Lyndall Bywater, author of 'Prayer in the Making' and 'Faith in the Making' learns a lot from her 'least favourite Bible verse' in her lockdown reflection
God has been helping me understand something important about this lockdown season. Our world is changing. In truth, it’s always changing, but this Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the change so that we can see it more clearly. God is doing a new thing, but it’s only just ‘springing up’, to quote Isaiah 43:18. Back in March, I thought the lockdown was the ‘new thing’, and I thought it was my job to make it count in every way I possibly could, but now I understand that the lockdown was just a special season given to us by God to help us prepare for new things. That season has been wonderful for some and agonising for others, but God has been using it to help us ready ourselves for what lies ahead.
Which brings me to one of my least favourite Bible verses: Psalm 37:4
‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’
Don’t get me wrong, I cherish it as part of the living Word of God, but having been given it over and over again throughout my life, mostly when the desires of my heart have felt like they’re several million miles away, I feel a certain sinking in my spirit every time I hear it. But it turns out that what I’ve been learning over these past three months is something about delighting and desiring. In fact, this verse might just be moving up the charts!
I’ve learnt about delighting. We often assume delighting ourselves in the Lord means working hard to please him and never putting a foot wrong, but I’ve learnt that delighting is the simple act of enjoying. When so much of my normality is stripped away, it means enjoying the things I do have – gifts of God like birdsong, good food, faithful friendships, peaceful solitude. And it means enjoying God – taking the guilt and stress out of my prayer life and spending more time on the things which help me enjoy God’s company. My day job is to write and speak on prayer, and that tends to make me feel like my prayer life should be a super-productive place where significant things happen. Lately, it’s been more like a meandering ramble through an unfamiliar landscape, with lots of uphill struggles, but also plenty of pure delight along the way.
Oh, and the meandering has got even more delightful since I’ve realised something else: we are invited to delight ourselves in God, but we’re also told that God delights in us (Psalm 18:19).
And what about these desires of the heart? Have I seen longings fulfilled in the midst of all this delighting? The answer, as always, is ‘yes and no’, but what I have discovered afresh is just how fickle my heart can be. Though there certainly are desires which I’ve held for years and not seen fulfilled, most of the time I don’t really know what I desire in the deepest places of my heart, and that’s a problem because God takes those deep desires very seriously indeed. Jesus taught that prayer is in large part about desiring: us wanting things enough to ask for them; us seeking things because we long for them; us knocking on the door of God’s own heart because things matter that much (Luke 11:9-10). The trouble is, I can have twenty earnest desires before breakfast, only to discover later in the day that they don’t all matter to me as much as I thought they did. God takes the desires of my heart seriously, and for me, lockdown has been a time to refine what my desires really are.
Now all I need to do is work out what to take forward out of this season of readying for the new. What are the rhythms of life which have helped me delight myself in God and which I want to keep hold of as the diary fills up again? What are the things which matter most to me in the years to come, which I will keep on asking God for and which I will keep on walking towards? I have a feeling that the more I make space in my life for delight and the clearer I get on what my desires really are, the more room I’ll have to receive what God wants to give me.
So, what about you? What have you been enjoying? How will you keep hold of those things in the coming months? And what have you come to desire more deeply than ever through this lockdown season? What will it mean for you to keep praying and walking towards that desire as life picks up speed around you?
Lyndall Bywater is a freelance speaker and writer, specialising in the subject of prayer. Having worked for ten years as The Salvation Army's UK prayer coordinator, she is now part of Connecting the Isles and works with the Europe team of 24-7 Prayer. She also heads up Canterbury Boiler Room, an interdenominational prayer community, and contributes to BRF's Day by Day with God Bible reading notes. She is married to Phil.
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