Thursday, June 8, 2017

When God Doesn't Give You the Desires of Your Heart


“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4

Your heart aches, your arms empty. The quiet seeps in, your loneliness your companion. Your body aches, any healing seems impossible. Your child suffers, your heart breaks. Your mind questions, this loved one doesn’t believe. Your soul downcast, stuck in cyclical sin. Your heart heavy, the suffering doesn’t end.

Perhaps, like me, you are in a season where there is a strong unmet desire of your heart. This desire is good, for a blessing from God or for healing or for companionship or for children or for relief from pain or for a loved one’s salvation. And yet, God has not chosen to bestow upon you that which you so earnestly desire.

A Brief Commentary

Before moving on, let’s briefly explore what it means to “delight in the Lord.” Here in Psalm 37, the word “delight” literally means to “enjoy, be fond of, take pleasure and enjoyment in.” To say we delight in God ought to mean that we enjoy him, which brings to mind the Westminster’s Shorter Catechism answer to the question, what is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. But we don’t enjoy him in a pluralistic sense, as in, we enjoy God along with our spouse, our children, coffee, ice cream, being outside (if I’m making a list). We enjoy God fully, ultimately, as the one who fully completes us and alone brings ultimate meaning to our lives. We enjoy him even when we do not have a spouse, or children, or coffee or ice cream or the ability to be outside, because he is the beginning and end of our joy. He is fully our joy.

So then, what of our desires? Calvin, in his commentary on Psalms, helps explain: “it can never be well with us except in so far as God is gracious to us, so that the joy we derive from his paternal favour towards us may surpass all the pleasures of this world… if we stay our minds wholly upon God, instead of allowing our imaginations like others to roam after idle and frivolous fancies, all other things will be bestowed upon us in due season.”

Keeping this in mind, let me encourage you with a few thoughts for your weary heart.

Take Your Loss to Him

Though it may not feel like it, God knows the deep desires of your heart, for he knows everything.

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar” [Ps 139:1-2].

This desire is not unknown to the God of the universe, to the God of your life. He knows you so intimately that even “before a word is on my tongue…you know it altogether” [Ps 139:4]. You may not even voice your desires, and yet he knows them.

Though he knows them, there is much good for us to still take these unmet desires to God, in prayer. To open our hands, which clutch so tightly that which we so deeply desire, to gently open and offer it to God. To say, from deep in our spirits, “God, this is my desire. This is my loss. I do not understand, but I give it to you.”

God is not surprised; in fact, you and I cannot find a better friend in grief than Jesus. He indeed is “acquainted with grief” and has “carried our sorrows” as part of his experience as a man on this broken earth so many years ago [Isa 53:3,4]. He is not only qualified to hold your desires because he is the very God who created you and knows you intimately, but also because he is the very God who lived on this earth and died real death for you.

Acknowledge God’s Sovereignty

“I work all things to the counsel of my will” [Eph 1:11].

Firm belief in the sovereignty of God is the sweetest comfort when we are feeling the weight of unmet desires. We can know and trust that the God who created the world ordains it: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” [Isa 45:7]. Likewise, we can rest knowing that the God who created our very lives also establishes them, “the heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” [Prov 16:9].

You take steps, you walk forward, knowing each step you take is from God, both the joyful leaping lunges forward and the painful slow shuffling. Does this comfort you? It is a relief to know that ultimately, God is choosing to not give this desire now, for some reason you may not understand. But it’s not because he does not know you or hear you. His reasons are often beyond our understanding, but because he is a good, loving father, we can rest in his care for us.

Recently, my 18-month old found an old apple core covered with ants on the ground. She, in true toddler form, reached down, picked it up, and gleefully shouted over her discovery. So when I quickly reached down and plucked it from her grasp, and her glee turned to a despondent glum, all I could say was, “I know you thought that would be good. I know it looked good to you. But it is not good for you now.”

Your desire may be good, your heart may be for God’s glory, your steps may be obedient. But for some reason, only known by your good and loving father, he has not given it to you for now.

Rest in His Peace

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” [Isa 26:3-4].

So we can take our unmet desire to God, holding it with open hands because we know and trust that God is sovereign over every aspect of our lives. What now?

Dear friend, rest. Take deep rest for your heart in the only one who can give you complete rest. In trust, there is rest. In trust, there is peace. In those moments of pain, seek to fully delight in God, because when your other desires are yet unmet, your heart will be full from his joy. It is possible, and God desires for us, to live with unmet desires but be fully satisfied in him.

When your heart is weary with unmet desire, turn your mind to your God, who knows you and hears you, who ordains your life, who alone can fully satisfy your heart. And in this active turning of your mind, rest in his perfect peace.

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“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” [Ps 73:28] 
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