Psalm 37:4 is a verse that I always interpreted wrong as a teenager. My mindset was “I want x and y to happen, so I have to seek God in order for him to give it to me.” Looking back on that time of spiritual immaturity makes me laugh now, but I remember being incredibly frustrated as a young Christian, never seeing prayers answered and wondering what I was doing wrong.
I’d always be asking, “Aren’t you supposed to give me the desires of my heart, God? Am I not seeking you correctly? Worship in church yesterday was really good, and I feel like I really connected with you. What else do I need to do for you to make this happen?” It led to years of anger, doubt, and discouragement.
The truth is, my focus was all wrong (which should have been obvious, lol), and I removed delight from the process altogether. While I was so busy focusing on how to attain the “desires of my heart,” I didn’t realize that the joy of spending time with my loving Father was right there in front of me the whole time.
This is something that I learned embarrassingly recently, after I started school here at RSW. In just these 2 months of school so far, my understanding of God (and of myself) has been flipped on its head. The God who I once saw as distant and forgetful keeps proving himself to be fiercely loving, kind, and attentive.
Allow me to illustrate this in a story. Yesterday (Friday), I went grocery shopping in the morning, and my car randomly started making a very loud & scary rattle sound. I reacted in a panic because I’m planning on driving two hours away for a Julien Baker concert on Sunday, and so I needed a working car to get me there safely. On top of that, because I moved here less than 2 months ago, I had NO idea where to take the car to get it fixed. I took a deep breath, asked my landlord for advice, and began looking up phone numbers for local car repair places. The first place I called was completely booked for weeks. I called the nearest dealership next, which also told me they were completely booked this weekend and couldn’t schedule an appointment for me. They told me to bring the car in anyway, and they might be able to keep the car overnight and look at it when they have a spare moment between appointments. That seemed like my only option, so I rushed to put my groceries away, said a frantic “God, please let this go smoothly” prayer, and carefully drove my noisy car to the dealership 20 minutes away.
The whole time I was driving there, I was in a constant state of anxiety. My thoughts went like this: “please God, don’t let something fall off the bottom of my car on the way there.” “God why would you let a car problem happen just DAYS before a road trip?” “God, I’m choosing to trust in your goodness even though I’m really annoyed at you right now and this is stupid and scary AF.” “WHY IS MY CAR SO LOUD?” “omg I might die today. My car will explode and someone will have to clean up my dead body. God, please don’t let that happen.”
Talk about messy prayers, right? Well, God listened and cared about ALL of those poorly-worded panicky prayers. I got to the dealership safely and was greeted by the most helpful and friendly staff member who chatted with me about my upcoming road trip. Turns out he used to be a concert promoter, and he likes Julien Baker too! When we got into the service garage, they happened to have a technician available, so they took my car back right away. As soon as I handed them the key and signed the estimate, my sweet friend Gretchen pulled into the garage with her car (what are the chances??) and she sat with me for a half hour or so. We got to talk and laugh, and it completely took my mind off of the stress of the morning. My car ended up getting fixed in just over an hour, the issue was minor, and the final cost was almost 20% less than the estimate they gave me.
I drove home with a huge smile on my face, thanking God out loud the entire way home. Not only was I thankful for the smoothness of the morning—I was thankful that the whole stressful ordeal was just a way for God to prove his trustworthiness. My messy “God, I’m choosing to trust in your goodness even though I’m really annoyed at you right now and this is stupid and scary AF” prayer was a pivotal moment in my heart… a moment of honesty with the Father that he was able to honor and use to actually build my trust in him.
My time at RSW has been full of these kinds of stories. Stories where I pray a messy, angry, poorly-worded, honest prayer, and God answers in a way that reveals he’s listening intently and loves to help.
That’s how the delight started happening. Once I began to see that he listens and cares about every word I say to him, I found myself starting to enjoy talking to him about everything. Once I looked back on the past year and realized that he held every moment and orchestrated everything to bring me to where I am now, I found myself getting excited about trusting him with things. Once I realized that he literally smiles at me and sits with me when I choose to spend time with him, I found myself loving every moment I get to spend in his presence.
And it’s a chain reaction—The more I delight in him, the more he reveals his delight in me. The joy just keeps on increasing. Last night, I was in tears as I talked to him in the shower, because I was overwhelmed by the fact that the God of the universe actually loves listening to me and isn’t annoyed with me.
So then, there’s the part of the verse that says “…and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
I’ve found that when you truly delight in the Lord, you kind of completely forget about the stuff you want for a bit. I think, when I was a teenager, I sort of knew that, and I didn’t want to forget about the desires of my heart for fear that God would never give them to me. I believed that it worked this way: you delight in God so that HE becomes the desire of your heart, and then the promise of that verse is fulfilled already, so he doesn’t have to give you anything else.
But that’s not how God works at all. As I fix my eyes on my loving Father and my little human desires seem less and less important in comparison, he takes such great care of my heart. I look around at my life once in a while and realize that, the whole time I was busy looking at him, he sneakily and generously surrounded me with blessings and answered prayers.
Here’s a specific (and personal) example: I used to wish all the time for a friend who was around my age, truly understood my weird brain, was on my same musical skill level and could make music with me, enjoyed spending quality time with me, and gave me a safe place to be 100% myself. I had a really hard time making friends as a teenager; it was a really tough and lonely season of my life, so I thought about this constantly. It never seemed to happen though, so eventually I gave up on praying for it, and I forced it into the back of my mind where I eventually forgot about it. Fast forward to now; RSW helped me discover God’s kindness and love for me, and as he became my main focus and I began to really enjoy every moment I spent with Him, I looked around at my life a few weeks later and realized that I had become surrounded by an incredible group of friends that felt like family, and one of those new friends has already checked off every single thing I wished for in a friend. That particular friendship has felt so God-chosen and anointed from the beginning, and it seems like a PERFECT example of the Father giving me one of the desires of my heart while I was busy delighting in him.
When I was younger, that friendship was the goal, and my relationship with God was essentially just a means to an end. But now, the Father has become my goal. That friend is just additional joy on top of it all. It’s like the dessert after a delicious meal.
I’m also realizing that my delight and dependence on the Father has given me the maturity and strength necessary to even handle having the desires of my heart. Viewing my relationship with God as a means to an end was like begging for the dessert before eating the actual meal; if he gave in to my plea and gave me what I wanted before I entrusted him with my heart first, all it would’ve done is make me sick and cause me to expect nutrition from something that has none. Not healthy.
Bottom line: the Father is so good. The joy that comes from an intimate relationship with him far surpasses anything else, but at the same time, he loves us so much that once we entrust him with our hearts, he takes such good care of us and gladly pours out blessing. It’s amazing.
I’m so thankful for this season of my life, where I’m discovering his realness and kindness for the first time.