“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” ~Psalm 37:4
First off, let me give the credit for this idea to a friend of mine, whom I recently had a brief conversation with about the topic. Too often the constraints of the English language keep us from getting the full effect of this verse. In fact, I would venture to say that, oftentimes, we get it completely wrong. As my friend pointed out to me, in English we have one word for both the desires themselves, and the object being desired. Annoying, when you consider the fact that Taiwan has 20-some words for “rice”. You’d think that the British could have been a wee bit more creative. Could it be that we’ve misinterpreted this verse? Is it possible that…perhaps…"delighting ourselves in the Lord" isn’t a free-pass to a Celestial-Santa Claus? Maybe (prepare yourself), this verse actually means that, instead of giving us what we desire, God will actually plant new desires on our hearts. Good, Godly desires. Desires that will further His kingdom, enhance our lives, and, ultimately, bring glory to Him.
However, before we can achieve this, the question is to ask ourselves is…are we really willing to give up our worldly desires? In the book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes, “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell." How willing are we to completely empty ourselves of all of our earthly desires? For gaining Heavenly ones isn’t simply a matter of “making room”. Holiness cannot dwell alongside worldliness. Galatians 2:19-10 says,
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
It seems to me that we must first start out by putting to death our human nature. By completely surrendering everything that we consider “ours”, we allow ourselves to prepare a dwelling place for the vastness of God’s righteousness. As Jim Elliot so aptly said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” So…what exactly does dying to self entail? Is it wrong to have desires for things other than God? Is it wrong to derive pleasure from earthly things? My opinion is that, no, it most certainly is not. I believe that what we should strive for is actually relinquishing our hold on things of the world. Bringing yourself into the mindset that nothing we “own”, as far as earthly things go, is truly ours in the first place. All things belong to God, and God alone has the power to both give them, and take them away. Job finally came to this very conclusion, after several chapters of wrestling with God, and said,
“Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)
If we can simultaneously enjoy the rich blessings that God has poured out on our lives, and realize that He has both the power and justification to take them out of our lives whenever He deems it necessary…can we do anything but feel in awe of such a Being? Can we do anything less than be utterly delighted with a God from whom all good things come from, and to whom all good things will return? Lewis wrapped up this concept nicely when he wrote, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.”
Delight ourselves in the Lord. It is a constant struggle for me, and it is something that we must always be on our guards about, lest we fall into the trap of worshiping the creation instead of the Creator. But the Lord God is faithful in keeping His promises. He will give us the strength if we only ask Him.