I was a real sap in college. No, no- hear me out. I really was. I was cheerful and bubbly and often greeted people with a perky, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” I was naive and overly optimistic, and quite frankly, my 30-something self cringes and rolls her eyes at my college self. She doesn’t know anything about real life. She has a real shock coming to her when she gets out in the “real” world. I even read the Bible from this cheesy perspective. I really do cringe to read some of the notes I wrote in my Bible from those days, and alas, they’re written in pen so I can’t just erase them. Take a look with me and I’ll show you what I mean.
Psalm 37:4 is a lovely verse that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Nice sentiment, isn’t it? So next to it I wrote the following (and please don’t judge me- remember, I was still a teenager at this point…) “Just trust in God and serve Him, and He will work everything out in your life!” Mmm-hmm. Yep. I nailed that one, didn’t I? Do you see what I mean about the rosy outlook I had? I truly believed that if I trusted God and served Him well enough, I would have a great life with very few problems. Is that really how it works? Hardly. Any Christian who’s a bit more experienced than a college student can tell you that the Christian life is anything but easy. Matter of fact, oftentimes it may even be harder than a non-Christian’s life. Why is that? Because the devil wants you to think it’s not worth it. He wants you to think the wicked are indeed prospering, and that you may as well just give up on this God of yours who would dare to allow suffering in your life. Who wants to serve such a God, anyhow? the devil cunningly asks. Don’t fall for his lies.
Look with me at another Bible passage, Isaiah 43:1-2. “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Do you see what God promises here? Yes, He promises to be with His people, but He also promises them something else- they will face trials. “When you pass through the waters…when you walk through fire…” This is a certain thing. There’s no “if” here. You will face difficulties in life. And fire and water are scary. These are very real dangers God is talking about. But, dear Christian, you are not alone. God is with you every step of the way, and He will protect you. That doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt on this earth- there are people dying for their faith even this very moment. But He will keep you safe in your faith. He will not allow troubles to overwhelm His children to the point that they give up their faith. Rest secure- your future is safe with your Father in heaven.
So what about that verse from Psalm 37 about the desires of your heart, anyhow? Augustine reminds us to “Distinguish the ‘desires of your heart’ from the desires of your flesh.” That’s where I went wrong way back in college. I was thinking merely in earthly terms, as in the desires of the flesh- for an easy, happy-go-lucky life. But honestly, now that I’m older and have a better perspective, I’m glad I haven’t had a smooth way of it all along. Some of my times of greatest growth have occurred during very difficult times. God has used those times to work in me in ways I could never have imagined. So what exactly is the “desire of your heart,” then? To be with your Lord and Savior. And indeed, dear baptized child of God, most assuredly you will get exactly what your heart desires. For all eternity.