Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 is a popular and beloved scripture for many. But taking it at face value, we erroneously assume that it means God is going to give us whatever we want. I, too, have been guilty of using this scripture to justify my materialistic desires. My assumption was that praising God, going to church, and reading the Word were synonymous with “delighting” in God and the automatic response from Him would be new cars, homes, closets full of designers clothes, the latest gadgets, and whatever our hearts desired. Internal conflict arises when we’ve done all of our “delighting in God” duties and still don’t get the material possessions we desire. As a result, we become disappointed with God. We are disappointed because He didn’t turn out to be the wish-granting fairy God-father we imagined He would be. We didn’t get our way and now we have an attitude with God. The issue is not with God or His faithfulness, but it is with our own gross misunderstanding of this scripture.
Our Western, Americanized perspective associates the word “delight” with pleasure and gratification. However, the word “delight” is the Hebrew word anag and it means “to be soft, delicate, or pliable”. So the picture for us is to become soft and pliable before Him, treating God with delicacy and respect as we would something that is of great value. This idea coincides with the surrounding verses that encourage us to trust in the Lord(vs 3) and commit our ways to the Lord(vs5) both of which require humility.
Desires are a God-given attribute that we all have. Desires, in and of themselves, are not evil. The issue is when we allow those desires to take the place of God in our hearts. As we allow our hearts to be soft and pliable before Him, He begins to mold our hearts and our desires so that we ultimately want what He wants. Have you ever been told to “trust your gut”? At some point or another, we have all received this piece of advice from a well-meaning person in our lives. The truth is, we can only trust our gut (desires and instincts) when they are submitted to God. It is through the act of submission that we will see what we desire come to pass.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with desiring material things. I don’t believe God has a problem with us having material things. God doesn’t want us to be consumed with obsession for material things. What he does want is for us to be consumed with Him our never-ending source of joy.