Delight did not come easily to me as a child. I had a somewhat lonely childhood. I even suffered from a lengthy stint of childhood depression. So when a lovely older lady named Winnie, from the house with the luscious orange and lemon trees a block away, invited me to milk and cookies in her backyard, I immediately agreed. This was back in the seventies when parental supervision was more relaxed. “You are such a good girl!’ she would say to me, and such was the pleasure in her tone that I was forced to reconsider my idea of myself.
I never thought of myself at bad, particularly, but neither had my vision of myself included anything that would warrant the enthusiasm Winnie displayed for my five-year-old person. She sent me home with oranges and lemons from her trees and beautiful little cards with Bible verses on them. I loved her with a pure child’s heart. Later I realized she had the spiritual gift of delight. She delighted in me and that transformed my vision of myself.
I don’t believe delight comes easily to most people. A number of barriers stand between delight and me at any given time. I’m a cheerful person most days, but I struggle with Psalm 37:4. The verse tells me that if I delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart.
How easy it is to read this text with a decent helping of self-torture. I used to tell myself that the verse meant that I needed to spend enough time doing Christianity through the usual avenues of Bible study and church attendance as a guise for “delighting” myself in the Lord. Then God would kindly remove the less than godly desires from my heart and give me better things to want. Note that my version never included God actually fulfilling desires, but merely replacing one lack with another.
After all, I had been told over and over how deceitful my heart was. Add to that the verse from Jeremiah 17:9 about how wicked and unknowable my heart was! Surely God could not fulfill the desires of a wicked heart? I have heard so many wonderful Christian women even get angry at the suggestion that perhaps our hearts aren’t evil.
The problem is taking one verse and applying it to every situation. There are many, many verses in which we are told to guard our hearts because from them spring the wellsprings of life. Other verses talk about those with evil hearts, still others about those with pure hearts. So my vision of the purpose of my heart changed when one day, I heard a preacher talk about how good our hearts were. That is after we have allowed Him in.
He creates in us a clean heart! And, after all, we have received God’s spirit. We ask Jesus to sit on the throne of our hearts. We war against flesh and our minds need constant renewing. We are sinners, no doubt. But why would we have to guard our hearts if they were so evil? Surely the presence of Jesus on the throne of our hearts changes things. We are told to open, not close the eyes of our hearts so we can see Him more clearly. What gives?
In the Old Testament, the Holy Place is a symbol of our hearts. It is not the seat of our emotions, but the seat of our motivations. Remember that the Holy Place is next to the Holy of Holies and the curtain is torn! With God’s spirit living in you, your heart is literally in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Remember that the Holy Place is where the prayers of the people rise up in the incense to the nostrils of God.
In Christ, our hearts are sanctified.
As Christians, our motivations and even our desires are generally good. Take a catalog of your desires. Mine are simple. I desire my children to walk with the Lord. I want them to live lives filled with love. I want to fulfill God’s calling on my life. I desire a happy marriage, some adventure, some success. With Jesus on the throne of my heart, I am able to even love my enemies! I know my mind can stray, but my heart is sensitive to the pain of others and is filled with love for my family and friends.
Do I have wicked desires? I think everyone struggles with the lust of the flesh. But our flesh is not our heart.
My heart belongs to God and is sanctified by His presence.
Once I realized that God delights in me, that He is not looking at me with an agenda, then delight became something irresistible. Going to Winnie’s house one day a week became one of my favorite things to do. My little, awkward little girl self gave her joy, and so I delighted in her loving presence. This is the heart of that verse, really. God says to us, “Come delight in me, delightful ones because I long to fill your loving hearts with all the treasures of heaven.”
No agony at all in this verse, then. Does He give me his desires? I hope so! Does He want to give me the things I desire? I believe so. The things I desire are things He desires as well.
It is time to set your heart free in the loving embrace of a God who made your heart in the image of His great, immeasurably kind, freely generous, and passionate heart. Let your heart respond to the delight in His boundless heart. Watch while throughout your life, the loving desires you hold for others and even for yourself come to life in the hands of a Father who makes all things new.
Some books to help you get to know God’s heart:
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