woman in straw hat and yellow sundress waving arms in a field of wheat at sunrise

3 Ways to Delight Yourself in the Lord—Meaning of Psalm 37:4

Psalm 37:4 says God gives you the desires of your heart when you delight yourself in the Lord. How do we do that in practical ways? What does this verse mean?

A vibrant bookmark dropped into my lap as I opened the card celebrating my tenth birthday. Carefully, I tucked the bookmark deep into the pages of my Bible, wanting to protect it like a winning lottery ticket after reading the words it contained: ”Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Could this be? Would God really give me anything I want?

With each passing year, I noticed more unfulfilled desires, so I questioned the meaning of Psalm 37:4. Either God’s not true to his Word or I misunderstood his Word. Confident in God’s faithfulness, I determined to understand the truth about this oft-quoted verse. 

What does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord?

We tend to focus on the second half of Psalm 37:4—the part that tells us what we get. But when we neglect the first half of the verse, we miss the message. 

To understand the meaning of Psalm 37:4, we must first look at this favored verse in context. 

The purpose of Psalm 37 is to teach. Themes of envy and contentment permeate the passage, which is intended for faithful believers who worry because the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. The psalmist (David) assures us of the ruin and destruction awaiting the wicked and exhorts the reader to live in a manner befitting a child of God, which leads to great reward.

Now let’s dig deeper into the verse of interest. 

What does the word delight mean in Psalm 37:4? The Hebrew word for delight is ʿānaḡ (וְהִתְעַנַּ֥ג), which is an imperative verb (a commanded or instructed positive action). It means “live or spend in enjoyment”—put simply, to enjoy.  Dictionary.com defines delight as “to take pleasure”. In light of the theme of contentment in Psalm 37, it’s fitting that Thesaurus.com lists contentment and satisfaction as synonyms for delight.

Scripture interprets Scripture. This means our interpretation of Psalm 37:4 must also line up with the rest of the Bible. We can see in verses like Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:11–13, 1 Timothy 6:6, and 1 John 2:15–17 that the things of this world—material wealth and worldly power—will never satisfy us. The only way to experience true contentment is by delighting in the Lord. Alexander Maclaren, a Scottish minister and expositor of Scripture, said in his commentary on Psalm 37:4, “Longings fixed on him fulfill themselves.”

We often misunderstand Psalm 37:4 to fuel our selfish desires. But based on the information we’ve just gathered, we can conclude that it doesn’t mean God will give me that coveted dress or the acreage of my dreams as long as I’m a good person. Instead, Psalm 37:4 means that enjoying God—taking pleasure in him—results in complete satisfaction and contentment in him. When we delight in God, our desires are fulfilled because our contentment is satisfied in him. It lines up perfectly with what Paul said in Philippians 4:11–13. He had learned that even in the most terrible circumstances (such as persecution or imprisonment), contentment is found in Christ alone.

silhoutte of a person at the top of a mountain at sunset

Why is it important to delight in the Lord?

God’s commands are both for our good and his glory (Hebrews 12:3–11). He doesn’t prescribe actions for the sake of power, but because he knows what’s best for us. This is certainly true of the Bible’s encouragement to delight in the Lord. 

Benefits of Delighting in the Lord

When you delight yourself in the Lord, you experience satisfaction and contentment. God fulfills the desires of your heart because, when you delight in him, he is your desire.

We see more reasons to delight in the Lord in Psalm 1:1–4, which says those who delight in the law of the Lord are “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (NLT). Delighting in the Lord produces spiritual stability and fruitfulness in our lives. 

Imagine a flourishing tree by the river, continuously bearing fruit to fulfill its God-given purpose and benefit those who eat of it and shelter in its shade. Even when storms come, the tree’s roots provide the stability to keep it safe and sound. In dry seasons, it has enough nourishment stored up to sustain it, keep it healthy, and minister to the needs of others. It is not shielded from trouble, but stands firm and thrives in trouble. It is sustained, satisfied, and prosperous.

Delighting in the Lord enables us to be like this flourishing tree-spiritually nourished and healthy, bearing fruit for the kingdom of God, blessing the body of Christ, and able to stand strong in the storms of life. When we delight in the Lord, we are content, satisfied, and sustained, even in hard seasons of suffering and trials. 

orange fruit tree to illustrate the benefit of delight yourself in the Lord

How to Delight Yourself in the Lord

How do we practically delight ourselves in the Lord? 

