We all have bad days. Sometimes these dark days add up to months or years that accumulate into clouds of despair that just would not budge, no matter what we try. During these seasons we try many tricks to make “things” better, and if we cannot fix our circumstances, then we try to deal with them in a better way. One of the privileges we as Christians have, is that our heavenly Father has given us a Book chock full of his words of wisdom, comfort and guidance. During trials, we often turn to scripture and nit-pick a verse that will get us through a dark moment. One of the favourite verses for gruelling seasons is Psalm 37:4.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.Psalm 37:4
I love this verse as much as the next Jesus-girl. Recently, after a gloomy couple of days, I opened my YouVersion Bible App to find this was the verse of the day. I was so grateful for this verse but the teachings that surrounded it really drove this verse home for me in a new, refreshing way which I just had to share with you.
When this verse is quoted, the focus is most often on the second part of this verse where David promises that God will give us the desires of our heart. But too often we neglect the essential command to first delight ourselves in the Lord. On this particular morning when this Psalm greeted me as the verse of the day, the teaching on the Bible app was an inspiring one by John Piper. He explained that this verse contains a command and a promise. The command is that you must delight yourself in the Lord, which is the condition for the promise: he will give you the desires of your heart. To observe the command to delight or to find joy in the Lord is an act of obedience, not a nice-to-have attribute. It is impossible to delight in a God that you are not sure is for you. If we doubt that God is good, or we suspect that God is against us or disappointed in us then it is not possible for us to muster up delight or joy in such a God.
Isaiah 53 shows us that even though we have all gone astray Jesus has saved us from ourselves. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, our Father has redeemed us which is the most perfect way for him to show us that he is on our side. This is our ultimate proof that God is for us and that he is good. When you and I can write this truth in our hearts we will not be able to dampen our joy in the Lord. Furthermore, this knowledge that Jesus died for our sins shapes the desires of our heart to the will of our Father in heaven. Delighting ourselves in the Lord guides the all-consuming intentions of the desires of our heart. He will give us all the desires of our heart that brings us closer to God and helps us to enjoy a relationship with him to the full.
I often find it helpful to look up a definition of a word to understand the meaning of a text even deeper. The word delight can be defined as “to give great pleasure, satisfaction, or enjoyment to; please highly”. Synonyms include words like exuberate, exult, glory, joy, jubilate, rejoice and triumph. David calls us to be joyful in the Lord because of his love for us. To delight in someone, you must know them well, therefore, to be able to delight in our Father we must get to know him a bit better.
Finding this joy can be tough in an age where we are bombarded with temptations to compare our lives with the highlight-reels of others on social media. We see in the lives of those we follow the things we lack, and it leads to discontentment.
As an optometrist, I like to compare this dilemma with myopia or short-sightedness. With this condition, you can see objects close to you quite clearly, but your vision becomes blurrier the further you try to focus. It is also worthy to note that scientists have established that the changes in our lifestyle that require us to focus more and more on screens close to us are increasing myopia significantly and it is estimated that myopia will be at epidemic proportions by 2050 if we do not change our lifestyle factors now, especially in young children. Similarly, our spiritual myopia worsens as we focus on our screens for hours at a time and forget to look up to God and around us at his goodness and behind us at all that he has done for us in his salvation work through Jesus Christ.
Lauren Chandler wrote the devotion found in the ESV Women’s study Bible on Psalm 37. She begins her reflection on this chapter of Psalms by comparing the instant gratification (here and now) view of life to the everlasting (long-term) view. In our broken world, we are conditioned to expect results immediately. So, when we look at a verse like this, we want to be joyful for a moment and have God meet our desires like a genie in a bottle. But David encourages us to lift our eyes and adjust our sight to a long view of our relationship with the Lord. In Psalm 37 he invites us to “Trust in the Lord…Delight yourself in the Lord…Commit your way to the Lord.” (Psalm 37:3-5) “It is in the soil of trust, delight and commitment that contentment, patience, generosity and justice grow, the final fruit of which is an eternal inheritance.” (Lauren Chandler) When we trust in the Lord it means that we believe that God is who he says he is and does what he says he will do. We trust that God is good and that he has our best interests at heart. We trust that even when we suffer, this too is under the hand of tender heavenly Father (Romans 8:28). To delight ourselves in God is to find great joy in who he is, his presence and his goodness. As we experience his goodness, this enjoyment of the Lord will mould our hearts to desire what he desires for us – everlasting joy, not momentary gratification. Then we can find satisfaction in what we have in him, rather than lamenting what we lack by the world’s standards. Committing our way to the Lord means trusting that he is not only aware of the path of our lives, but that he is in charge. Because we believe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can rest in the assurance that he paid the price on our behalf and that we are now secure, safe, and ultimately satisfied.
In her book on Psalms Sing a New Song, Lydia Brownback elaborates on this Psalm by reminding us that we cannot save ourselves or spiritually qualify by anything we say, think or do. God himself saves us, uniting us to Jesus Christ by faith. In him, we are transformed from the inside out to want what God wants for us and to walk in his ways and to receive everything God has promised to be and to do for those who trust in him.
When we delight in the Lord our desires often change to become His desires for us. Not temporary worldly desires that come and go with time, but an enthusiastic desire to make a difference in His Kingdom – an eternal difference.
This song by Lauren Daigle encourages us to look up, not down, to find our joy in the Lord.