A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
- Proverbs 16:9
Many people read that verse and interpret it as, "You're wasting your time planning things your way, since God will end up directing your steps anyway. You don't really have a part to play except to obey God with what He wants. What you want is irrelevant."
May I propose a completely different perspective?
God has actually given you the power to plan your way. It is the plan of God for a man's heart to plan His way. This is not bad. This is the way it is. You see, in your partnership with Him, He expects you to fellowship with Him and be filled with His presence. And, as a result, you will learn to know His mind and heart in a very natural way. He teaches you how to think like He thinks. His goal with you is to work His life, His mission and His character through you, using your mind and heart, your talents and skills, and your personality and background.
So with that in mind, go ahead... plan your way! Not without prayer, not without listening to the Spirit's lead; but go ahead and dream! Think big! Set goals! Engage your heart with the impossible!
Then He will direct your steps.
In fact, if you read this verse correctly, His directing of your steps is dependent on you planning your way. In other words, for God to lead you, you must be moving forward in your heart. Your heart must kick in to the process. Yes, it is true that God originally planted the seed of vision and desire in your heart and initiated the development of where your heart needed and wanted to go. And He will help you re-direct the desires and the plans that are not His best. But make no mistake; it was actually His design for you to be a part of the process.
His part is to direct your steps.
As you set a plan and begin to walk out the details of this dream, the Lord is working before you, behind you, both sides, over and under you. It not only may not happen the way you thought... it definitely will not happen the way you thought. His way is always higher than yours. He has paths that you never knew of and may even never understand.
This afternoon, I found myself sitting across from a young lady attending orientation meetings preparing her for her first life experience after she finishes her senior year in college. I am in Chennai, India. And her work will be here at Hindustan Bible Institute, serving as a liaison for short-term missions teams coming here from around the world.
As we discussed the exciting plans that God has obviously directed her steps toward, I paused, as I was overwhelmed with amazement. And I said to her,
Joni, who would have thought?
You see, the girl is my daughter. One year from now she is slated to travel here, to the other side of the world, to join the staff of a global ministry reaching the unreached people's of the earth for Christ and His kingdom.
Who would have thought?
Our baby of five children, the quiet little girl who grew up in the shadow of her wide-opened, outgoing siblings, is about to take on the whole world, leave everything behind, and dive into the ocean of the unknown. How did this happen? How did we get here?
When people find out about it, they ask me, "What do you think about this?", expecting me to cringe or act as if I am fearful or disappointed. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I am amazed. But I am not shocked. This has been in Joni's heart for the better part of her life. She is on her tenth short-term international missions trip, not to mention four local inner city missions excursions she began taking at the age of ten. Her major in college is International Community Development. Her dreams have taken her from the streets of Buffalo, New York to Europe, Eurasia, South America, Central America, Asia, and Puerto Rico. When she wakes up every morning in her room at home, the first thing she sees is a beautiful, colorful map of the world on the wall at the end of her bed.
Joni has been planning her way in her heart most of her life.
But how did we get here, in Southern India, preparing for her to move here for at least twelve months next year? Her minor in Spanish certainly had nothing to do with it. She has nothing to escape from, in moving here. She has had a wonderful life. There is no other answer but that "the Lord directed her steps.” Joni didn't apply for this. She didn't secretly pull strings to position herself for it, and neither did I. Not that we couldn't have, but the truth is... "The Lord directed her steps." As she pursued her dreams with a heart desiring to serve God, listening to His leading along the way, He opened and shut doors, arranged connections in relationships, and challenged her with difficult leadership responsibilities. He has led her, prepared her, and trained her for the natural next step in her life.
Joni's heart has been planning her way, but the Lord has directed her steps!
The great thing about that is that everyone around her can see it. For those who know her, the response is simply, "Of course she is!" Even her mother and father feel that way. This is her third trip to India, and my fourth. We could not be more prepared for this particular adventure. We know the leaders with whom she will be serving. I know the buildings where she will be living and working. The Lord has directed her steps so specifically, the confirmation is intrinsic in the journey.
What plans are in your heart? What is in the depth of your being that needs the leadership of God to fulfill? What plans are you submitting to heaven that will stir up the steps of His directions? The question is not, what is God's plan for your life? The question is, "What seed has God already put into your heart, waiting for you to think about, meditate on and act on?" Let what is in your heart grow with passion and planning, and the Lord will direct the steps necessary to fulfill what He had in mind all along.
Wow! Who would have thought? Well... He did! Then... you did! Then came His steps. And then came yours!