by Lisa Brittain
In my young wife and mommy years this Scripture caught my eye.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 ESV
It’s a popular scripture, I think. Any casual scroll through Instagram and Pinterest will reveal an overwhelming number of beautifully lettered artsy posts containing this truth. These words easily hang on our walls, from our keys and drip from our lips as we pray or encourage others. And no wonder, these are God’s own words. Psalm 37:4 is a delightful scripture of promise, nonetheless it is a promise containing a bit of mystery.
May I be honest? As the young mother of preschoolers, I was attracted to the idea that I could have the desires of my heart. I wanted the fullness of the promises of God. Yet there was a mystery to delighting in the Lord. I wanted the prize for sure, therefore I needed to know the rules of the game. A strategy would be necessary to ensure the delighting so I could have the desire of my heart
Grateful I am that I still have the same old NIV Bible my husband gave me as a Christmas gift in 1994. Now 23 years later, this Bible has become one of the most precious items I own as it contains much of the history of our family. Often as I read through Scripture I find notes with dates which take me back to a particular juncture on my walk with Jesus.
Having chosen to disregard my grandfather’s displeasure at writing in the Bible, I am fortunate to be able to read the desires of my heart in 1995. On August 11th to be exact, I wrote in purple ink:
“to work from home”
And to show God that I was agreeable to His will and His plan I added a second choice below in purple ink:
“work during school hours”
Even all these years later I can feel the knot in my stomach and the angst of preparing for our oldest son to go to kindergarten a year later. Simply reading my own writing I can recall the feeling of unworthiness in requesting such an audacious gift from God. What kind of delighting would it take for me to be able to receive this desire of my heart? And would God be willing to say yes to either plan A or B?
What if those early heart cries had been the depth of my desire for a life time? But that’s not how it works. Nothing about our faith journey is a one and done. We’re in the process of life from spiritual birth to arrival in Jesus’ presence at the finish line. There’s more than one phase of life, and more than one desire of our heart. But there’s one way to delight ourselves in the Lord.
Jesus, the Word Himself, bridged the gap of Old Testament law and New Testament grace with His answer.
Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.
Matthew 33:37 TPT
I look again at the old worn Bible, the one my husband has often offered to have rebound, and I see another entry. Here it is – evidence of my turning back, eyes and heart focused toward Him. A deeper desire further down the road of maturing faith from August 9, 2013 written in black ink:
What was it that caused my heart desire to shift from employment status to life mission? And how did I become brave enough to write it down?
I chose to put to death an “earn my reward” mindset. By coming to the end of myself, I stopped trying to figure out how to be the good Christian wife and mother. By finding myself in the ditch of life with all the wheels broken off my cart, I cried out to the Only One who was able rescue me from the futility of my thinking. Jesus answered my cries for help. And in His rescue I found relationship. I found Jesus sufficient and fulfilling for all my longings. But that didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a journey.
For years I tried to follow the modern day Christian formula. I checked the stuff off the list every week. I had become obsessed with the minute details of doing the christian-y stuff so that we would have the trophy family. Perhaps I thought this is how I would win the prize?
Nine years ago I was face to face with the ugly reality that I had purchased the system, but had little real-life understanding of the relationship. I found myself crying out to the Lord in anger and disappointment, “So, where is this abundant life YOU promised?” At that point the desire of my heart was far from having anything to do with my work schedule. I was then begging God for a renewed relationship with my husband. My tears overflowed and soaked many tissue boxes full for our two sons who were suffering terribly under the hypocritical weight of our Christian home.
I wanted to go back. I wanted God to fix all the mistakes. “How did we get here?” I sobbed toward God over and over. It’s hard to tell from here exactly where we de-railed as a family and as Christ followers. Somehow I missed the very important detail about what it truly meant to 'delight myself in the Lord.' I wasn’t blind to the Scripture. Often I quoted it as one of my favorite memorizations.
