One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible for me has always been Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart." It just means God will give you what you want at the right time, DUH. While some of that may have some truth – God definitely does give good gifts to us – it is missing the mark. I think the main problem is in the phrase what you want. What do I want? Currently, I want to move out, start a Bible-study and get married, etc in the next 5 years. But if I think that Ps. 37:4 is only talking about what I want, then I’ve missed the mark again.
He shall give you the desires of your heart
A want is much different than a desire. A want is the 10% of the iceberg that is visible, while a desire is the 90% hidden beneath the murky ocean of my heart, mind, soul. Every single want could have up to five desires hidden behind them. Why do I want to move out? Because I desire independence, greater accountability, growth, maturity, first step to other desires. Want isn’t possible without desire.
Every day our desires affect our wants which affects how we act, what choices we make, and who we decide to be. The friends we choose to be close with, the job we take, the way we spend our free time – all of these reflect our desires; yet it’s common to feel unattached to our desires and have almost no idea what it is we really want. Our struggles with sin and addictions are rooted in desire. Most of the time we sin cause we feel the need to fill a lack. A kid who spends 5 hours a day playing video games desires adventure; a person with an eating disorder feels the desire for love quenched by rejection, the desire to be beautiful and accepted; a girl who spends her time in abusive relationships desires to quell the rejection of her neglecting father or other relationship. These carnal fleshly sins are manifestions of deep, legitimate desires. Of course, there are some sins that are from rebellious, hard hearts, but I believe a lot of sins are from misplaced desire.
Does that mean that desire is bad? I think the church in the West would jump to the conclusion yes! Desire gets me into trouble, I need to avoid it at all costs. Yet I would argue that unowned desire is what gets us in trouble. When we don’t understand what our desires our and when we don’t ‘own them’ we are controlled by them.
Take time to look into your sins as well as your wants to find your desires. We cannot repent of our desires, they are God-given and legitimate, but we can repent of seeking to fulfill them in the wrong way. Let God show you what desires He’s placed in you and own them. Don’t be controlled by them. Live your life fueled by desire under control and guided by God’s Word.
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Tags: articles • desiring god • John Eldridge • life management