“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” -Psalm 37:4
That was a verse from my last blog entry and I wanted to talk about it today because there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the promise behind it.
The Heart Wants What it Wants
Each and every one of us has a deep, intense, heartfelt desire. Leave a comment and let me know what it is that burns within you because I’d like to join you in prayer. Perhaps you have a family member you hope will get saved? Perhaps it is an addiction you hope to overcome? A goal weight you’d like to reach? A health issue? A destination you’d like to travel? For me, it is the yearning for a family of my own, a loving husband and children.
Trust in the LORD and Do Good
The surrounding context of Psalm 37 tells us to wait, have patience, trust in God, commit our way to Him, don’t worry, and rest. It speaks about trusting God’s plan and waiting to see what He will do, aligning our will with His will. When our mind is united with His mind we are becoming more like Him. His desires become our desires. THIS is delighting ourself in Him.
Delight ~ Hebrew word עָנַג
de·light / dəˈlīt
- To please (someone) greatly
- To be exquistely happy about
- To make merry over
- To give pleasure to
To delight yourself in the Lord is to serve Him with enthusiasm (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23). To have exceeding joy in your salvation (Psalm 51:12, Psalm 13:5). Letting Him satisfy your every need (Psalm 23:1, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:33). To live contented with what you already have (Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:6, Philippians 4:12) rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) and be thankful (1 Chronicles 16:34, Philippians 4:6).
According to His Will
When we are delighting in God and submitting to His will, He blesses us with provisions, protection, deliverance, guidence, stability, and peace. But Psalm 37:4 is not a quid pro quo verse. Jesus said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Notice He said IN MY NAME. He didn’t say, “Ask me anything and I will do it,” but only if it was according to His will.
There are many examples in scripture of unanswered prayer. For example, we read the story of Paul’s thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul asked God to remove it three times but for one reason or another, God chose not to say “yes.”
Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with droplets of blood pouring out of his sweat glands in complete anguish. He prayed earnestly, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Obviously, if God had answered THAT prayer then all of us would be going to Hell!!!
Sometimes God chooses not to answer our prayers, even when we’re delighting ourselves in Him and trusting Him with our whole heart. But because we know and trust that He “works all things together for good” (Romans 8:28) we can praise Him and thank Him even when we are experiencing great pain.
Hillary Scott wrote this song right after she had a miscarriage which was the hardest trial she had ever gone through. She said in an interview, “Even when it hurts… God’s will is what’s best. Sometimes we don’t understand God’s promises until eternity. His ways are so much bigger than our ways. He sees the whole picture.”
When we are trying to pray but can’t find the words to say we can say these four words:
“Thy will be done.”
Be Still and Know
It’s hard to count it all joy when we’re distracted by the noise. That’s why Jesus intentionally rose early before anyone else to have his regularly scheduled time to be alone with God every morning. Jesus disciplined Himself to do this because quiet time with God was of utmost priority to Him. We can’t get lost in the business of life and put God on the back burner. We need to be open to hearing His “still small voice.” Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” If we aren’t listening, we’ll miss it.
Where is Your Delight?
It’s frustrating when we’re still single with verses like Psalm 37:4 laying around that seem to offer so much hope. Yet despite our unanswered prayers to the desires of our heart, God has a plan for “those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” First I’d like to ask you: Where is your joy? Is it in a relationship with a human being or is it in a relationship with the Lord? There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship but our delight must be FIRST in the Lord. If time with God it is not a priority in your life then your joy is not in the Lord.
Second, are you “trusting God and doing good?” I read a statistic that only 5% of people are saving sex for marriage. I don’t know the statistic, but many believers choose to be unequally yoked with unbelievers and live impure lifestyles. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). God might choose not to bless you if you haven’t turned over all areas of your life to Him. When we repent of our sins and walk with the Lord, He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). Then he plants His desires for us in our heart. As the old, beloved hymn goes, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus!”
Third, continue to pray, “YOUR way, not my way, Yahweh! Thy will be done. Make Your desires for me the desires of my heart.” Then be still and wait on Him. Waiting SUCKS but God tells us to wait over and over in scripture. Don’t rush. Be patient. He has His perfect timing.
