Psalm 37:4 is a great but often misunderstood verse: “Delight yourselves in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Some people take this to mean that God will give us whatever we think we want. But the key part is “delight yourself in God.” When we delight in the Lord He often changes our heart’s desires to what most honors Him, then grants them to us. It’s not that we always get what we want, but that He teaches us to value and even want what He—in His sovereign and loving plan—gives us.
As we contemplate God, and ponder who He is, we will want what He wants. The desire of our hearts will be to hear Him say to us, “Well done.” And when that day comes, He will flood us with more joy than we can imagine. He will say, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23).
But we don’t have to wait until we die to know how He wants us to live! He commands us, for His glory and our good, to delight in Him not just in Heaven forever, but also on this present earth, here and now.
To delight in God is to be happy with Him and in Him. To do that, we must cultivate our relationship with Him just as we do with other people by spending time with Him, bowing our knee before Him as our Lord, and also spending time with Him as our friend. That’s how we get to know Him, by learning and meditating daily on what’s true about Him. (I recommend these great books: Knowing God by J. I. Packer, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.)
In Bible study it’s always helpful to think about what the text says in contrast to what it does not say. It says, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” It doesn’t say, “Sit there and wait for the Lord to come and delight you.”
It’s active, not passive. God doesn’t spoon-feed us His pleasures; we need to go to His banquet, reach out our hands, and select that delicious cuisine. As surely as it’s our responsibility to put good food in our mouths, it’s our responsibility to move our bodies to open His Word and move our minds toward God, and to seek to delight in Him!
While it’s true that God and His Word are nourishing, just knowing that won’t bring us to the table. We need to turn from our self-preoccupied thoughts and instead seek to cultivate our appetite for God: “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!”(Psalm 34:8, HCSB).
When I contemplate Christ—when I meditate on His unfathomable love and grace—I lose myself in Him instead of in my hurts and disappointments and fears. When He’s the center of my thinking, before I know it, I’m happy.
Here’s the Good News Translation’s rendering of Psalm 37:4: “Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire.” This corresponds to the words of Jesus: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).
Augustine said, “Love God and do as you please.” At first this sounds shocking, but it fits perfectly with “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will grant you the desires of your heart.” When we find our happiness in God, we will naturally want to do what pleases Him. But it’s up to us to go to Him and ask for His help and empowerment to delight in Him.
God placed just one restriction on Adam and Eve in Eden, and when they disregarded it, the universe unraveled. On the New Earth, that test will no longer be before us. God’s law, the expression of His attributes, will be written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). No rules will be needed, for our hearts will be given over to God. We will always delight ourselves in the Lord and He will always give us the desires of our hearts.
Whatever we want will be exactly what He wants for us. What we should do will at last be identical with what we want to do. On God’s New Earth there will never by any difference between duty and delight!
But we don’t have to wait, and we dare not, to discover this. Let’s delight ourselves in Him so that we can enter into His happiness now, not just after we die.
Browse more resources on the topic of happiness, and see Randy’s related books, including Happiness.