This is the fourth part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy & anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?” For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this & the other sections (linked at the end).
Continuing on to Psalm 37 verse 4, we’re told:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart”
What does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord?
That question is a logical place to start. And for that matter, what does it mean to “delight in” anything??
“Delight” is not a word we use quite as much today, though honestly it’s one that I love. Some other ways of thinking about this…what do you take great pleasure in, what brings you joy?
What brings contentment to your heart and satisfies your soul? Can you honestly say that you find enjoyment in God’s commands? This contentment and satisfaction also builds upon the previous verse’s idea of feeding on faithfulness.
Part of why I love the word “delight” rather than the tamer “happiness” is that it evokes a sense of joy and even childlike or innocent wonder. It’s also a verb, indicating an active choice to take delight, rather than a passive feeling or reaction. (There’s that theme of taking action again…)
According to Rhonda Stoppe from Bible Study Tools, “True delight in Him causes us to take our sights off of what we want in order to long for what He desires.” Now, this doesn’t mean that God will automatically give you that new car you’ve been wanting—this isn’t about a prosperity gospel.
Instead, “The idea behind this verse and others like it is that, when we truly rejoice or ‘delight’ in the eternal things of God, our desires will begin to parallel His and we will never go unfulfilled.” (link to study on Ps. 20:4 about God fulfilling all your heart’s desires)
Examining the “desires of your heart”
This begins to tease out the types of things Jesus meant when He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart (delight) shall also be” (Matt. 6:21). When we turn our eyes away from this world and fix them on God and His intention for us, only then are we even *capable* of delighting in Him.
Jesus continued on this theme in the same passage, telling us that when we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, “all these things [what we eat, wear, etc, our physical needs] will be added” (Matt. 6:33). James expresses that two-way pull of the relationship, saying, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
If God came to you today and asked you “what does your heart desire?”, what would your answer be? Obviously HE already knows the answer, but do you? Would it be something frivolous and physical? If only we were more like Solomon, who asked God for lots of wisdom…a request God granted, and then added on top of that a multitude of physical blessings.
In some ways we can read Ps. 37:4 as two sides of the coin, telling us to delight in Him and that He will delight in us. Because what does God delight in? He delights when His people listen to His voice and obey His commands, when they turn away from the pulls of this world and take care of their brethren (James 1:27). He wants to give us good things (Luke 11:13).
What does it look like when we’re delighting in God? God uses a marriage metaphor frequently throughout the bible to signify His relationship with His people, and I personally think that can really help us understand this idea of delighting in Him.
When a couple is falling in love, moving toward marriage, and then in a healthy marriage relationship, how do they relate to each other? They’re constantly thinking about, discovering things about, spending time with, doing things for, talking to, and listening to each other (e.g. reading the scriptures). Their minds are oriented around what the other person needs and wants, what will make them happy.
Imagine if we TRULY related to God in that way!!
If you’re stuck here, spend some time SLOWLY reading Psalms 119, maybe 5-10 verses a day, and meditate on the ideas and how you could apply them. It’s full of how we should delight in God, reiterating over and over how we should relate to His commandments, statutes, testimonies, and law.
As you think about delight as an active choice (similar to joy; The Pursuit of Happiness) rather than a passive feeling, I tend to go back to the idea that “thankfulness is the soil in which joy thrives”. Envy is the enemy of joy, a product of looking around at others and comparing—rather than having our eyes fixed on God and what He is looking to accomplish.
“I experience absolute joy in Your presence; You always give me sheer delight” (Ps. 16:11, NET)
“His delight is in the Lord, & on His law he meditates day & night” (Ps. 1:2)
Now that we’ve explored Ps. 37:4, we can move on to verse 5…”Commit your way to the Lord…and He shall bring it to pass.”
Here are the remaining studies:
- Part 1: An Intro & Summary of the Message in Psalm 37 – read first!
- Part 2: Trust in the Lord and do good (Ps. 37:3)
- Part 3: Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness (Ps. 37:3)
- Part 5: Commit your way to the Lord…and He shall bring it to pass (Ps. 37:5)
- Part 6: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7)