“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
But what if he doesn’t?
When we run up against perplexing or confusing questions like this, a good first step is to take a wider view of what the scriptures say about them. If we looked up the word “heart” in the Bible, here’s a small sample of what we find:
- “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matt 15:18-19 [Here we learn something important– our hearts are not necessarily pure, nor are the desires of our hearts necessarily what God would want to give us]
- “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:6 [we don’t naturally know God or know what God wants for us—we come to know God only because God has revealed himself to us by shining his light into our hearts through experiencing Jesus Christ]
Could there ever be a person who more than Jesus who met the criteria of this promise: “delight yourself in the Lord?” And yet, did Jesus always get the desire of his heart?
I’m thinking of his last night on earth. Jesus slipped away to his favorite quiet retreat where he could without hesitation completely open his heart to his heavenly Father. Many of us remember the cry of his heart on that dark Jerusalem night, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from my lips.” He was referring to his own crucifixion that he hoped he might avoid if at all possible. The Father did not agree with this desire of his heart—but gave Jesus a different desire, which he went on to express… “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
As we delight ourselves in the Lord, often I’m sure he will give us the desires of our hearts, because our God is a heavenly Father who loves us with an undying, passionate love.
But other times, he will give us new, even better, desires. These will be the very best desires of all. Why? Because these desires will come from Jesus himself—he lives in our hearts and desires nothing but our greatest good. Jesus knows which desires perfectly fit his plans for us to become more holy, godly people.
I’ve experienced what one medieval saint called the “dark night of the soul” when the desires of my heart were frustrated and unfulfilled. If you read the entire Psalm 37, the psalmist looks at external measures of success and saw others flourishing while he was not.
That was me. Nothing that I desired—like building a big church and becoming a famous pastor who was in constant demand—came out the way that I hoped. It was a dark time. And then out of it, Jesus slowly helped me to grasp some new desires for my heart—desires that I quickly saw were far more in line with how He measured success than how I had been measuring it.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This promise is an invitation to explore the heart-interior of our lives.
- Where do all these desires that bubble into my consciousness come from?
- Which desires are from those portions of my still un-transformed selfish heart?
- Which desires are from Jesus?
- Which desires must pass through a dark night of the soul before they can emerge refined and pure?
Question: What have you discovered about your heart’s desires? Share it in a comment below.