I attended a college where “a ring by spring or your money back” wasn’t just a joke. Several weeks into the school year it would inevitably happen: couples started pairing off after connecting in class or through a brother/sister floor event. Pretty soon they would be meeting over coffee and tater tots in the back room of the cafeteria for pre-class Bible study, sitting next to each other in chapel, and attending the Winter Formal together. As the snow finally went away and the smells of small-town Midwest filled the air, happy announcements abounded and diamonds twinkled on left hands throughout campus.
Somehow I ended up living in a dorm and on a floor where this was more the exception than the rule. I was totally okay with that, but the topic of singleness found its way into many a late-night conversation over popcorn and M & M’s. “Will I ever get my ring?” we asked each other. “How long do I have to wait?”
As I attended a Christian college, there were plenty of quick, reassuring responses that most often were somewhat based on Scripture. “Trust God,” the older and wiser commanded. The verse that seemed on everyone’s minds and lips was this, from Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”. Interpretation: You just have to delight in God and when you’ve done that, He’ll give you the desire of your heart (namely, a husband in this instance).
I was rather skeptical of this advice that put the power of change firmly in my court, wondering how I was supposed to know when I would reach that magic level of delighting in God that would cause Him to nudge Mr. Right out from hiding and in my direction.
I thought I loved God. I read my Bible every day, even after late nights of studying, I went to church on Sundays, I went to chapel almost every day even when I had built up enough credits. I truly desired a relationship with God that was more than just outward actions. This concept of delighting enough continued to puzzle me after graduation and along the path of preparation for a life overseas as one of the biggest desires in my heart still remained unfulfilled.
Finally, one day during pre-field training, I was on my knees in my room begging God to answer a prayer I had been specifically praying for over a year. It seemed so close, and I was tempted to take matters into my own hands and make it happen. I don’t think I heard God’s voice audibly that day, but His Words struck the deepest part of my heart. God giving me the desires of my heart wasn’t so much about granting my every wish, but about Him putting the desires there that He wanted me to have. It is about knowing Him so intimately, finding joy in obeying Him and delighting in who He is, and then allowing Him to shape my prayers and hopes and dreams. It is about His power at work within me, the power of trusting Him and giving everything up to Him.
This has changed the way I pray for my family, the people I have been called to live among in this season, and for myself. It has changed the way I look at the desires in my heart and the power they hold over me if I let them. It requires holding things up for heavenly scrutiny in order to ask, “God, is this a desire that is from You?” It increases my perseverance in prayer when I trust a God-given desire has been planted for a purpose. I also have to press in close to the heart of my Father, to try to know and fear Him, to be amazed at how awesome He is and how He somehow cares for me and wants to shape the things for which my heart yearns.
There’s no “magic formula” or level of delighting that we can get to. But we must slow, to delight and listen close. I’m still waiting for my ring, many springs after college finished. In the meantime, I think I’ve learned a bit more about the power of the giver and fulfiller of the very best dreams and desires.
Have you ever struggled with taking control and using your power to make things happen when the answer feels far away?
How have you grown in trusting God’s power to give and fulfill your dreams and desires?