Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.
I LOVED Psalm 37:4 in the 7th grade. To me, it taught that if I believed in Jesus and prayed to Him about my desires, then God would make all my dreams come true… which at age 13 meant that one of the star football players would ask me to the school’s Valentine dance.
Sadly for me at the time, God didn’t lead my crush to ask me as his date, and I instead danced the night away to Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” with another awkward middle-school boy.
Looking back, I interpreted Psalm 37:4 totally wrong. Only years later did I truly understand its meaning.
Aligning My Desires with God’s
As a new law school student right out of college, I felt exhausted and depressed. My dad had recently died, and I found myself wracked with grief and questioning the direction of my life. Had I made a mistake going to law school? Did I really want law as my forever profession?
A big part of me wanted to pack up and move to Washington, DC, to pursue my dream of working in politics. But deep down, I wondered if I just sought to run away from grief and the rigors of law school to what I perceived as greener pastures, or if God’s plan really did involve Washington.
Confused, I called one of my former Sunday school teachers and a mentor, Henry. During the conversation he pointedly asked me what I desired to do, which left me nearly speechless as I told him I didn’t know what I wanted and about the frustration consuming me as I sat at this crossroads not understanding God’s way.
Henry challenged me to use Psalm 37:4 as the foundation of a prayer. He said that this verse doesn’t mean what my 7th grade mind thought it did. Instead, he explained that if we truly seek God (“delighting ourselves in Him”), that God often places His own desires in our hearts so that our wants and His wants line up as the same thing. He advised me to boldly pray to God and ask for Him to make His desires my own.
I didn’t pray that prayer for a few weeks because I felt scared to know what God had planned. However, one day as I quietly laid by my mom’s pool (the pool… hard life, I know), I finally got up the courage to go before Him. I poured my heart out to God and sought Him, surrendering my own desires and asking Him to make me want what He wanted for me.
Immediately, my heart longed to move to Washington, DC. I soon quit law school and only a few short months later moved to the east coast.
God worked mightily in the following years. I had the opportunity to work for two Presidents and First Ladies and to meet and interact with such interesting and great people.
However, I know God didn’t purpose for me to work in politics for my own fun and professional experience. Rather, He had plans to use me in DC for Himself. I can clearly see in hindsight that He made me interested in politics and want to move to Washington because He desired for me to work there and serve Him in that place. God orchestrated everything for His own glory – not for mine.
The Good Thing about Wants
I write all this personal stuff because I’ve noticed that wants often have a bad reputation in Christian circles. We often think of our feelings as selfish and ungodly and believe that sin lives at their core. While some desires are in fact sinful and unwise, and they should never foolishly serve as the sole basis of our decision-making – we shouldn’t make a blanket statement considering all our wants bad.
Because of this false belief, many of us go in the opposite direction of our good, Godly desires by assuming that God wills for us to do what we don’t want to do. We bypass God’s plan for us and live a life that we hate, transforming into unmotivated, negative, and lazy people.
The truth is that God gives us interests, gifts, and ambitions for a purpose: to glorify Him. I believe that if we whole-heartedly and consistently seek our Lord Jesus, our desires often naturally flow from Him and can serve as sign-posts leading us to God’s will. (I say “can” help lead to God’s will and not “will” help lead to God’s will because I realize situations exists in which our desires sometimes don’t come to fruition… like wanting a spouse, a child, or good health. The purposes of why God allows some wants to remain unfulfilled could stand alone as a whole other blog post!)
Instead of automatically negating your wants, I encourage you to pay attention to them. Do you think God placed those desires inside of you? If you feel confused, first ask yourself whether your wants accord with the Word. If you find they don’t line up with biblical teaching, then move on – those desires did not come from God.
If they don’t go against the Bible, I challenge you in the same way that Henry challenged me: with God’s wisdom and discernment, seek Him, surrendering your own desires and bolding asking God to replace them with His.
As you pray for your wants to align with God’s, He might just put in your heart the desire to do the exact work He has created you for, giving your life such joy and eternal purpose. Whether He answers you quickly like He did for me or whether He changes your heart over a period of time, it will be exciting to see how He responds to your prayer and what He kinds of leaps of faith He may ask you to take as a result.