Friday, January 29, 2010

What Does Getting the Desires of Your Heart Actually Mean?

It’s a question I often asked when the desires of my heart went unanswered. And it occurs to us all. It’s a continual state. What does this oft-misquoted verse below actually mean?

“Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

~Psalm 37:4 (NRSV).

Well, for starters—certainly it used to be in my own case—we skip part A (“Take delight in the Lord”) in our haste for the answered prayer and see in it that God is suddenly going to give us the dream outcomes we’ve so wished for. Not so fast. The entire verse, read as a package, is at least conditional.

If we will take true delight in God, and seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33), we will get what we want—for we will want what he (a.k.a. God) wants. His will be done and so on. It is alignment with the divine.

When we take a true sense of delight in God we’re actually truly ‘giving over’ to him our desires and he makes us at one with ourselves. This is zero dissonance—pure calm and intrapersonal harmony, at its zenith. This can be easy to do sometimes; at other times it is harder. In the overall balance, however, we’d make a choice for God and give over our desires to him—and these for safe keeping. We’re accepting our lots in life as his will for us, come what may.

We can also find the desires of our hearts realised whilst we even wish for them. God is dynamically faithful in life. He wastes no time attending to our needs even before we’ve thought of them. This is true if we reflect over it.

Some, including Dr. John Piper, have seen Ps. 37:4a as a command.[1] In other words, ‘Take delight in the Lord!’ It is possible to read it this way. Read with Matthew 6:33—Jesus’ positive imperative[2] consistent with Piper’s reading of Ps. 37:4a—we are to positively put God and his affairs first in our lives and everything else will accordingly take care of itself.

Some eminent scholarship on the matter in conclusion:

The “righteous trust in God and receive from God their legitimate desires.”[3] Another would have it similarly: “Such as ‘delight’ in the Lord shall be rewarded with their heart’s desire, i.e., they will draw ever closer to their God.”[4]

This will not satisfy most, especially those who hanker for their very desires in carnal, or even spiritual, form i.e. devoid even a skerrick from the form of God’s will.

It is, however, still very simple. Align with God. Make it a habit to delight in him. Peace will then be yours and so will the desires of your heart.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] John Piper, Desiring God – Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1986, 1996, 2003), p. 9. Also available now online:

[2] Are Ps. 37:4a and Matt. 6:33 commands? According to R. T. France, Matthew – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p. 141, the initial word “seek” in Matthew 6:33 is cast in the imperative. This verse should therefore be interpreted as a command. If we take the same rendering for Psalm 37:4a, we deduce it is a command i.e. ‘Take delight in the Lord!’

[3] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50 – Word Biblical Commentary 19 (Dallas, Texas: Word Inc., 1983), S. 297.

[4] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms (Joplin, Missouri: College Press Pub. Co., 1996). No page/section number given from Libronix system.

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