Proverbs 3:5-6 invites us not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust instead in God's ability to lead us into the right paths we are to take.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

At first glance this promise sounds wonderful, but in a deeper analysis, it's not quite obvious how God exactly makes our paths straight. For example, if our paths were to be made straight by the mere fact of studying the scriptures, then we shouldn't be observing the overwhelming amount of discrepancies in interpretations and doctrines across the diverse spectrum that is Christianity. If the same scriptures are studied by persons A and B, but A takes path X and B takes path Y, clearly there is something wrong: at the very least one of them must be wrong in at least one point, and so they cannot both be enjoying Proverbs 3:6 promise to its full measure (otherwise, they would be of a same mind and not adhering to mutually contradictory positions). Similarly, if our paths were to be made straight by hearing the teachings of respectable teachers of the word, we would face again the issue that discrepancies exist even among very honorable and renowned preachers.

All of this makes me think that the process by which God makes our paths straight unavoidably requires a direct supernatural intervention from God Himself. And this idea is reinforced in my mind by what Romans 8:14 says:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

So, is Proverbs 3:5-6 telling us that we shouldn't overemphasize our intellectual capabilities in spiritual matters, but rather seek the full lead of the Holy Spirit? Is that the ultimate reason why we find so much discrepancy in Christianity, that most Christians are not having their paths fully made straight because they are not fully in tune with the supernatural lead of the Holy Spirit, relying instead on their own imperfect intellectual understanding of things?

By the way, an interesting related question: What role does the Holy Spirit play in hermeneutics?

  • This brings to mind the verse “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭it’s by the inspired Word meaning it comes from the Holy Spirit but it can be the rhema or the logos, whether it is the written Scriptures or divine revelation it’s always through a word that is inspired and comes from the Holy Spirit. Mar 10, 2021 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


Proverbs 3:6

in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

John 1:23

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"

These are figures of speech. It does not mean smooth sailing. There will be obstacles from without and even disagreement from within the church.

Both Paul and Barnabas were godly spirit-led disciplines, yet they disagreed in Act 15:

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

A similar disagreement happened between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2:

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

God's making your paths straight does not mean smooth sailing even if you are a spirit-led believer.

  • Good point. But such disagreements cannot come from the Holy Spirit himself, can they? In those disagreements, at least one of the believers (if not all) was not fully in tune with the lead of the Holy Spirit and gave way to their own carnality/human way of thinking, right?
    – user38524
    Mar 10, 2021 at 14:57
  • 1
    Right. Someone slipped somewhere on the path.
    – user35953
    Mar 10, 2021 at 15:00

This question brings to mind the following NT passage:

  • Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears… For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:8-12)

In turn, this passage brings to mind the folk tale of the blind men and the elephant. Like the blind men, we know only in part and can only interpret in part. Any understanding based on the part will fail to fully capture the whole. But love never fails. Perhaps that's why, rather than lean on our own understanding, the verse in Proverbs calls us to trust in the Lord “with all your heart.”

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