The Wrong Way to Delight in the Lord

First, let’s look at how not to delight in the Lord. Isaiah 58 describes the people of Israel as seemingly delighted to learn about God; they act pious and righteous, but they’re really just pretending (v. 1–3). It’s all outward appearance, willpower, and manufactured “delight”—it’s not from the heart. God tells the people that as they go through the motions, they’re doing it to please themselves, not to please him. They’re selfish, neglecting to care for the needs of others (v. 3–5). They fail to care about what God cares about. So genuine delight in the Lord is more than self-determination or checking off the boxes of a spiritual to-do list.

How did David delight himself in the Lord?

Now let’s turn our attention to an example we want to follow. God called David “a man after my heart” (Acts 13:22). Chased by murderous King Saul, battling against Philistine armies—including Goliath—and betrayed by his son, David faced much adversity and wickedness. Yet he wrote a majority of the Psalms and delighted in God despite all his troubles. 

How did David delight himself in the Lord? David’s delight in God was a natural byproduct of knowing God. David knew God’s character because he sought the Lord in prayer and through God’s Word ( Psalm 1; 19; 27:4; 119). As he did, David experienced God’s power, faithfulness, grace, and mercy, and he saw the nature of God demonstrated in God’s creation. He displayed his delight in the Lord through obedience to God’s laws, praise and worship, remembering God’s wondrous works, and proclaiming his worthiness to all who would hear. 

We see an example of this in 1 Samuel 23 and 26 when, from one rocky wilderness hideout to another, David hid from Saul who sought to kill him. During this nomadic and terrifying season, David penned Psalm 54 which expresses David’s confidence in God as his helper, sustainer, and deliverer. Because of his knowledge of God, David refrained from killing Saul when he had the opportunity, content to wait for God to act in his perfect timing. David demonstrated delight in God through his obedience and praise to God despite his difficult circumstances.

woman with head back and mouth open in delight

3 Ways to Delight Yourself in the Lord

To delight in someone means to enjoy them or take pleasure in them. Consider how you delight in others—maybe your spouse, child, or closest friend. Typically, we choose to spend time with the people we enjoy. We want to know them more, so we listen to them to grow in our understanding of who they are. We want to do what pleases them. We delight in the Lord in the same ways.

1. Know the Lord

“The reason many apparent Christians do not delight in God is that they do not know him very well,” wrote respected theologian and Bible teacher James Boice. “[A]nd the reason they do not know him very well is that they do not spend time with him.” [1]

The people you spend the most time with are usually the people you know the most. Simply because you’re with them often, you learn their likes and dislikes, their personalities and habits, the way they talk, and how they think. You know them well enough to anticipate how they’ll respond in certain situations. This is especially true when you genuinely enjoy these people. You want to be around them, watch them do what they do best, celebrate their accomplishments, hear about their heart’s desires, and meet their families and friends. 

Likewise, we get to know God by spending time with him, and we can do that in various ways, including:

  • Observing his creation by spending time in nature (Psalm 19:1)
  • Recognizing, receiving, remembering, and celebrating his gifts to us—this includes partaking of the Lord’s Supper (James 1:17, 1 Corinthians 11:23–24)
  • Connecting with his family—the Church, the body of Christ—in worship, the preaching of God’s Word, and fellowship (Ephesians 2:19–21)
  • Praying to him—he’s listening!  (Psalm 116:1–2)
  • Prioritizing your relationship with him (Matthew 6:33)

God desires a relationship with you (John 17:1–3), and he proved this by sending his son Jesus as the sacrifice to atone for our sins (Hebrews 9:22; 10:1–22). This is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Because of him, we have direct access to the presence of God despite our unworthiness. And he promised to draw near to those who draw near to him (James 4:8). That’s a reason to delight yourself in the Lord!

delight yourself in the Lord arms raised in worship in the foreground with mountains and clouds in the background

2. Love God’s Word

Psalm 1:2 describes a person who is blessed because they delight in the law of the Lord. One way we delight in the Lord is by delighting in his Word. Yet few Christians truly enjoy reading or studying the Bible. 

