“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).
I never feel more lonely than when I’m surrounded by absolute breathtaking beauty such as gazing at the sunset over the Sonoran Desert from the top Mount Lemmon. Beauty has a way of reminding us of the Eden that we have never known but somehow always knew we were meant for.
“Every experience of beauty points to eternity.”
-Hans Urs von Balthasar
I know it’s not as lovely as hearing it in person, but if you’ve never heard the haunting, melancholy wail of a loon, please listen to this video clip.
Laying awake at night in the cabin on Bear Lake in Waterford, Maine where I spent every summer with my family, I would be startled by this long, wistful howl that awakened a mournful longing within me. Sometimes the beauty was so great it stirred me to tears and made me feel desperately lonely.
A deep pang of painful yearning similar to my experience in Maine has been pulling on my heartstrings as of late. I could not name the empty place inside me until I picked up the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, a birthday present from my sister.
“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”
Yes, this is exactly what I’ve been feeling. Instead of being thankful for all I’ve been blessed with, I start to believe the serpent’s hissing lie whispering in my ear that God must not love me enough because He’s withholding good things from me. I try to fill the emptiness by putting on my dancing shoes as often as possible, devouring poetry, and crafting pretty things but always, always I feel the ache.
It’s not really my fault though, is it? The gaping hole in my soul will always be there until I am restored to glory and present with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We were never meant for this dark, lonely world. We were created for a loving relationship with God.
Strangely enough, there is one person with whom I feel at peace. One person who makes the hole seem less cavernous. When I am in his presence, the hollowness melts away and I feel safe and able to rest. His company is inviting, nourishing, and comforting. I never want to say “good bye” but I am not allowed to be with him forever. It seems unfair that God would tease me with everything I’ve always wanted so close I could touch it but hold it just out of my grasp.
I think the grief I feel over this is natural and healthy. The sadness I feel because I am alone is due to living in a sinful, broken world where people don’t keep their vows and abandon their spouses. The sadness I feel because I am unwanted and rejected means I know my worth.
The wound of grief says, “This is not the way life is supposed to be. You were created to be dearly loved and cherished. You were never meant to be alone.” And the beauty in the world points me to hope. The loon’s cry sings, “There is still beauty in this lonely world.” It is an echo of what once was before sin spoiled its perfection. It is a mere shadow of the glorious beauty that will one day be revealed to us when Christ returns for His bride.
I am looking forward to that marvelous day.
To the man who promised me forever:
I forgive you.
I remember the black and white checkered pattern of the hospital floor, pacing back and forth that day you were in detox, pondering hopefully, as I am oft-inclined to do, that our situation can only look up from rock bottom. I had never loved you more than in that moment when I thought I would lose you forever. I loved you more than life itself and I would have done almost anything to stay by your side and help you through your darkest hour… but you left me… your faithful wife who only wanted to support you.
I thought my heart would always belong to you and I would never get it back. I thought I might never heal from that intense pain. I thought the aching emptiness might never go away.
But I forgive you.
There has been more than one man who won’t date me because I am your “left overs.” You chewed me up and spit me out and now no one seems to want me. I feel like Hester Prynne with a giant scarlet letter on my chest warning everyone to stay far away because I’m unable to keep a marriage together.
I finally met a God-fearing man who doesn’t mind that I’m divorced. “It’s your past but it doesn’t define who you are,” he assured me. But he thinks that his family won’t understand. He thinks they won’t accept me, at least not right away. He asked me not to tell them just yet.
Tears fought to spill from the corners of my eyes. I thought I had worked through my guilt. I accepted my truth and learned to love myself even when I wanted to despise myself. The harsh reality is that I may have moved on from mourning but people may continue to judge me (as I had once judged others in my situation) and that judgment may stir up the regret and sorrow I thought I had buried and finished grieving. Every time a man I hope to date rejects me for being divorced I feel the grief once again.
But I get it. I really do. If I’m honest with myself, I’d rather not date someone who has been divorced, either.
Whether I like it or not, you’re part of me and you always will be. You’re part of my love story because you’re the first man I ever passionately loved; the first man I would have laid down my life for because I loved you that much. You taught me how to love unconditionally… Not because you showed me what that was but because I learned to love you despite you not loving me. My world revolved around you. I was infatuated with the spell you cast on me. Even when you were absolutely horrible to me I couldn’t see anyone but you.
I won’t deny that you were once the most important thing to me on Earth.
