“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
We love a verse like Psalm 37:4. We memorize it quickly, filter every interaction through the lens of possibility, and anticipate fulfilled desires like Christmas-morning gifts delivered right on schedule. Is this it, Lord? Is it time?
Then we wait. And wait. And perhaps wait…a bit longer.
We willingly embrace the gift, but we wrestle with the methods and timing of God’s delivery: an unexpected relocation; a job furlough; infertility; a child who rejects faith; an absent or struggling spouse; a diagnosis; the prolonged wait to walk down an aisle. Yet, desires are often made sweeter by delay.
In our reading this week, we were introduced to Caleb – a former Egyptian slave turned spy who also faced down delayed desire. God had clearly said it was time to go into the Promised Land (Numbers 10:29). Caleb spied the land and knew it was better than anything the Israelites had ever seen! What disappointment, though, when the children of Israel refused to go—despite the marvelous rescue from Egypt, the miraculous provision of water and food in the desert, and the manifestation of God’s presence through cloud and fire.
Can you imagine Caleb’s frustration? Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just allow Caleb, Joshua, and whoever was willing to go on in? Or why a group of “believers” didn’t say to the rest, “We’ll stay here while you’re wandering and meet back up with you later?” Their refusal complicated Caleb’s journey. That’s when we read an astounding verse about Caleb, which gives insight into his spiritual life and character.
“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:24, NIV).
Caleb’s wholehearted desire to please the Lord was so commendable that it is mentioned four times in the Bible (Numbers 14:24, 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:14). In that moment of disappointment, Caleb received the encouragement of a God-promise. And, he had the right spirit and character necessary to sustain the reward.
However, seeing with vision, having a dream, and walking closely with God doesn’t guarantee instant gratification. Neither does a delayed desire imply that something in us displeases the Lord. Yet, in those moments as we stare down our disappointment, we have choices to make. Decisions today could redefine our opportunities tomorrow. Caleb’s journey and response brings us back to the promise verse in Psalm 37, which is loaded with “choice” words that help us navigate our own deferred desires:
• Delight and Commit – These words embody more than a hope. They require a complete transference of our dependence from self to Him. Caleb had already made the choice to follow wholeheartedly after the Lord, and he had been consistently making that decision long before the crisis arose.
• Be Still and Dwell – We know from the Bible that Caleb would have to wait 45 years for the fulfillment of this promise. But, Caleb didn’t have foreknowledge on that exact timeline. How long are you willing to give your dream? Delayed action produces self-control. Delayed desires produce perseverance.
• Wait Patiently and Refrain from Anger – Faced with the same scenario, we could blame God. Where is God? Why, God? I guess God has a different plan for me. We could blame others. It’s their fault. They just don’t see my potential. Everybody else always gets the opportunity, the promotion, the ideal husband, the salary, the good genes. Caleb’s circumstances were not favorable. Even though Caleb believed, he still had to wander for forty years—along with all the others.
• Do Not Fret – Worrying and brooding over our circumstances can tempt us to engage in sinful or destructive patterns: bitterness, interference, discontentment, rebellion, reluctance, guilt, and fear. God teaches through our weakness and disciplines our thoughts and actions. When we resist, we might trade our Promised Land today for another forty years of wandering.
• Trust in Him – Caleb was one of the few who caught a glimpse of the promised reward. Although they faced great obstacles, the joy of what awaited captured his imagination and compelled him to keep walking while he waited.
Psalm 37:29 (NIV) says, “The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.”
When Caleb finally claimed his mountain, no one could drive out his descendants. Today, there are “dream mountains” God wants to give to a new generation of wholehearted followers. And, what encouragement to know that we can simply trust Him to grant the desires He deposits in our hearts! An inheritance awaits those embrace the desires and the delays.
Which one of the above “choice” phrases are you standing on today as you embrace the desires and the delays in your own life?
Stephanie Smith is a vocal director, freelance writer, wife, and mom of four children. She and her husband, Dwayne, currently live in the D.C. area and serve on a church staff leading Worship and Creative Arts. Stephanie has served numerous leadership teams in roles of strategic development, media, and marketing. As a visionary, she loves to mentor, speak, and brainstorm ideas to help others break through barriers in their personal lives and organizations. Stephanie graduated from Evangel University with a B.A. in Communication and from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary with an M.A.R. in Biblical Studies. She has a lifetime call to spiritual transformation – in herself and in those around her. You can connect with Stephanie at Facebook or email her here.