I have had to power through some melancholy this week, which is nothing new. I have learned that my depression is fed by a self-focused state of mind. I was focused on me, again. In the midst of feeling down, I suddenly caught myself singing a Twila Paris song, “I will delight my heart in you. . .” I like the song, but it reminds me of my old nemesis: Psalms 37:4. I am beginning to reconcile myself with this verse, and to some degree, the song has aided me in understanding it better. My problem stems from having had this verse given as a response if ever I voiced my desire for marriage and a family. It made me feel like my disappointment wasn’t legitimate, and that not having what I wanted was my own fault because my heart was not right with God. For years I have sought to “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling.” Psalms 37:4 was handed out like a prescription to get what I wanted from God, but I know that is not how God works.
Over time, I came to believe that it wasn’t about getting what I wanted. Instead, if I delighted in God, He could change the desires of my heart to match what I had. I prayed for God to take away my desires and replace them with desires that could be filled. My prayers were double-minded because I actually want the desires to be filled, not removed. God knows my heart; I cannot hide. But even as I have grown closer to God, the old desires have hung on and brought me sorrow, as my hopes have slowly faded away. Then, as I was singing the Twila Paris song to myself, God showed me that when I am delighting in Him, I can’t also be thinking about myself and my desires. It isn’t really about Him changing the desires of my heart. Instead, when I am focused on Him and all He has done for me, I can’t feel deprived of anything. As Twila wrote, “How can I forget that nothing else can fill me / When the Morning Star has come to live inside me?”
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Delighting in the Lord must be fixing our eyes on Him, as the only thing of true value in our lives. It means remembering that nothing else can truly make us happy. All my other longings are “a striving after wind.” I feel them deeply, but I can choose to find joy in the Lord. I spent years thinking that contentment required that my desires for this life go away. At some points, I felt like a bad Christian because of the longings that I couldn’t rid myself of. I have learned that peace and contentment comes from focusing on God and the grace that He gives me for every day. It is okay to have desires, but my focus should be on the Lord. I can’t let human longing control me or define me.
This all reminded how important it is to preach the truth to myself. The voice of the tempter will say whatever it takes to lead me down the wrong path and keep me from being a fruitful servant of God. I must combat this with the truth of God’s word. It isn’t just for me. All who believe need to be regularly reading God’s word so that the truth is fresh in our minds. We should meditate on the word and memorize it, so that we can have the truth with us when we aren’t able to be reading it.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Perhaps my favorite way to remind myself of the truth is music. I love to sing, and I try to keep good Biblically-saturated music in my mind so that I am focused on God, instead of myself. What happened this week is not unusual. A good song can lift me out of self-centered sadness and restore my joy in the truth of Who God Is and what He has done. At the end of the day, however I keep God’s Word alive in my mind, knowing what it says allows God to speak to me. The more I know His Word, the more I am able to hear from Him. The Spirit brings to mind verses, phrases, and truths. Sometimes I know the exact book, chapter, and verse; other times, I have to look it up. If it seemed as though God was saying something to me, but I can’t find it in Scripture, then it probably wasn’t God.
Over the years, it has been a joy to me when I sensed that God was telling me something, and I opened His Word to find it with more depth and richness than I ever imagined. It is difficult to express the delight of coming across something time and again, that God spoke to my heart at a particular time. What is sweeter than knowing that the Father is encouraging me directly, and guiding me? My sister once told me that my nephew takes Scripture more personally than anyone she’s ever known. What a lesson to the rest of us! We should all take it personally. For those of us who believe, these Words were recorded and miraculously preserved over centuries so that we can know the One True God. It is His promise to us, God’s covenant with us through His Son, Jesus Christ.