Finally, delight yourself in the Lord! The Psalmist sings in Psalm 73:25, “There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Is that true in your life?
There is a funny story I’d like to share with you. My roommate in college gave me a poem for Valentine’s Day. The last line of the poem reads thus:
Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of love divine,
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be Thine
I joked, “Can we just give God 999 hearts and save one for Mathew?” (At this time, my ex-husband was my boyfriend.) We both tilted our heads back with deep, belly laughter but then we both got quiet and serious. There is no room to give God 99% of our heart and keep 1% for ourselves. We have to give Him our WHOLE heart.
He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He longs to bless us with good gifts (Matthew 7:11). But first He wants us to be completely satisfied in Him (John 6:35; John 7:37-39). When He is the object of our desire, we will have more of Him! Draw close to Him and He draws close to you (James 4:8).
It wasn’t even a full three days since I posted “Singleness is NOT a Punishment!” when my dear, sweet friend sent me this through Facebook message:
If you have ever seen this or something like this, I want to just help erase any of the damage that it may have done to your heart.
First of all, who else saw Xena the Warrior Princess when you first starting reading that? Ha! But I digress. Let’s respond to the letter from the anonymous internet person to the Princess Warrior. (Which is supposed to be a letter from God the Father to me, His beloved daughter.)
First of all, I look nothing like sexy Xena the Warrior Princess nor do I feel like her, even though I do know I am a daughter of the King and in His army. Second of all, I would have to honestly say that, for the most part, I desire the approval of God alone. When I was young I sought the approval of my parents and my teachers and now that I’m an adult I seek the approval of my boss. There is a certain crush of mine who I highly admire and respect and from time to time I will find myself desiring his approval but it’s only because I hold him in such high regard. I don’t think validation should come from anywhere but from above as we are complete in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9-10) but I don’t think the desire to feel accepted and supported is wrong. In fact, that’s not only normal but God designed it that way. Allow me to explain:
The letter goes on to say, “I designed you to desire Me and Me alone.”
I challenge you to find a passage in the Bible that says that. You will be hard-pressed to find such a verse because I guarentee it is not there.
Have you ever been in a crowded room, yet felt completely isolated? It’s not a good feeling at all, is it? Loneliness has never been part of God’s plan for his children. After all, in the beginning when God created the Heavens, the earth, the water, trees, flowers, birds, fish, and animals, He looked over each day of creation and declared it to be good. However, upon creating man, God stopped and for the very first time declared something as “not good.” He said, “It is NOT GOOD that man should be alone.”
Adam had God by his side and yet God still said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Not until after God created Eve did God say, “…and it was VERY good.” All this is to say that we need each other and to deny that is to deny God’s design. Yes, we were designed to desire God, but He also designed us to yearn for a helpmate in life. We are sexual beings and our bodies are naturally created with a longing to be intimate and to be fruitful and multiply. Is it a sin that we desire these things? NO!
Some Christians might tell you that desiring sex is a sin but that is not biblical. The distinction comes from the OBJECT of our desire. If our desires are fixating on something evil (i.e. adultery, fornication, etc) then the desire itself is evil (Matthew 5:28, Matthew 15:19, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). If our desire fixates on something good (i.e. marriage, companionship) then the desire itself is good (Proverbs 5:18-19, Song of Solomon 2:5-7, Proverbs 18:22, Ephesians 5:28). Sexual desire is wholesome, honorable, and right when it is enjoyed within the boundaries of holy matrimony.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” -Philippians 4:8
We have become a generation with a distorted view of marriage. When we try to convince singles that we shouldn’t desire sexual intimacy or that longing for marriage is somehow unholy then we are giving Satan the credit for God’s beautiful design.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Psalm 37:4 is NOT an equation.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4
If Psalm 37:4 were an equation, then I’m pretty sure I would have a husband and children by now. Don’t believe for one second that if you’re still waiting on the Lord for this blessing that you must not be doing something you’re supposed to be doing. Though it certainly feels like a curse, singleness is very much a blessing. I know that it hurts, especially when you’re lying awake at night in your empty bed with nothing but pillows to squeeze for comfort.
