Unrequited God

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means for me to “delight [myself] in the LORD.” I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with Psalm 37:4 because people like to quote that verse to singles. It feels like an accusation: You don’t have a husband because you are not delighting in the Lord. I spent this week looking at the opposite idea that God delights in me. It gave me a new perspective about delighting in Him. I think part of the problem with grasping this concept comes back to basic reading comprehension. There are words we encounter in Scripture that we don’t often use in our daily lives, and so they become a kind of Christian-speak. Delight is one of those words. Because we don’t use it much outside of church, our brains have a different idea of what it means than the translators of the Bible had in mind.

I learned from my high school English teacher that, if you want to understand a writer’s intent, you need to start by looking up the definitions of any words you aren’t sure about. When it comes to delight, we sense that this word has something to do with pleasure. Yet when we speak of it in a Biblical sense, I think we divorce it from pleasure and see it as a vague representation of love. Delight is a common effect of love, but the words aren’t interchangeable. Delight expresses a high level of pleasure and enjoyment. The true definition confronts us with the teaching from Scripture that God takes pleasure in us, and we are to take pleasure in Him.

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Psalms 147:10-11

We don’t tend to read God’s Word and see His love for us as something personal. Growing up in church, one of the first verses we learn is, “God so loved the world. . .” We learn to sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” in the context of Jesus loving “all the little children.” As we grow up and continue to read and study the Bible, it is easy for it to stay impersonal. God loves me, but that is nothing special because He loves everyone. I can look back on the last decade of my life and see a distinct turning point when I realized that God had in fact set me apart to have a special relationship with Him. I had grown up with the idea that I needed to have a ‘personal relationship’ with God, but I thought of that as something I was obligated to build up. I didn’t think about God as desiring or delighting in a relationship with me.

I am not used to the idea that anyone finds happiness in being with me. I feel sure that my parents take joy in my company, but I’m not so sure about anyone else. People who I know love and appreciate me, still don’t seem to accept me unconditionally. If I want them to be happy in my company, I am not totally free to be myself. I have always longed for a relationship with someone who could love all of my idiosyncrasies that are so obnoxious to the rest of the world. Now, I am realizing that, if God delights in me, He is happy with me the way that I am (sin aside). Indeed, He created me to be exactly who I am. If God has joy in me, even knowing me through-and-through, that’s a relationship worth having. I can’t pass up such a rare opportunity for happiness.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62:4-5

I am gaining a new perspective of how the thread of God’s unrequited love is woven throughout the Scriptures. I think of the prophets who wrote of God delighting in Israel and Judah, even though they turned away and sought after the love of other gods. Hosea is a prime example. It can be difficult to read, and it is easy to miss the fact that it is a love story. It is God exampling His redeeming love through a  human relationship. Hosea shows us that God’s love keeps pursuing us, no matter what we do. If God were a person, we would think Him crazy, delusional, self-destructive, or just stupid to keep pursuing after someone who repeatedly rejects Him. But He is God, Who knows the beginning from the end, and that makes all the difference. In the end, He wins the hearts of His chosen.

Through the prophets, God promised to reconcile His chosen, loved ones to Himself. He kept His promise and made a way for those He delights in to be saved.  How does someone like me, at times so desperate to be loved, miss the fact that God loves me like that? And once I know about it, how can I seek anything but to revel and bask in His love? How can anything seem better than to find my own delight in Him who loves my soul? I want my heart to be fully His with no more wanderings! I know that all my love and delight can never truly requite the special affection He has bestowed on me. Still, I know that it pleases Him, so I will devote myself to giving Him my heart.

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