 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to cast ALL our anxieties on God because he CARES for you. What an incredible promise that I think is a great way to actively trust in God.
Whenever something comes up that you are worried about, give it to God. Big, small, or somewhere in-between, you can cast it upon God.
You can trust in the Lord by giving him your worries.
For more on giving our worries to God check out: The Surprising Truth About The 1 Peter 5:7 Meaning (cast all your anxiety on him)
2. Connect With God Regularly
Trust is built over time. It’s built by taking steps of faith unsure if God will come through. And with each step that trust is built.
To build that trust you need to connect with God regularly. I know that’s something a pastor always says. But I just know of no other way to grow your trust in God other than spending time with him.
3. Follow God’s Wisdom
The world around us is constantly bombarding us with its wisdom and telling us what to think and do. And many Christians listen more to the world’s wisdom rather than God’s.
Followers of Jesus should trust that even when it doesn’t make sense that God’s wisdom is best. His way is the only way to the life he promised us.
Looking for a great resource to help you grow in your faith and follow God’s wisdom? I HIGHLY recommend Mark Moore’s books Core 52 and Quest 52. These simple 15 minute daily readings will help you connect with God and understand the Bible better. They are INCREDIBLE. Plus there’s kids/teen versions as well!
4. Live In Community
Life is hard. The reality is we need each other. We weren’t meant to live alone. And there will be times in our lives where following Jesus seems impossible. It’s in those times that we need others to hold us up.
Part of trusting in God is allowing others to speak into our lives.
I wish this wasn’t part of trusting God, don’t you? I’m not a very patient person. But I’ve learned there’s purpose in the process. Those waiting seasons are never wasted seasons. God is doing something.
Even when we can’t see it, God is working. Trusting in God means that we wait patiently on him.
Thank you for reading this blog post on the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6, I hope that you were challenged and encouraged in your faith! If you were would you share it with a friend so they can benefit too?
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