Before I went to Burundi in September of 2010, I struggled with God over it. He had VERY clearly told me NO. I was NOT to go to Burundi. Rewind to 2006 when I first heard of this little country, to 2007 as the possibility of going there stewed in my heart, to 2008 when I really got the drive to go there, to 2009 when I looked for ways to get there, to 2010 when I was finally at a place in my life where I was ready to go there. I really wanted to go. I had good intentions. Still no. Very well God. I gave my life to you, and when I gave it I never intended to keep a part of it for myself. If you say no, though my heart desires it, no it will be until you say otherwise. I trust you. Fast-Forward two weeks later. YES you may go.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
What a profound text. What a profoundly misunderstood text.
As I speak to people about my pseudo-plans, I continuously get advice along the lines of “God knows the desires of your heart.” Just figure out what you really want, and pursue those desires because they mean a lot to God. God just wants you to have what you desire because he loves you so much. So if you’re passionate about something, pursue it.
Ok, this isn’t all bad advice, but it seems to me that we’ve forgotten the first part of the verse. This is, after all, a conditional statement. We know this by the usage of the conjunction “and” in the second phrase. It does say “he will give you the desires of your heart.” But it also says more. First we must delight ourselves in him.
What does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord? The dictionary on my Mac defines the verb delight as ‘please (someone) greatly,’ and in the noun form ‘great pleasure.’ When we look at it in Hebrew though, the word ‘anag’ (delight) is translated as ‘soft,’ ‘pliable,’ even ‘dainty.’ While I don’t speak Hebrew, I would venture to guess that the people who translated this word understood its usage to imply the English word ‘delight.’ But I think there is something to this daintiness that it speaks of.
I think we often use this verse to justify doing what we want. I want to do it, God said he would give me the desires of my heart, so I’m gonna get what I want. Is this what the psalmist writes? No. The psalmist was David. I think there were few in the Bible who could write this.
So, the first step is to be dainty before the Lord, to take great pleasure in him in a soft, pliable fashion. By the way, pliable means easily bent or flexible. I think we literally need to bend to his majesty and glory, to his will, to honor him, to accept him… more concisely, to worship him. The whole of Psalm 37 is about being patient with God, trusting him, waiting for him, letting him execute justice on our behalf, not ambitiously getting what we want… being dainty. I submit to you, that we won’t ever learn to trust God until we learn to be pliable in his hands.
I’m not going to lie. I really struggle with this. Some times more than others. Usually I struggle with this the most when I really, really want something.
So, come to God and delight in him pliably. It doesn’t say to ask him kindly, or to promise to do things for him if he says yes. Just take pleasure in him and let that be our agenda. Go sit in the Catbird Seat next to him for a while and enjoy him… and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Guess what? We don’t have to go out and take hold of those desires. He will give them to us. Not “you will get,” but “he will give.” Sounds too easy doesn’t it? No grabbing. No striving. No taking. Simply receiving.
This is a bit harder to explain, or even clearly define, but what are the desires of our heart? It seems to me that when we take “great pleasure” in God, he becomes the desire of our heart. As we take pleasure in him and become ‘dainty,’ so to speak, I think our affections will begin to realign towards him. The things that truly are in our hearts were put there by God, and the rest of those desires melt away in his presence. I don’t think all of our “desires” are what we really want. I think many of them are be idols. They’re something that fills a void, something that makes us feel like we have purpose or importance. Only God can truly fill that void. He instills identity and purpose. He is sufficient to fill the void in our lives, but do we believe it?
As we sit in his presence and daintily delight in him, he gives us what we really want deep down: Himself. It’s then that we can rightly accept the gifts that he delights in giving us, because we’ve let him fill that void in us first. Those other things we wanted to fill the void often become much less important in retrospect.