Desire is like a rope pulled tight; there’s tension in and around it.
We pull our end, playing a game of tug of war, the whole time thinking that we are getting closer. If we keep the plan, the study, and the focus, we will arrive.
Our hands become bruised, calloused, and burnt from holding too tight for too long.
Desire can be a painful thing.
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”Psalm 37:4
I am suggesting that we all have a desire problem. I believe many Christians (including myself) live in a perpetual tension of desire, thinking if we hold out long enough, God will grant us what we’ve been waiting for.
Our mindset is in the future because that’s where we believe that we will “arrive.” The desire will be fulfilled and the Lord will be good.
But what if we are channeling all our effort to the wrong end of the rope?
“Take delight in the Lord . . .” (Psalm 37:4).
The Word of God is draped in divinity. And as the creation, it is in our nature to miss the divine.
As the people of God, we have been given unfettered access to him and his abundance. This abundance is not only seen in our physical life but also through the Holy Spirit whose job is to point us to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
And every day we are given a choice.
Every day we are given the opportunity to delight in the Lord or in the world.
Every day we wake up to daily bread provided by our loving Father, ready and able to satisfy every desire.
But we also awake to a world pining for our hearts, and with our hearts comes everything else.
Living in a broken world means we never have and never will experience true fulfillment in anything that exists on this side of Heaven. God has “put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and nothing outside of the eternal one can give us what we have been aching for.
Yet in that same heart that both the world and the Lord are pursuing lives a grave truth.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”Jeremiah 17:9
We all are inherently flawed and marred by sin. We are born with rebellious hearts that when left to their own devices, will seek complete self-satisfaction. This selfish pursuit knows no bounds, no grace, and no love. Said simply, this path leads to an empty and even destructive life on Earth.
And on top of the brokenness within and around us, the enemy is actively scheming against us. The best lies are most similar to the truth, and this tactic is used to manipulate. Godly desires like marriage, successful work, ministry, etc. can so easily become misshapen and distorted.
Anything short of God himself is simply not God, but oh, how much we love to worship the godly instead of worshiping God himself! And when we hit this point, everything becomes a means to an end. We find ourselves back in the mud, caught up in our game tug of war, channeling everything into what we can control.
This includes every desire we are holding on to.
This includes every good thing God has ever given and will ever give. This includes the day you walk down the aisle. This includes the job you are convinced you were created for. This includes the moment you become a parent. These are all good and godly things, but they are still short of God himself.
And if we are not careful, the beginning of Psalm 37:4 can simply become a how-to list to receive the desire we really want, or said in another way, the desire that has become our God.
And even though we are tired of being let down, we hold on because the only thing we can control is how hard we try, so we keep going.
Yet striving is something the Lord never meant to be a reality for his children.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
Desire is a painful thing because letting go of the rope can only end in two ways, crushing loss or stunning victory, and the fear of coming face to face with that loss keeps us holding on. If we let go, who will make sure we get up again?
This is the crux of faith.
Only a creator knows how to make his creation thrive, and we have a generously kind creator who has given us the blueprint. His goodness is truly running after us through the words of the Bible, and we were made to be fully satisfied in his presence.
In the words of the pastor and theologian John Piper,
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
And we aren’t even at the best part yet.
Not only is the Lord capable of carrying the responsibility of our fulfillment, he is also the perfecter of our faith who changes us to look like himself. And this change is the point of the Christian life, to be saved from our own selfish hearts and molded into our selfless savior.
If we read Psalm 37:4 through this lens, we begin to focus on the first half of the verse, not the second. We lose sight of the desire and fixate on the creator. This means we can all loosen our grip, stand up straight, and look up to the king on his throne who is ready and able to give us something more valuable than our desires.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”Philippians 3:8
This is the key. Jesus Christ, who gave us everything he had, so that we might receive life and life to the full (John 10:10 NIV). This abundance changes us from the inside out, and as we live in the light of Christ, our desires will shift. They will become less self-centric and more God-centric. Some may be completely eradicated, while others are kept but given a new purpose and mission.
This is not to say that we cannot find delight in gifts that the Lord has given us out of his abounding grace. Gifts like your family, home, or even a good meal. The Lord loves to bless his children in daily graces, both big and small! The snare that can so easily imprison us is when these delights become what fulfill us.
There is so much desire and pain wrapped up in our hearts that the Lord wants to uniquely unwind, heal, and change. I am sure we all can name a few desires we have been holding on to for a long time, but there may be other hidden or smaller heart cries that will need to dig for.
This may be a painful process, but know there is freedom the Lord wants to grant you, abundance the Lord wants you to walk in, and joy the Lord wants you to find strength in.
As a response, consider carving out some time to:
- Memorize Psalm 37:4 and pray it regularly.
- Start a list of desires and humbly lay them before the Lord.
- Ask him to highlight the desires or places you are running to for your delight.
- Repent of your waywardness and ask him to help you find your satisfaction and delight fully in him.
- Refer to the list as you continue to pray Psalm 37:4 and see what the Lord does with your obedience.
Photo Credit: @emileecarpenterllc
Carrie is in real estate living in Louisville, KY with her husband Brett who attends seminary at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A recovering pastor's kid herself, she never wanted to be a pastor's wife, but the Lord is good and has made her life into one she loves. In her free time, you can find her reading historical fiction novels, voice memoing friends, or mediocrely playing piano.