A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
Men have intelligence. They set goals and plan the means to achieve them. Irrational creatures cannot do this; they only react by instincts to stimulus. But the creator God sovereignly manages the details of actions, so that you are dependent on Him, for He may bless the good man with a favorable outcome and turn the evil man’s plans upside down.
This proverb by Solomon is important. God rules your life. Man proposes; God disposes. Man freely devises; God powerfully directs. Man creatively plans; God masterfully dictates. Man acts as he pleases; God is pleased by how He uses man’s actions. God is the LORD! Your life and its plans are in His hands. Learn how to utilize this knowledge.
Many wander and wonder through life, wishing they knew God’s will for them. But His will is not a mystery, and much of the answer is in this proverb. Commit your works to the LORD (Pr 16:3; Ps 37:4-5); devise a way to achieve your desired godly objectives (Pr 16:1; 15:22; 20:18); believe that He will take care of the details (Ps 37:23; 84:11).
Obedient Christian reader, these words are for you: the LORD gave you a heart, so follow your affections for what you prefer. He gave you a mind, so think of how you might achieve your goals. Once you commit it to God and follow the rules of Scriptural wisdom, go for it! No matter what it is! Simply submit it to God’s will (James 4:13-15).
There are no “perfect” human plans, so do not look for them. You live in a sinful world; everything is imperfect. God has not revealed perfect choices. You cannot see the next five minutes. Do not waste your life worrying, or you will always be frustrated. Many jobs could serve you well, if the Lord directs your steps. And this is also true with marriage, houses, business deals, family size, and so forth, if you obey revealed wisdom.
If you fear or worry about circumstances or perfect plans, you will hesitate or do nothing, and you will lose God’s blessing for faith and diligence (Eccl 11:3-6). This debilitating situation may be called paralysis by analysis. While some analysis is good, too much is distracting and destructive. Since you do not know what will happen five minutes from now, run on in Biblical wisdom and zeal with whatever you have found to do (Eccl 9:10).
Ruth was a poor widow in a foreign land. She devised in her heart to glean fields – pick up scraps after the reapers – a lowly job with little future potential (Ruth 2:2). But the LORD directed her steps to the field of Boaz, a rich, single man who ended up marrying her, and they had David as their great-grandson (Ruth 2:3; 4:17). Give God the glory!
The Jews were condemned by the Persian Empire to genocide. Esther devised in her heart to have King Ahasuerus and Haman to lunch, though she feared for her life to even ask for the meeting (Esth 4:16-17). But the LORD turned the king’s heart toward her with great affection and responsiveness. After she told him of Haman’s evil plans, the King found Haman begging on her bed, and that was that (Esth 7:7-8). Give God the glory!
Abraham devised a way to find a wife for Isaac, and his servant met Rebekah first. Jacob devised a way to flee from Esau, and the Lord blessed him to become rich with a large family. Joseph chose to be righteous, and the Lord directed his steps to Egypt’s throne. Jesse devised a way to send food to his sons in the army by his youngest son David, not knowing that God was directing David’s steps for a showdown with Goliath.
But look carefully at Esther in reverse. Haman devised a way in his heart to annihilate the Jews, and he manipulated King Ahasuerus into signing the decree (Esth 3:1-15). But the Lord directed him to total humility and ruin by building a gallows, meeting the king at a time that resulted in honoring Mordecai, and falling on Esther’s bed (Esth 5:1 – 7:10).
Consider Joseph in reverse. His brothers devised a way to get rid of “the dreamer,” who tormented them by his divine revelations, but the Lord directed their steps to sell him into Egypt, where he saved them all from starvation some years later (Gen 45:4-8; 50:19-21). They eventually fulfilled every dream Joseph had about them bowing low before him.
The Jews devised in their hearts to rid themselves of Jesus of Nazareth, but the glorious God turned their devices upside down. His crucifixion was God’s choice for the salvation of the Gentiles that they hated and hoped to ruin, and He returned in holy revenge to destroy their temple, city, and nation for their crime. Every step they took in this most heinous crime was according to God’s eternal purpose (Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 15:18).
When hearing about plans of wicked men, do not worry. They can bring nothing to pass that God has not already planned from eternity to overrule for His own glory, purposes, and people. The wicked are His pawns or puppets – His sword and His hand (Ps 17:13-14). Remember, He may even allow prosperity to deceive them (Pr 1:32). Remember, He may allow them to be successful for a while to heap up riches for you (Pr 13:22).
When facing a decision and not knowing what to do, here is wisdom. Submit your life and works to God, choose that course that pleases you best within the limits of godly wisdom, obtain the approval of several wise counselors, and move ahead trusting the Lord to take care of the details out of your control. Do not fret about perfect goals or strategies, for you are not capable of knowing them. Your Heavenly Father cares for you, and He can more than compensate for any “mistake” you make with an inferior choice.
Learn additional wisdom of Psalm 127:1-2, where David explained that your best efforts are vain without God’s blessing. Though God expects you to apply yourself diligently to achieve your goals, the outcome truly depends on His favor, not your ability, genius, or diligence in planning or executing your plans. He wants you to reject excessive worries or effort and go to sleep, because He loves you and will provide what you need.