After you left I tried desperately to win you back. I must have been plumb crazy. But that’s how I know I am a fool when I am in love and I will make someone an amazing wife one day because of you.
So thank you.
“Raise your right hand, please. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?”
“I do,” I answered… the same two words I uttered with all my heart as Pastor Larry asked me if I took Mathew to be my husband as long as we both shall live.
Standing before the judge, she asked me if I believed my marriage was “irretrievably broken” with “no hope of reconciliation.” I felt my whole body tremble and a hot tear streamed down my face. “The tissues are over there, honey,” said the judge softly with compassion in her voice. I grabbed a couple and wiped miserably at my nose. I explained that we went to marriage counseling with my pastor and that it hadn’t worked. That I waited for two years for him to come around, but finally decided to end the marriage legally because he wasn’t going to do it himself.
“Do you wish to return to your maiden name?” asked the judge.
“Yes, please, your honor.” Then I signed Dannielle Albert at the bottom of the divorce certificate and…
That was it. It took all of about five minutes. “You are now single,” said the judge.
I sat back down with the rest of the people getting divorced that day; a few were with their spouses and a few, like myself, were there by themselves because their other half didn’t show up. One woman was sobbing. One woman was trying desperately not to. One man was sober with a serious expression I couldn’t read. One man was cracking jokes that we were all invited to his “divorce party” afterwards with drinks all around. To me, this was nothing to celebrate. I wanted to have a funeral, not a party.
As I sat among my fellow peers, I couldn’t help but wonder what brought them here today. What were their stories? Were they anything like mine? I prayed silently and wrote two Bible verses in my journal.
“I will restore to you the years the swarming locusts have eaten; you shall be satisfied and praise the name of the LORD your God who has dealt wondrously with you.” -Joel 2:25-26
“The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does. The Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.” -Psalm 145:17-19
You know all those prayers I prayed after my husband left me? They were not a waste. And all those tears I cried? They mattered. They were collected in God’s bottle because they are a precious treasure to Him (Psalm 56:8).
The four years of my marriage were not a waste. The two years I spent waiting for him to come back were not a waste. The year I will spend healing and not dating anyone will not be a waste. I look around at all my peers who have babies and are living their dreams and it hurts so deeply because I wish that were my life, but that is not what God had planned for me. I’ve grown to accept that and be content that He allowed me to marry Mathew. He knew that it wasn’t going to work out since before I was born, even though I was certain it would be happily ever after.
Every moment of my courtship, engagement, marriage, and two years of separation were a part of God’s ultimate permissive will and I believe it was for a reason, even if I do not know why He let it happen if it wasn’t going to end in “death do us part.”
I felt stuck in a horrible marriage, but I wasn’t going to give up. Every day I gave my marriage to God and asked him to heal it and restore it. I believe my prayers were a sweet-smelling, Christ-like fragrance rising up to God in worship.
God will use my sorrow and grief and pain and suffering to mold me into a stronger believer and transform my heart into one that trusts Him completely each and every day. My sufferings in this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us one day! (Romans 8:18). I look forward to that day with eager anticipation.
Someday, I pray, my LORD will bring a godly man into my life who will be an equally yoked partner; I will be his helpmate and we will work together toward a common goal, making decisions together, discussing matters together, sharing the burden of life, supporting one another. I know without a doubt that if the good Lord doesn’t provide a husband for me, He still has a beautiful plan for my life and I will look forward and ahead, forget my messy past, press onward toward the prize and not look back (Philippians 3:13).
“Your wedding day is still one of my most cherished memories,” whispered my best friend Anna who was a radiant bridesmaid on that special day five years ago. “The fact that he left you doesn’t make that beautiful day any less sacred or meaningful.” (That sweet lady always cheers me up no matter how low I am feeling.)
On this particular evening, I had begun to regret the day I ever said “I do.” My wedding day was once the best day of my life and I was beginning to feel guilty that I still thought of it that way, circumstances being what they are. “If it’s inevitably going to end in a divorce, then wouldn’t that make my marriage a mistake?” I wondered out loud. “Is it wrong to keep those Facebook wedding albums public? Is that precious picture of me smiling ear to ear with my sisters after the ceremony somehow tainted now and better preserved in a private scrapbook rather than displayed in a pretty pink frame on my buffet table?”
