As we read through Scripture we can find plenty of examples of good desires and evil desires. But probably one of the most quoted verses related to the subject of desire in Scripture is Psalm 37:4 which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, ESV) This is a difficult verse to grasp and it is one that is frequently misunderstood and/or mis-applied. Some have used it as a mantra for God being the keeper of a cosmic slot machine where all you have to do is pull the prayer handle “in faith.” Others have used it to minimize unmet desires by discounting the faith or joy of the one who is waiting. Some have even used it to justify sin, using those infamous but thoroughly unbiblical words, “God just wants me to be happy.”
So, let’s return to Psalm 37 and see what else it has to say that might help us understand what the psalmist (David) intended.
Psalm 37:1-2. "Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
Sometimes we might struggle in life and yet around us we see people cutting corners and getting away with it. The gain that they seem to have is really only temporary because just as their life is limited and then judgment, so is the nature of all they gather around them. Yes, it may seem like a long time to us, but remember that their prosperity for a season is set up against the entirety of eternity. Even the harm which they seek to do is limited in time and scope by God.
Peter, quoting Isaiah 40, wrote, ““All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:24–25, ESV)
Psalm 37:3. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”
In the face of whatever might be going on around us the psalmist tells us to trust fully in God and to do what He would have us do regardless of what pressures or temptations might press in. Even dwelling in the land which he has given us, whether that land is a nice as someone else’s or not, being faithful with what He has given us. When we let the things and the prosperity of others grab our focus and become the object of our desires we then so easily slip into envy and covetousness. In the giving of the 10 Commandments the first one was to have no other gods before God and the last one was not to covet what our neighbor has. In this area of desire they go hand in hand.
It is in setting up this contrast that we have Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It is in realizing that the giver of all that we have is God and that He is the source of all good gifts that we also can find our joy in looking to Him to meet our own desires, trusting Him to do so perfectly, in His way and in His timing.
"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:16–17, ESV)
Psalm 37 continues, (5) “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (6) He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (7) Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (8) Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:5-9, ESV)
It appears that the answer is placing God first, looking to Him with our whole hearts, and trusting Him for His good gifts. The prosperity of others is never to be our standard for it is feeble and fleeting. But our God knows our every thought and desire, cares about our every need, and knows exactly how best to bring them to pass to His glory.
“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:10–11, ESV)
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/11)
I am the culmination of all your hopes and desires. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last: who is and was and is to come. Before you knew Me, you expressed your longing for Me in hurtful ways. You were ever so vulnerable to the evil around you in the world. But now My presence safely shields you, enfolding you in My loving arms. I have lifted you out of darkness into My marvelous Light.
Though I have brought many pleasures into your life, not one of them is essential. Receive My blessings with open hands. Enjoy My good gifts, but do not cling to them. Turn your attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that you are complete in Me. The one thing you absolutely need is the one thing you can never lose: My Presence with you.
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:5–8, ESV)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV)