Context Matters: God Will Give You the Desires of Your Heart

If we desire God, he will give us our desires, which must include him!

The first two verses of the psalm are an exhortation not to be envious of the wicked, “for they will soon fade like the grass.” Then verses 2–6 exhibit a pattern, as the reader is urged to love the Lord in various ways and he promises to respond and act. The parallel structure of these verses helps us understand what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord” and what it means that God “will give you the desires of your heart.”

 

If you’re a Christian, you may have heard that God has promised to give you the desires of your heart. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it?! Indeed, this quip has been used to justify both questionable actions and bad theology.

In this article, we will look at this phrase in its context, because context matters. When we learn to read the Bible properly—and not merely as a collection of one-liners and sound bites—we’ll find that some of the most famous passages take on different and deeper meanings than we’ve thought.

A Conditional Promise

We should begin with the most obvious fact. The phrase “he will give you the desires of your heart” is only half of a verse. Plucked clean and held up in the wind, this seems like an unconditional promise. But we must consider the entire verse!

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

That’s a harder pill to swallow. It’s a conditional promise—if you delight yourself in the Lord, then he will give you the desires of your heart. In the immediate context, this is powerful. If we desire God, he will give us our desires, which must include him!

But there’s more here. The first two verses of the psalm are an exhortation not to be envious of the wicked, “for they will soon fade like the grass.” Then verses 2–6 exhibit a pattern, as the reader is urged to love the Lord in various ways and he promises to respond and act. The parallel structure of these verses helps us understand what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord” and what it means that God “will give you the desires of your heart.”

Followers of God should “trust in the Lord and do good” (verse 3), “commit [their] way to the Lord” (5), and “trust in him” (5). Then God will grant them to “dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (3), “he will act” (5), and “he will bring forth [their] righteousness as the light, and [their] justice as the noonday” (6). Notice the circular pattern here—the more we commit our ways to God and trust in him, the more he will give us growth in righteousness, which leads to more trust in God.

Read More