It wasn’t that I had ignored the part about delighting in the Lord. I truly thought I was doing the things that delighted the Lord. I simply did not understand how God defines delighting in Him. Not that two wrongs make a right, but I feel in good company that King David also had to learn this lesson the hard way. The man considered by God to be a man after God’s own heart had been caught in adultery and murder. Surely, a man after God’s heart knew what it meant to delight in the Lord?
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:15-17 ESV
And there it is for me as much as it was for King David. Though, fortunately, no one in our home had been caught in adultery or with blood on their hands from murder, sin is sin. Anger, bitterness and malice are just as vile to the Lord as the sins committed by David.
I needed a new, pure heart. Renew in me, God, a steadfast spirit. Do not cast me away now that I’ve come running to You for help. Your Holy Spirit has sealed me with a guarantee for eternity, but I know I have ignored His good counsel and have not heeded His wisdom. Don’t leave me. I confess now my need for Holy Spirit to fill me and guide me. Sustain me Lord, and bring me back from the wreckage by restoring to me the JOY of Your salvation and teaching me how to have a willing spirit for correction.
From this wrecked place of a broken and contrite heart sprouted the desire of my heart for full-time ministry. In my youth, I had so misunderstood the mystery of delight. I found myself hoping God would redeem my wrongful ways and turn them into an opportunity to teach others in truth.
He would first have to teach me His ways and His delight. In my brokenness all the misguided ideas of the past were washed away. Just as David declared in this psalm I experientially understood that it is not the checklist of stuff and the fulfillment of activities which delights God’s heart. He longs for my devotion.
So, I offered up to my Creator Father all the broken pieces of my shattered heart. I confessed the emptiness of all my striving to be good enough. I recognize now that the desires of my heart were mostly selfish because I desired to be found worthy through my own efforts.
In a healing time of repentance and listening prayer, I often told Father I was sorry for my wrong belief about Him and who I am in Him. These most recent years have been the most refreshing and free years of my life as the cords of duty and striving having quickly unraveled. Gratefully, I’m left now with the utter simplicity of delighting in the Lord. He is the reason and the purpose. He is the delight. And in Him I have every desire fulfilled to overflowing.
Please don’t feel less because it sounds like I’ve arrived and have this whole Jesus walk figured out. I know these truths experientially in a way I never understood in my younger years, but knowing and living in it are not necessarily the same thing. Today, I’m still longing to understand at greater depths the meaning of delighting in the Lord simply to delight in Him rather than to receive a gift of my own desire. I’m seeking to hear from the Lover of my soul. My true desire is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I’m still not sure how to do that, but I’m asking Him to teach me. Our Father loves that. I’ve become absolutely convinced it delights His heart for us to ask Him to teach us what we don’t know how to do on our own.
These longings and desires are more often becoming hands and feet of action through my love of discipleship. There’s not much better to stir the flames of my spirit than to meet up with another woman or three and delve deep in conversation about God’s Word, what He’s teaching us or to join our hearts in prayer. Oh yes, He is my delight and my desire and how I love to bring women with me arm in arm to meet Him. How I delight in watching others discover Jesus is the fulfillment of their greatest desire.
My hope and prayer is that you too will find the truth that your delight and your desire and greatest Treasure are all One. The Lord God, the One who formed you and calls you by name, He is your greatest Delight!
Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and He will provide for you what you desire the most.
Psalm 37:4 TPT
Lisa Brittain and her husband, Randy, will soon be married 30 years. Together they are parents of two adult sons, and share their home with three adopted pups. By day Lisa works as a receptionist in the local middle school, but recently, she added author to her resume. Her book 31 Days of Gleaning with Ruth is now available on Amazon. Lisa’s mission is to reveal the important voice of each woman and to teach her how to share God’s overcoming work through story-telling. It is Lisa’s true passion to keep her eyes on Jesus and introduce women to Him in and through the open moments of her everyday life. Her message to every woman is this: “There’s a place for you here.”