Now let’s take a look at another passage in the letter:
“When you choose to live for Me, you will never again be thirsty for attention…”
Is that really true? What kind of a message does that send to people who struggle with depression? With aching emptiness and longing? With grief and loss associated with divorce? Just because we’ve given our lives to Jesus and chosen to live for Him doesn’t mean that we don’t still struggle with the pain of an empty womb or the longing to share our lives with a companion by our side. Telling a woman that she’ll never thirst for attention if she chooses to live for God… Do you see how that could be detrimental to her spirit? “Oh, I am still thirsty for love and affection…” She thinks. “I must not be fully living for God.”
In the wise words of one of my favorite authors Alyssa Joy Bethke: “God is good and everything that happens is for our good. Not necessarily for our happiness but for our holiness. God’s goal is to make us more like His son, and often that involves trials and pain. But those difficulties are opportunities to rely on our Savior, to run into His arms, to nestle ourselves in His embrace and to walk with Him.”
Emptiness is that feeling left over after you give something your absolute all and it still doesn’t turn out the way you worked so hard for it to. You’re exhausted of energy, depleated of hope, and disappointed that it didn’t work out. Perhaps you have some unfulfilled dreams or a place in your heart that aches because your beloved didn’t return your love. Perhaps, like me, you fought hard to save your marriage and did everything possible to redeem it but it still fell apart in your hands.
God’s Word offers some promises to combat the emptiness and find fulfillment in Christ.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” – Psalm 81:10
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13
“I ask God from the wealth of His glory to give you power through His Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make His home in your hearts through faith as you open the door and invite Him in. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love—although it can never be fully known—and be so completely filled with the very nature of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19
Just because we’ve completely given our lives to God doesn’t mean the longings He’s placed there will completely go away. I believe they are from Him and they aren’t sinful. I mean, not all of us are called to be nuns!!! On the plane home from my sister’s wedding last weeekend I saw a nun. I immediately was drawn to her because of her calm, elegant beauty and of course the curiousity of what made her decide to live under the vows of poverty and chastity but especially the latter. Perhaps she doesn’t have those desires? I can’t imagine not having those desires. If she DOES have those desires then I applaud her for her strength and uncompromising commitment to purity. She is SO KICK-BUTT! Wish I would have had the courage to ask her my questions. Again, I digress.
It’s healthy to recognize that sometimes the longings we feel aren’t for anything Earth can provide. Psalmist cries out to God, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). Just like the Samaritan woman at the well who thirsted for Living Water, God put a longing in our heart that was intended to lead us back to Him. There is an emptiness that ONLY HE can fill. There is a deep thirst that ONLY HE can quench. If His love doesn’t fill you up, then nothing else will.
“Now let me ask you again, My beloved daughter: Whom do you seek?”
If you’re like me, you’re COMPLETELY honest with yourself and if your desires are the same as mine then you’re seeking a husband. The Bible says, “But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” -Matthew 6:33. It never says it’s wrong to seek a husband, but make sure God is first in your heart.
As for me, I’m allowing God to use this loneliness and emptiness to teach me what it means to depend upon His strength and love every day. I know that having a husband won’t satisfy the craving that only God can fill. When you allow yourself to be controlled by Christ’s love you have the indwelling of God’s presence and are closer to unity and maturity. I don’t think we can ever experience the whole measure of the perfection that is found in Christ (Ephesians 4:13) this side of Heaven, but I do believe we can experience joy and fullness here on Earth. I pray this for us both, dear reader, that we would be filled with His love and be content in our single season.
When we are praying, how can we know a message is from God or just our own thoughts telling us what we want to hear? There’s an old joke: When you talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to you, we call it schizophrenia.
The featured image for this post comes from the Bible story in Samuel 3 when Samuel’s name is repeatedly being called in the night and he finally answers the third time, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
I do not doubt that God speaks to us today as He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Job, and Samuel, I just think it’s a rare occurrence (even though according to to a Gallup poll, 23% of Americans reported hearing a voice or seeing a vision as a response to prayer.) I can only think of one time in my life that I believe a message was truly from God and it was when I was at rock bottom at 16, feeling like I didn’t want to live anymore and God whispered to me, “I have big plans for you.”