I felt angry at myself for not having been able to see red flags that this marriage was not going to last. All the expenses to make June 7th, 2009 the most incredibly amazing and unforgettable day of our lives were pretty much kicking me in the stomach like a huge waste of money. My once gorgeous, white wedding gown is now yellowing with age and collecting dust in my childhood closet… it feels less and less to me like the flowy, satin raiment of a virgin queen bestowing her beloved king with the treasured gift of her everlasting commitment and more like the gown I wore on the last day of my purity I can never get back.
I wish I could write a happily ever after ending for this entry like my husband and I are now living out the purpose God has intended for us, but that would not be accurate. Too many times I fantasized ways out of my destructive marriage… the sudden, unexpected death of one of us, for instance, because I was slowly dying each day and death was better than abandoning the one I promised to love, honor, and respect “until death do us part.”
The very few people I told about the domestic violence asked me, “Why don’t you just leave him? One of these days he’s going to go too far; you need to protect yourself.” I can’t pretend I didn’t think about it. I had an emergency escape plan in place just in case I needed it, but I prayed it would never come to that. I was going to be faithful and loving ’til death do us part, even if I died trying, so help me God.
I’m in a better place now. Tragic though my story is, it is also a story of hope. I no longer pine for a way out or desperately cry out to God for some kind of miracle. His ways are above my ways and while I don’t understand them, I know His will is good. Now I look forward to the future, forgetting the former things. I’m done dwelling on the past. I am making a way in the wilderness and straining toward what is ahead. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Philippians 3:13)
If you are struggling in a difficult matrimony, please don’t ever believe the lie that your wedding day was a mistake. If you truly meant those vows with all your heart that day, they are just as real and valid today as they were then. If he’s told you, “I regret the day I married you,” that doesn’t mean you have to regret marrying him. I chose to love my husband for better or worse within God’s Divine Providence. I committed my marriage to Jesus Christ and tried my absolute best to make my relationship honor God. He could have disallowed it if He intended, but I’m convinced everything happens for a reason.
If you are grieving over the death of your marriage, please remember that your pictures and memories of that special day are still just as precious and it’s okay to feel warm and happy when remembering that day you put so much time, energy, and money into making memorable.
I still look back on my wedding day fondly, even though now my memories are tinged with an edge of bitter-sweetness.
Walking around today in the beautiful weather with my new cowgirl boots and haircut… I felt like a new woman. Today was absolutely splendid spectacular and I am feeling so blessed and loved.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I have some friends who are definitely going to find out just how much their friendship has meant to me, especially during the most difficult year of my life.
Speaking of my friends, I am friends with three married couples who are going through the worst kind of trial imaginable right now. In all three cases there are young children involved and in all three cases it was the wife that cheated on the husband. I feel as though the Lord is using my heartache to reach out to these young couples and encourage them in any way I am able. I am much better at expressing my thoughts through writing and I never truly know just what to say when they call, but sometimes I think the Lord speaks through me. I find myself saying things like, “You can either go through this or grow through this.” // “Stop. Breathe. Be still and know that He is LORD.” // “Remember that He is in complete control of this situation and He will not let you experience more than you can handle.” // “You cannot change the past but you can forgive and forget. Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re okay with what happened, but that you will no longer harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness in your heart. Live in the present, taking it one day at a time. Focus on the small tasks at hand that need to get done and dwell on positive, praiseworthy things.”
I wasn’t always able to shell out advice so easily. Only a few months ago I was a complete train wreck myself experiencing mental breakdowns at least once a week. I didn’t feel whole without my husband’s love and commitment. I was in utter shock, incapable of thinking clearly or doing much of anything productive. I refused to accept the reality of what was happening, choosing to believe that it would all eventually go away like waking up from a bad dream. I kept feeling like I was this shameful failure at life. A loser. A leper. The worst kind of sinner… a woman headed towards the long, lonely road of divorce. Oh, “if only, if only,” I cried so many nights. (Which is SO unhealthy by the way!) No matter how relieved I was to be extricated from my intolerable state of affairs, I was still utterly heartbroken and kept reliving all my lovely memories and the beautiful hopes of what was supposed to someday be.
I felt massive insecurity, helplessness, and instability. I was in tremendous upheaval calling up my loved ones and family so much when I was crying hysterically that a few of them needed breaks and asked me to stop calling so much. I felt like something was wrong with me because I wasn’t getting better and I was distancing my friends in the process. Everything in my life was topsy-turvy. I was getting sick and was freaking out about the bills that had to be paid. But the Lord provided and I was able to keep going… even though at times it felt like I was going one step forward and two steps back.