It’s not surprising that studying the Bible becomes dutiful drudgery when our only motivation is intellectual knowledge or legalistic expectations. But the Bible is God’s Word to us—the primary way he’s chosen to reveal himself. The entire book is about Jesus (Acts 8:29–35). God’s Word reveals to us who he is—his heart, his thoughts, his plans, his works. It tells God’s story of his love for us, the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s this gospel that restores delight to our daily devotional life, so we become like Mary who chose to spend time with Jesus whom she knew and loved because she delighted in him (Luke 10:38–42). 

We read and study the Bible to know God more in the same way that we’re attentive to the words of others we delight in. The more we know him, the more we love his Word. And there are plenty of reasons to love his word! As the psalmist says,

“The law of the Lord is perfect, 
     reviving the soul; 
the testimony of the Lord is sure, 
     making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the Lord are right, 
     rejoicing the heart; 
the commandment of the Lord is pure, 
     enlightening the eyes; 
the fear of the Lord is clean, 
     enduring forever; 
the rules of the Lord are true, 
     and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7–9).

 In my experience, delight in God’s Word doesn’t usually come with casual reading—especially the hard parts! The more I dig in, meditate on it, and memorize it, the more I love it because it’s God-breathed and powerful (2 Timothy 3:16–17, Hebrews 4:12). 

3. Live it Out

God gave us his Word not only to read but to live by. James 1:22 exhorts us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only”. David declared his delight in doing God’s will because God’s law was in his heart (Psalm 40:8). When we love someone, we want to please them. In the same way, when we delight in God and his Word, we delight in living according to his will. It’s our response to his love for us. 

a hand raised to look like the sun is rising from it with a mountain silhouette in the background

A Prayer to Delight in the Lord

As we saw in Isaiah 58, willpower and determination fall short in our pursuit of delight in the Lord. We need God’s help. Philippians 2:13 tells us that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure”. God wants us to delight in him, so we can boldly ask him to help us and expect him to answer because it’s his will (John 14:13–14). A prayer to delight in the Lord might look like this:

God, I want to delight in you. Your Word says that when I delight in you, you’ll give me the desires of my heart. I want to experience the contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment found only in you. Help me to know you more, enjoy you more, love your Word, and delight in who you are. Satisfy me with your steadfast love, that I may be content and filled with joy always, no matter my circumstances (Psalm 90:14).

More Delight in God Verses

Much more could be said about how to delight yourself in the Lord, but instead of reading my words on the subject, why not read his? I encourage you to spend some time reading what the Bible has to say about delighting in God. Here are a few “delight in God” verses to get you started. 

Psalm 16:11

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 17:15 

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

Psalm 22:26

“The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!”

Psalm 43:4

“Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.”

Psalm 81:10

“I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Psalm 94:19

“When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”

Psalm 107:9

“For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”

Psalm 112

“Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
    who greatly delights in his commandments! 
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. 
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. 
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. 
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever;
    his horn is exalted in honor.
The wicked man sees it and is angry;
    he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
    the desire of the wicked will perish!”

Isaiah 58:13-14

“‘If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
    from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
    or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”

Isaiah 61:10

“I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Jeremiah 15:16

“Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.”

Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

John 6:35

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

1 Timothy 6:6

“But godliness with contentment is great gain”

[1] Guzik, D. “Study Guide for Psalm 37 by David Guzik.” Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 6/2022. https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/guzik_david/study-guide/psalm/psalm-37.cfm

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6 Responses

  1. Today, during my devotion, God directed me to this message, and it truly resonated with me. God bless you for sharing. I’m eager to follow your journey, and if there’s a way to stay connected, I’d be open to it.

  2. I am really blessed by this message. I was looking for the meaning of how to delight myself in God in Psalm 37 verse 4 .Through this post , I now know what it actually meant. First to be content and satisfied in him and most importantly, to care about what he ( God ) care about. Also getting to know that no riches or wealth of this world can satisfy . Thanks for sharing!

    1. To God be the glory! May his Word continue to minister to you as you diligently seek him! Your comment encouraged me today, so thank you for taking the time!

    1. To God be the glory! I’m so blessed that he ministered to you through these words. Thanks for taking the time to let me know—it encourages me to hear from readers like you!

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