What a great verse with a marvelous promise. Right? If you are like I am, though, you tend to jump to the second part of the sentence first and sort rewrite the verse. “If God will give you the desires of your heart, you will take delight in Him.” Now, that is sort of what I call the “reversed standard version” rendition – a total distortion of what God wants for us.
When I was in high school, my farmer dad gave me a driving lesson on the trusty green and yellow tractor and gave me the task of raking a field of hay. He had raked the first row, and it looked like a fairly simple thing to follow. Off I went, and to my surprise when I finished, I saw a field full of more and more crooked rows. What Dad didn’t think to tell me was to keep my eye on the row AND focus on a fence post or something at the end of the field to keep me on a straight course. Every little bend in row #1 was magnified in subsequent rows. What Dad wanted was a field of straight, even rows. The way to achieve that was to look beyond the obvious of following row #1.
I had three main desires of the heart: a) a marriage to someone who loved me and God; b) a career as a pianist on a college faculty where I could do what I greatly enjoyed, accompanying and performing recitals; and, c) teaching students to dig deeply into the rich heritage left by those who provided music spanning the centuries.
Wouldn’t you know it? Today, none of those specific desires, dreams, goals – call them what you will – have happened. I admit to some hollering at God about that over the years. But, slowly and surely He drew me to the first phrase of that verse: “Delight in the Lord” letting me know I was trying to go through His process backwards.
“Just learn to be content and God will bring you a spouse.” Have you heard that one? Is contentment what it means to delight in the Lord?
“Look at these huge disappointments as opportunities, not problems.” Is working on an attitude change what it means to delight in the Lord?
“You have so much going for you. Stop whining for the one thing you don’t have.” (Yes, someone actually said that to me in response to my heart cry. Not particularly helpful then – or now, frankly.) Is picking myself up by the bootstraps and doggedly slogging through a bumpy life what it means to delight in the Lord?
I learned a tremendous lesson one year when deep depression hit. Paul’s little letter to the Philippians has a deep undercurrent of joy throughout, and I decided that for the whole year, I would only read that book. Over and over I read it, stopping when something especially took hold of my thoughts. At times, I camped out on one verse for a week at a time. I didn’t tell anyone of this Philippians journey, so imagine my surprise when a year later someone told me they saw deep joy undergirding the struggle they knew I was experiencing. Light bulb moment! (NIV) Hebrews 4;12 – For the word of God is alive and active, Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. In the midst of the depths, I was just beginning to understand what it is to delight in the Lord!
“Delighting in the Lord” was simply spending time with Him with the intent to know Him as well as I possibly could in the midst of every ounce of circumstance surrounding me, good and bad.
I now realize that my former definition of the desires of the heart was my expectation of what I hoped would happen. God’s definition goes far beyond my expectations! He wants a level of contentment in my heart which transforms my expectations into His intent for my life. I lost those original expectations primarily due to circumstances totally out of my control! A beloved man walked out of my life leaving me stripped emotionally. While I pursued a teaching career on the college level for six years, school politics, tenure decisions, and a host of things I still do not understand, totally changed the course of my life.
Do I still long for a Godly spouse? Absolutely! Do I still want to express music through my fingers at the piano? Absolutely! Do I still want to teach others to enjoy not just music, but the truth of God’s word? Absolutely!
So, my friends, I say to myself as well as to you: Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Get more deeply acquainted with Him, and He will put His desires in your heart, making them your desires as well. Contentment is just one expression of our mutual desire.