“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Explanation and Commentary on Proverbs 16:9
It is commonly thought among humans that if one wants to be somebody, he or she must find something to accomplish. Most people will do this by looking around the world to see who and what others most admire, then set their hearts on becoming that, or accomplishing it. The hope is that once they’ve achieved this victory, they will be somebody, be happy, or even earn some kind of salvation.
Even those who do not have the self-discipline and drive to go after their dreams spend their time wishing and dreaming, even if it takes the form of condemnation for their failures.
This is the way of the world. It will lead to either achieving the goals and being left with pride, or worse, emptiness upon finding that the goal was not worthy. Alternatively, it will lead to failure and condemnation, feeling low and full of self-pity. To understand that the Lord establishes his or her steps will set a person free from this cycle. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and the Lord, who establishes your steps, will add all things to you.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 16:9
#1 “In their hearts…”
In most places where the heart is mentioned in Scripture, it is not looked upon kindly. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Jer 17:9)? Mark 7:21-22 says, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” Just follow your heart may work for Disney, but it is terrible advice for the believer.
#2 “…humans plan their course,”
It is right to plan to a certain extent; what is for dinner tonight? When will I finish my work? But the kind of planning that is not good is the arrogant kind that desires its own way and has expectations for how things are going to go. This is essentially taking on God’s job. James 4:13-17 calls it “boasting about tomorrow.”
#3 “but the Lord establishes their steps.”
What is going to happen is what God wants to happen. Seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Mt 6:25-34), don’t worry for tomorrow, live in his presence right now, and watch him unfold his perfect plan before you. This means live according to his principles in his Word, and lay down your life for him and for his Kingdom. You cannot even imagine what he has in store for those who trust in him.
Expert 8 Minute Overview of the Book of Proverbs
Biblical Translations of Proverbs 16:9
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.