Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
This is a truly wonderful verse, and one treasured and used often by believers for good reason. On the surface, the meaning is clear – if we delight ourselves in God, He will give us the desires of our heart. No problem there. We can grasp this truth simply and easily, and it’s a source of great encouragement to all of us. But there is another, deeper truth that is easily missed. It is one that, while it may seem a little startling at first, and while we may not be as quick to accept it because it has other implications, yet provides an even greater promise that is beyond price.
The key word here is ‘delight’ rather than ‘my desires.’ To delight in something is far more than to like, or enjoy, or even love. Delight is a joyful, consuming thing, and involves a totality of focus. It’s not half-hearted. It’s a ‘with all I am’ kind of activity that transcends thought or reason or even emotions. At this point, let’s ask ourselves: Do I truly delight in the Lord, or is my love dependent on mood or emotion, on the time available, or on just how much of the desires of my heart He has given?
To grasp this we need to understand something that is fundamental to our faith. It is the purpose for which we were created, and the reason for our existence after salvation. We know that man was created in the image of God. We are a reflection of Him. All the things in us – which, through the fault, became tainted and twisted to fleshly purposes – are a reflection of what is in Him. His very Spirit is the ‘life-force’ within us – God instructed that no man should consume the blood, for it is the life of a creature – and His intention in our creation was to be reflected in us and to have fellowship with us. We are created for His glory.
After we are saved, this reflection has a deeper purpose. God has chosen, in His infinite wisdom which is truly beyond our understanding, to work through people as one of the ways He reveals Himself to others, particularly the unsaved. The closer we are to Him, the closer we walk with Him, the more of Him will be reflected. If God is our focus – our delight – we will begin to reflect His true nature more and more, and will manifest things that can only come from God alone. Things like the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. Things like the peace which passes all understanding. Things like humility and being teachable, and being able to really love others, even those who we may not particularly even ‘like.’
This is where the deeper meaning of this passage emerges. If we truly delight in the Lord, He will start to release in us the actual desires that manifest in our hearts. Remember the verse as a man thinks in his heart, so he is? God will begin to put in our hearts the desires He wants us to have, the things that are good, that are His nature in us, that are above the natural desires we started off wanting.
This doesn’t mean we won’t still desire things that aren’t ‘super-spiritual.’ We’re human, and cannot cease to function as such. Nor does it necessarily mean that all these desires are wrong. What it does mean, however, is that we will no longer be driven and controlled by self-gratification. The desires we have will begin to be controlled by the will of God, rather than our own perception of our ‘needs.’ And if the desires come from God, does that not give us a much greater faith that He will then, in turn, respond to those desires through faithful prayer? How much greater the faith built on the certainty of the will of our heavenly Father.
But there is a word of caution, because this truth can be easily twisted or perverted to accommodate the flesh. God-given desires only come from God, not our perception of Him and His will. The key takes us back to ‘delight.’ How then, do we understand this, and how do we do it? Psalm 40: 8 says: I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart. This is the first step. Obedience and knowledge of His Word go hand in hand. Either way we look at it, the one must naturally lead to the other. If we choose to be obedient, we have to immerse ourselves in the Word. If we choose to read, study and understand the Word, the natural outworking is obedience. This is the first step towards delighting in God.
It’s not so much a ‘recipe’ as a logical, Spirit-led outworking which leads us into the things that make our delight ever more real and meaningful. It includes being thankful, even for the small things, and even in the midst of hardship and trouble. It includes seeing Him in the world around us – the inherent promise of spring, the waves contained by the shore, the dawning of a new day, and an unexpected blessing along the way. It includes a slow revelation of deep, inner joy that transcends the things of the world, and the peace of knowing that He is God, and that He holds us in His hand. It includes feeling His compassion for the hurting, the needy, the broken and the deceived. It includes rejoicing with Him for the blessings of life and miracles of life, of love and salvation. It includes a greater revelation of His grace, which is without measure. It includes an ever-increasing, natural growth in spiritual knowledge, in obedience, and in yielding our lives to Him.
Delight and desire are both tied to God. We cannot separate them from Him. Nor can we ignore the fact that delight comes first. It is only when we pursue delight in the Lord that we receive either the right desire and the fulfillment of it. It’s a very foundation to faith. Can we conceive, even for a moment, that the desire of Christ’s heart was to go to the cross? That would contradict Scripture, for He prayed, sweating blood in His extreme an anguish, that the cup might be removed. Yet He said: nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. That is ‘delight’ in its purest form, the kind of delight we are called to live in Him.
Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve misread this verse, or looked only at fleshly desires. Help me to see past these, to see Your eternal purposes, to desire to know Your will and be obedient, to desire to see Your will outworked in the desires of my heart.