In the early stages of marital separation, it is imperative that you lean on your support group for balance, otherwise you may not be able to stand on your own two feet. It’s so easy to curl up in a ball and shut out the world. Depression can be a comforting friend that we cradle and embrace and drink tea with on the porch. It’s all we know and it’s easier than pulling ourselves out of it and trying to feel something else. But there comes a time that you’ve got to woman-up and reassert yourself as a functioning, responsible adult who can take care of herself. There were times that my own sister was so worried for me because I could not act in a rational manner and seemed completely unable to cope emotionally. When she called me all excited to tell me her wedding date I just panicked because I thought she was getting married too soon and I guess I just projected my own fears and insecurity onto her upcoming nuptials. Instead of showering my affection on her and displaying my overwhelming joy for her engagement, I pushed her away a little bit. That day was the wake up call that showed me I have a lot of growing to do in the area of emotional healing and I better start lickity split. I HATE being in pain! (Especially when those close to me are rejoicing.) “There is a time to mourn and a time to dance,” the wise king says in Ecclesiastes 3. If I couldn’t celebrate with my beloved sister when it was time to rejoice, then I had serious issues. I decided I needed a spiritual makeover. I had to rebuild my self-confidence and remind myself who I am in Christ. I am a Princess of the One, true King and I am precious in His sight. He is mine and I am His.
I had a song in my heart as I walked in the sunshine to the bus stop today to get from my first job to my second job. I was so cheerful that even the attitude of one particular co-worker did not get me down. (For some reason, she has always enjoyed picking on me since day one and we simply don’t get along.) This is the song I was singing:
Who can cheer the heart like Jesus
By His presence all divine?
True and tender, pure and precious
O, how blest to call Him mine!
All that thrills my soul is Jesus
He is more than life to me
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see
For passels of days, I can feel exactly the same. Not any more sad than yesterday but not any more content today. It’s as though healing came by for a visit but didn’t stay long enough for a cup of tea. There is no timetable for grief. There are some weeks where all I can think about is my husband and how much I still love him so dearly. My faithfulness can be a curse because it will not let me let him go so I can finish grieving and move on. Separation feels worse than death because there is no finality and closure as when someone dies. At least if he died I could have a funeral and all my friends and family could come and we’d grieve his loss together and then bury the coffin and walk away. Yes, I am still mourning him and it happens whenever I think of a fond memory- something he said or did that was so precious and endearing that I just cradle that memory and rock it for a moment too long and it breaks me up inside. For instance, just the other day, I was remembering this one time that he baked me up some wicked pistachio whoopie pies. I loved when it was his turn to cook for us; he was always making such yummy things to fill me up with.
There’s nothing wrong with cherishing old memories but when I dwell on them too long it breaks me down and I miss him so bad. I want to call him and talk to him and tell him how much I miss him, but I have to remind myself that the person who picks up the phone when I call won’t be my husband, it will be the stranger he has become.
There are so many things I miss about him but one thing I really miss is being the most beautiful woman in the world to one special someone. I REALLY miss that. I miss being absolutely perfectly beautiful in the eyes of one man. For some reason I’ve been extra conscious about my looks lately. Someone once said that a woman thinks about her looks every seven seconds. I don’t think that’s necessarily true (at least not for me, but it’s crazy to think about if it is true for someone out there!) I know I have been more self-conscious than I’ve ever been about my pimples and skinniness and small chest etc. I literally believed my husband was the most handsome man in the world. I COULD NOT see the attractiveness of any other man no matter what anyone said about “that hot guy over there.” I simply only had eyes for MY man. When I saw him for the first time in 8 months a few weeks ago…. I was surprised to find myself looking into the eyes of a stranger. This was not my husband! Who was this thin Kurt Cobain doppelganger? I had to sit on my hands so as not to run my hand through his sexy hair… but other than that, I no longer felt he was the most handsome man in the world and that scared me. It really, really scared me. What does this mean?
Okay, so I have this cavernous wound that I can’t seem to get over. When will I truly surrender my pain to Christ? Oh Jesus, fill my emptiness and make me whole. Teach me to fully rely on You alone. I want to know You as my Husband, my Best Friend, and my One True Love. Jesus, You are everything I need and You were madly in love with me before I even knew You. Be my Valentine tomorrow and fill my heart with Your unfailing love. I feel like a little vulnerable girl who wants to crawl into Your lap and cry. Fill me, Jesus. You are the only One who knows and sees and fully understands. You are my Healer. Help me to remember when I feel rejected that no one else knows better than You just how I feel.