Recently my crush told me that God said “no” to dating me.
If God said “no” then God said “no” and so that’s the end of the story. God didn’t give a reason but as my crush so eloquently and firmly declared, “We have some serious problems if that’s not enough,” which was so damn sexy because SPIRITUAL LEADER PUTTING HIS FOOT DOWN. *RAWR.*
Once upon a time a man told me that God told him he would spend the rest of his life with me. I was speechless. Here was a man who I believed at the time to be a righteous and God-fearing follower of Christ. Surely if God told him he would marry me then never mind the fact that God didn’t give me the same message. Who am I to argue with God?
As it turns out, that man was wrong because if God had really meant for me to spend the rest of my life with him, he never would have abandoned me. Right? So forgive me if I’m a teeny bit skeptical of when people tell me God told them something, especially if it involves me.
I always ask this married couple at my church to tell me their love story because I love hearing it over and over. I can see God’s hand in every aspect of their relationship and one can almost be certain God meant for these two to be united as husband and wife. The husband was madly in love with an unbeliever. He kept asking God to take away his desire for her but every day he only loved her more. He couldn’t understand why he felt so strongly because women who smoked, cussed and were hardcore atheists were the most unattractive women to him and yet here was a woman he couldn’t stop daydreaming about. He had a nasty past before he became a believer and one day he was crying out to God and demanding to know why He wouldn’t save this woman. “You forgave my sins and they were even worse than hers. Why won’t you forgive hers?” Suddenly, in his mind’s eye, he kept seeing an image of himself pulling an index card out of a cup of Bible verses in the middle of the table and so he pulled one out. It was Isaiah 43:25 which says “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Except this verse was in Spanish and it could be read in the third person as “her” instead of “your.”) He fell to his knees and sobbed. Was it a coincidence that this exact verse was written by his mother on chalk board in the kitchen earlier that day? Eventually, his wife did realize her need for a Savior. She describes her conversation as an irresistible pull on her heart that made her see the love and grace of Jesus Christ and she couldn’t refuse.
Another story involves my friend who recently had a dream where God revealed her future husband to her. Whenever she tells someone about the dream she had she says the Holy Spirit jumps inside her. She asked her pastor whether he believed the dream was from God and he confirmed that the man in question had been speaking fondly of her to him. I don’t know whether this dream came from God or was just a product of brain activity during a normal REM cycle, but I guess we’ll find out in time.
TIME. That really is the answer, isn’t it? True love requires committing time to really know a person. Two people have to feel comfortable enough to be openly honest with one another, vulnerable enough to expose themselves to one another, and after knowing all their dark and beautiful idiosyncrasies, accepting them and choosing to love.
So I will just keep praying for peace about God’s decision and keep asking God to take away the feelings that shouldn’t be there because it isn’t God’s will. After all, I can’t move forward in any relationships with anyone else when my heart is all wrapped up in someone I can’t have. Because of the nature of my work, I have very little free time to spend with others and so I need to be careful about which ones I give my time to. I’ve already eliminated many possibilities due to red flags such as a lack of respect for Hebrews 10:25 and Hebrews 13:4 and even a disagreement with “happy wife, happy life.” (Deuteronomy 24:5 supports that saying by the way!)
I guess since God is being silent about the matter the only thing I really have to go on at this point is feelings. I believe feelings are neither good nor bad, they are simply our response to information and personal experience. Feelings are legitimate and must be acknowledged and understood so that they can be expressed in healthy ways. While no one is ever wrong to feel a certain way, the information one is reacting to may not be accurate or their interpretation of information may be a misunderstanding. Therefore, before a feeling is shared with others, it must be balanced against the Truth of scripture and be in harmony with facts.
My feelings tell me nothing right now except obey God and focus on being the best foster mother I can be.
Wednesday night Bible study is going to focus on God’s will and how we can know it so I’m pumped for next week!