Day 9 – Delight in the Lord (in the Wilderness)
Another barrier in the movement from independence to dependence can be trying to wrap our brain around what is going on. When things aren’t making sense, we have a tendency to go to what we know … the familiar. For the people of Israel, the wilderness was filled with confusion, uncertainty, and discomfort. So, they longed for the familiarity and certainty of Egypt, even bringing themselves to think of it as a paradise compared to what they were experiencing. The invitation into deepening dependence is often accompanied by uncertainty whereas needing to understand everything is frequently a sign that we desire our independence. How do we get our bearings when we notice this struggle in ourselves? How do we jettison this barrier?
First, it can be helpful to remember that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55). If we are uncertain about what is going on and we are aware of that uncertainty, then we are paying attention. In both Ephesians 3 and Philippians 4, we are told of a “love that surpasses knowledge” and a “peace that surpasses understanding.” In Him, we have access to love and peace, and yet we can’t think our way into experiencing them.
Second, we are wise to consider the counsel of 2 Corinthians 3:16-18: “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Transformation happens as we behold God, not as we understand Him. Certainly, there are many things we can and need to understand about God but a shifting and changing of desires only occurs as we behold. And what does it mean to behold?
In Psalm 27:4, David provides some insight, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in his temple.” To behold is to gaze and meditate. Psalm 37:4 develops this further in using the word “delight.” “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse has often been read in a transactional way: if you delight in God, He will give you what you want. However, the word for “give” is better understood as the idea that God will instill desires in us or we might even say “shape our desires.” Here’s the point: what we gaze upon or delight in will shape us.
Not only does a desert season reveal our hearts, it also reveals God’s heart if we are looking … or if we are delighting. We see this in the verses from Deuteronomy we looked at yesterday: “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:6)
What do you hear as you read this? The word discipline may seem harsh, especially if we have received abusive kinds of discipline in the past. However, in this verse God is revealing His father-heart. The heart of a father delights in his children. He is for us, He loves us, He provides what is best for us, and the list could go on. God’s discipline gives us an insight into the beauty of what can happen in the desert. As things are stripped away and we experience loss, His peace and love can become more real, more integrated into our hearts and lives. God, in His delight and love for His children, will lead us into spaces where our hearts can be shaped in ways that we could never imagine or even ask for.
Delight opens us to trust and receive a good Father’s love in the midst of wilderness. Alternatively, when we are enmeshed in our thoughts and understanding, we may see our wilderness as a harsh punishment or that we’ve been abandoned by God. We might ask ourselves: am I delighting in God or trying to make sense of what is going on around me?
How do we delight in God? First, we can meditate on the reality that He delights in us. Our delight is always a response to His delight. Can you set aside some undistracted time and space to simply gaze upon the goodness and grace of God toward you? Seek to remember all the ways He has been present with you. Ask Him to help you see and then gaze, behold. Second, we can engage in wondering what kind of good/beautiful things God must be up to in the midst of the desert. We may have no idea and even be confused, but as we wonder with God it sets us in a space of waiting and watching.
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen in the morning … for with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:6-7)
As we develop a habit of delighting in God in the quiet spaces, it overflows into our daily living and gives us eyes to see His love and His redemption.
Questions for reflection: what might God be up to in your life? Take some time to imagine with God how He is with you and shaping your heart. What do you notice?
Prayer: Lord, I am ready to let go and release my understanding of how things ought to work and seek to gaze upon Your beauty and meditate in Your presence. Give me eyes to see your goodness and mercy. Amen.