Does God Actually Give You the Desires of Your Heart?
Psalm 37:4 is probably one of the more well known promises of God in the scriptures. You can find it when you Google “encouraging Bible verses.” It’s probably on cute wooden signs at Hobby Lobby. It’s one of the more well known Bible verses, but sometimes it’s also one of the more misunderstood. Here’s what Psalm 37:4 tells us:
Psalm 37:4 NLT
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?
No matter who you are, we all desire something. A few days ago I finished up my quarantine after having COVID. I don’t care who you are, but being isolated for 10 days reminds you of a lot of things you desire but can’t have. Whether it’s going to Chick-Fil-A, running to the store, seeing friends – a lot of it is out of reach until you recover, and for good reason.
For many of us, our desires feel like they are out of reach. Whether it is a desire for a spouse, a better relationship with a sibling or one of our kids, or a job that will make it easier to provide – our desires don’t always happen right away when we want them to. As a young believer, I remember reflecting on Psalm 37:4 and feeling frustrated. I had desires and things I wanted to see happen in my life, and seeing it all happen is supposed to be as easy as “taking delight in the Lord,” so that he’ll give us what we want, right? Wrong.
So what does Psalm 37:4 mean when it says God will give you your heart’s desires?
When you take delight in the Lord, your desires change to match His.
One of the best explanations for this verse I’ve ever heard is that “when you take delight in the Lord, your desires change to match His.” This doesn’t mean that your old desires necessarily change, disappear, or somehow become sinful (they could, but that’s not the point of this post). Desiring a spouse, a well-paying job, financial success, or other dreams aren’t a bad thing – oftentimes those dreams are God-given. But what this does mean is that when you take delight in the Lord, the things you desire first are the things that God desires for your life.
Matthew Henry, a well-known theologian and author of several commentaries and books, wrote on this very idea. He said: “What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him.”
So what does this practically mean for you and I today?
When you take delight in the Lord, you desire to know God more.
One of the first things Henry highlights is that when you take delight in the Lord, you desire to know God more. I still have a vivid memory of coming home from my first youth summer camp. I was 12 years old, and encountered Jesus for the first time in a powerful way. In other words, I discovered what it meant to “take delight in the Lord.” All I wanted to do when I got home was spend time reading my Bible – I wanted nothing more than to read God’s word and to know Him more. I had other desires, sure. But nothing came close to the desire to know God on a deeper level.
King David writes about this in Psalm 63:1. He says “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you.”
God’s desire is to know us, and for us to get to know Him. We can accomplish this through prayer, through reading our Bible, or through taking a walk in God’s creation. What would it look like for you to earnestly seek God this week?
When you take delight in the Lord, you desire to love God more.
In Matthew 22:37, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is this: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’” It should be no surprise that when our desires change to match God’s, desiring to love him more is on the list.
In any healthy relationship, love is a 2 way street. Not only is it a 2 way street, but both parties should strive to know and love the other person more. My wife Joy and I have been married for over 3 years (I know, I know… not that long compared to some people) and I can confidently say that we love each other more now than we did on the day we first met. Our relationship with God should be the same – we should strive to love him more and more each day.
When you take delight in the Lord, you desire to live for God more.
Desiring to live for God more is one of my favorite outcomes of learning to take delight in God, partly because it is so simple. After Jesus explains the greatest commandment to love God in Matthew 22:37, he gives us the second which is like it in verse 38: “To love your neighbor as yourself”
Oftentimes we over-complicate what it means to live for God when simply all he wants us to do is love people. You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary to love others well. You can be a business person, a teacher, a school bus driver, or work at the grocery store – what matters is that we love the people that Jesus brings into our lives no matter our differences or disagreements. When you take delight in the Lord, you desire to live for God more by loving people. It really is that simple.
My encouragement to you this week is that you would take delight in the Lord – that your desires would change and fall into alignment with His will for your life to know Him, love Him, and live for Him more.