When you’ve been wandering in the desert wastelands for awhile, you pick up on a couple of fundamental truths: trust & faithfulness. Trust in the Lord that He will do His part to lead you to someplace good. Faithfulness: cultivate a life that pleases Him in every possible way. These are the rich ingredients that begin to turn the wilderness into a dance floor. It begins to matter less WHERE you are, but rather WHO is with you in that desolate place. Back and forth you go- Him leading, you trusting and learning to be faithful to submit and follow. You are learning how to dance with an invisible God.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:12-13
The lonely years for me felt like being “in want” a lot. Sometimes I would chase what I thought I wanted only to come up unsatisfied in the end, discontent & bewildered. Other times, by faith, I was learning to run to Jesus with my “wanting”. And somehow, through Him, I would discover a deeper desire hidden beneath my seeking that could only be fully satisfied in Him. These small tastes of a satisfied, contented soul started a domino effect that altogether altered my heart’s taste buds.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” -Psalm 34:8-9
It wasn’t that He was only good to cause the spiritually blind to see and dead to come to life, although the gift of salvation is the pinnacle of His goodness to us; but my heart was beginning to find it’s central pulse of delight in Him. I wasn’t going to find satisfaction in God PLUS a handful of other things I was longing and praying for. I was uncovering the true secret of contentment in all circumstances: simply Jesus, with or without the other fulfilled longings. The lonely wilderness gave me the priceless gift of transformed desires. Being with Jesus became my one thing, my heart’s delight, and my secret treasure. Yes, I still had many hopes and dreams: “Lord, my every desire is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 39:9), but by offering them to Jesus, I knew He would lead me to whatever was best for me at the root of my desires.
“Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37: 3-4
He’s always working, always orchestrating His story. He’s always getting the glory in the unseen places even if we miss out on it because we’re captivated by lesser things. This is why I’m so thankful for His grace to drag me into the lonely wilderness and teach me to delight in Him- so I could watch the secret glories unfold. I often wonder how the path of my life might be different if His grace hadn’t grabbed my full attention when He did.
I was stepping pretty far outside of my comfort zone and I think my parents were too, by letting me go. Seventeen years old on a mission trip to Mexico: no skills to offer, not much maturity to speak of really, and no clue what to expect. It was a trip that changed my life in several significant ways. I brushed skin with poverty like I had never experienced or imagined in my sheltered life. And yet the juxtaposition of the peoples’ joy against the enormity of their earthly needs made me ache for the secrets of the Kingdom that they possessed, which I knew I lacked. My appetite for worldly things was shrinking by the day.
Only in looking back can I see the full measure of beauty in what He was doing in my heart in that place, far from the comforts of home. “Trust in the Lord and do good….cultivate faithfulness…..delight in the Lord…..He will give you the desires of your heart.”
One of the days midway through the trip, our group stopped by a shanty of a home to visit with the family who lived there. Almost all of us crowded into this tiny, one room, cement block, open windowed abode. I vividly remember 2 things about this scene in my life: 1) The man of the house displayed hospitality by offering us beverages that I’m sure they could not afford to spare. 2) I saw my future husband for the first time.
Bart was one of the first ones to step into the cement block doorway and so he was one of a few seated on the only “couch” type seats in the house. As we were crammed into the doorway, I stood listening to the back and forth conversation between the translator and the man. For some reason, I was drawn to look across the room and caught a sight I can still replay in my brain like it was moments ago. Bart very nonchalantly reached into his pocket and grabbed the handful of money he had planned on using to buy souvenirs at the market later that day. Then he very slyly stuffed the money down between the tattered couch cushions….a treasure to be discovered by the family later on. He didn’t think anyone was watching, but the Lord grabbed my attention and let me in on a secret that would mark the rest of my earthly days: this is the man you’re gonna marry.
Well I was done for. Suddenly this boy who had been one of my best “guy” friends since middle school (but never had one interest to date) looked completely different to me. It was as if God had lifted the veil to allow me to see what He sees- the heart. In that lonely wilderness season, as I had been pursuing the path to delight in Jesus, He led me straight to the hidden desire of my own heart.
“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7
The rest of the trip, I mostly avoided Bart- scared of my own newfound enchantment towards him. I watched him from afar, though. I observed a heart that was growing for God, a heart that was humbly serving others, and a heart that was joyfully playing with the Mexican children in the streets- a man who would be my husband one day.
Upon arriving home, I recall telling both my best friend and my Mom about this crazy epiphany I’d had about Bart. I’m pretty sure they thought I was nuts. Some months later I discovered that he had been making his own observations about me on the trip, knowing something had shifted inside of my heart also, and wondering if I would one day become his wife. We were running the same race in the same direction- albeit terribly imperfectly. We were both pursuing God as faithfully as we knew how. A seed had been planted and a vision had been imparted of what was to come.
“For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” -Habakkuk 2:3
It would still be another 18 months after Mexico before we would ever officially be more than friends. Many times throughout that year and a half, one of the two of us was tempted to rush forward. But God had plans to mature us both some more before it was time to bring us together. It was hard to wait on God’s timing, but in hindsight I see so clearly that the waiting was for our good and His glory- He was strengthening our faith.
“Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light. And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him“ -Psalm 37: 5-7
However, when you are a citizen of the upside down Kingdom, you learn that the King delights to give His children good gifts: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) But, he knows our propensity towards short circuiting the flow of blessings- our bent toward bowing to the created rather than the Creator of all things. And so he instructs us to be patient and let Him give and take away in His own perfect timing.
The good and perfect gifts that He gives are the ones that set our hearts ablaze with gratitude for His undeserved goodness in our lives. He delights to give us the desires of our hearts- especially good things that cause our hearts to rejoice in Him above all. And when we receive these pieces of His beautiful plan for us- these fulfilled desires of our hearts- with open hands of faith filled gratitude rather than closed hands of clenching fear, He is able to multiply the blessing and cause it to grow. Over time, the fruit of HIS good gifts grow deeper, richer, and more satisfying than a lifetime full of empty treasures. His treasures are seeds that will continue yielding a harvest year after year, even after we have completed the number of our days on this dusty earth.
Delighting in Jesus is the key that unlocks so many doors to our destiny. Everyday, over and over again, He invites us to come to His table and be satisfied with the best things: namely the mysterious glory of Himself. The irony is that the lonely wilderness seasons are the training ground to strip us of our old taste buds and prepare us to rightly receive all that He has piled up in His heavenly storehouses to pour into our laps.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” -Isaiah 55:1-2
For as many days that the Lord has already gifted Bart and I with the sweet fellowship of sharing life together- through the good days and bad, peace and strife- and any number of unknown days we have ahead to partner in the delights of this journey; these precious gifts are but a foretaste of what is yet to come. Even the fulfillment of these desires, and the fruit that has come as a result over time of walking together with Jesus- these earthly delights still only serve as another greater vision that “hastens toward the goal“. One day, we will pour out our last drop of life and finish this earthly tenure. We will open our eyes and find that our faith has finally given way to sight. The Promised Land that we have been seeking will be ours forevermore, in Jesus.
“…you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” -Psalm 16:10-11
But until that day comes, this chapter of our story serves as a reminder that I’ve already been given one of the greatest secrets of the Kingdom in 15 powerful words to live by:
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”