Psalm 37:3-4: Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart.
That verse likely sounds familiar to you. It’s commonly found in artwork, sermons, and even in passing conversations. God will give you the desires of your heart, if you trust in him. But what does that mean?
Many take this verse to mean that God will give them what they want if they trust him. It’s a name it and claim it verse. If we do this, then God will give us what we want. Psalm 37:4 is often taken as a personal promise; if we put God first life will be good.
But there’s danger in that approach. When someone isn’t getting what they desire/want, does that mean they did something wrong? They aren’t fully trusting God?
I believe this verse is powerful and applicable for us today. But I think we’ve oversimplified this verse and missed what it really is communicating. For it to be truly impactful we need to give a close look at Psalm 37:4.
Let’s look at what “God will give you the desires of your heart” really means and how it applies to your life. We will start by looking at this verse in context.
Reading Psalm 37:4 In Context
A single Bible verse should never be read in isolation. Doing so can lead to an incomplete, and sometimes dangerous, understanding of what the Bible is saying. When we read the Bible we need to read it in context. Meaning, we need to read the verses before and after. We need to read the authors complete thought so we can fully understand what it’s communicating.
You can read all of Psalm 37 here: Psalm 37
Psalm 37:4 doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s part of a whole passage. And we’ve got to read it as such.
Let’s start by looking at how this passage starts off.
Psalm 37:1-2 says: Do not fret because of those who are evilor be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither,like green plants they will soon die away.
This is setting the stage for what will unfold throughout the rest of Psalm 37. If you were to read the rest of this passage (and you should), you would see similar words and themes appear. The evil are fading and the righteous will prevail.
King David is the author of this Psalm and he’s encouraging his people, the Israelites, to keep trusting God.
What was happening was they were looking around, and they saw evildoers who were doing wicked things and seemingly thriving. And while they were living it up, the Israelites were struggling. They saw no reward for their virtuous living and they become envious of the evildoers.
David is reminding them that the evildoers will soon fade (Psalm 34:1-2), and that the righteous will be preserved forever (Psalm 37:28).
The context of this verse shows us that the Psalm 37:4 meaning cannot be a personal promise that God will give us what we want when we want it. Rather, this passage is a promise that even when life isn’t going our way God is still in control. AND one day those who trust in the Lord, even when things don’t make sense, will find true satisfaction.
Really Psalm 37 is a life lesson. Play the long game. Delayed gratification is better than instant gratification. Those things we think we need to be happy in the moment don’t lead to true happiness and satisfaction. Only following God and what he says is best will lead us to true satisfaction.
Psalm 37, and specifically Psalm 37:4, is not a promise that we will get what we are specifically after in this life. Rather, it’s an encouragement that God hasn’t forgotten his people and one day things will be in the right order.
Let’s dive a little further into what “God will give you the desires of your heart” really means.
What “God Will Give You The Desires Of Your Heart” Really Means
Now that we have a better understanding of the context, I’d like to spend a little time highlighting a few important lessons from Psalm 37:4. Likely this is the verse you’ve heard taught and quoted before so I think it’s important to deal specifically with this verse.
1. Delighting In God
Psalm 37:4 tells us to delight in God. This idea is found throughout the Bible, but it’s one I rarely hear explained. To fully answer what it means to delight in God, a full blog post is needed, but let me give you the short answer.
To delight in something or someone means that you find joy or take pleasure from that person or thing. People commonly delight in their significant others, kids, friends, prized possessions, and sometimes even sin.
What David is telling his authors is to delight in God. To find our joy in him before anything else.
The first truth that is reveal in Psalm 37:4 is that our true desires must rest in God. Nowhere else can we find true life, true happiness, true delight apart from God. Now this doesn’t mean that we cannot delight in anything else; rather that we recognize nothing and no one else can completely satisfy.
2. Our Hearts Desires Aren’t Always What’s Best For Us
Many of the things we think we need aren’t in fact good for us. Some of these might be obvious. Though many of us have desires of revenge, lust, envy, and greed, you know that giving into those desires never truly satisfies.
But there are other things that aren’t so clear. I often encounter Christians who desire something good. A spouse, a better job, kids, a relationship fixed, etc… Those aren’t inherently bad desires. But still sometimes God chooses to not fulfill those desires in our life.
Why? I don’t know. What I do know is that God can see and comprehend things I cannot. And one day things will be revealed and the pains we face in this life will be replaced by inexpressible joy found in the next.
Just because God doesn’t give you YOUR desires in this life does’t mean you are doing anything wrong. Remember, play the long game. For all who trust in the Lord will be rewarded. Don’t be tempted by the “greener” grass over there. It will fade. God is good and one day things will be made right.
3. God Is Aligning Our Heart To His
If we delight in the Lord what he desires will become what we desires. Our hearts will align.
One of the biggest misconceptions in western Christianity is that becoming a Christian is a single event. We accept Jesus, we are saved, and we are done.
That’s not what it means to follow Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t something we believe in our hearts. It’s someone to follow and a person we are becoming with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Followers of Jesus are in a transformative process. We are becoming something. Part of that process is aligning our heart with God’s heart. It isn’t an overnight transformation. It’s a life-long process.
When we delight in the Lord our heart aligns with his. It’s really not about the desires of MY heart. Really it’s about our heart being so close to God’s that our heart’s desires are the same.
How To Apply Psalm 37:4 Meaning To Your Life
The Psalm 37:4 meaning is not a promise that we will get what we are specifically after. It’s not a verse that we can pull out as proof that God will give us what WE want. And it’s not assurance that our life will go smoothly.
Psalm 37:4 is a life lesson, a challenge, that if we follow God he will lead us to happiness and satisfaction that cannot be taken away. Those other things we think we need to be happy won’t, and can’t, lead to true satisfaction. Only God can provide that.
This passage encourages us to play the long game. Don’t look at what we want or desire in the moment. Instead look at God.
The next time you are tempted to think you need something or someone else to make you happy, pause and reflect on this verse.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
This verse reminds us to keep our eyes on what is ultimately important. God. Anything or anyone else will ultimately disappoint us.
Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope that you enjoyed it and that it helped you better understand the Psalm 37:4 meaning and how it applies to your life. If you found this post helpful would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have.
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