“Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Psalm 37: 1-6

What would you say is the most popular verse in this passage?

If you’ve been around church for any length of time, particularly if you’ve been involved in women’s ministry, the most familiar verse to you is probably verse 4 – “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s one of those scriptures that we love to read, one that makes us feel good. I’ll admit it – I own a lovely calligraphy painting of this very scripture, created by a dear friend of mine at my request.

You’ve also probably encountered several sermons and devotionals that expound on this verse. In their expository, the teacher or writer will present the notion that this verse does not equate God as a gentle genie who will grant us our wishes, but rather a divine gardener who will implant our desires within our hearts as we delight in Him.

While that is right and true, it is incomplete. Yes, God implants within us new desires as we delight in Him – but He doesn’t let those desires go unfulfilled. He doesn’t leave us longing forever. He fills them, too.

He just might not fill them in our desired timing.

So, what should we do in the meantime? “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”

Today, let’s examine this verse. While we wait for the Lord to fulfill our new, godly desires, we can wait with joy. We can enjoy safe pasture in the waiting. We would do well to ask the following questions: what is “safe pasture”, and what is it not?

Here are three spiritual, emotional, and mental states that are not safe pasture:

  • Comparison is not safe pasture.

The first verse in this chapter directs the reader to not envy the wicked. There is no need to envy them, for their reward is an illusion. It will not last. Ours will.

However, one of the biggest temptations for the follower of Jesus is to envy the woman sitting next to us who walks with the Lord. The one who got married young. The one who never takes off her smile. The one who works out regularly. The one who’s never struggled with what we’ve struggled with.

Why is this dangerous? Let’s go to the New Testament:

“14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

James 3:14-16

How tragic to get to the place where our desires are aligned with God’s will for our life, then never see these desired fulfilled – but instead, to let evil win by way of envy. We won’t allow it! We must confess of any lurking comparison and let the Lord heal our hearts so that we may enjoy the beautiful land He’s specifically given each one of us.

  • Fantasies are not safe pasture.

Real talk? This is my biggest struggle. My mind is a manic mock memory-making machine! Rather than dwelling in the land that the Lord has graciously given me, I will retreat to a fantasy land where my worship is wasted on my wants. It takes strict discipline to keep my mind, spirit, and emotions focused on safe pasture.

One of the most powerful passages on this is in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 10:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

My fantasy is a pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God because it directly challenges His words in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you.” God’s knowledge of my life is not sufficient for me; and I don’t want to inquire of Him because I’m afraid of what He’s going to say – I’d rather not know the truth. I want what I want; so rather than wait patiently for His promises to come to pass, I choose to travel to the place in my mind where I always get my way.

Oh, what a wretched woman I am!

In Christ, we’ve been given the spiritual weapons we need to refute fantastical thoughts from creating discontentment and distracting us from God’s love and favor. But if we take captive every thought and make it obedient to ourselves, we’re not really doing much. Think of it this way – what if I was my own accountability partner? That wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

Instead, I must make every thought obedient to Christ. 

Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. Christ is the key to obtaining the truth in our inward being that the Father desires. If we submit our thoughts to Him, Christ will be faithful to lord over our hearts and minds and to demolish the stronghold of fantasy that so often holds His daughters captive.

We just need to let Him.

  • Regrets are not safe pasture.

When the Lord transforms our desires, then seems to leave us desiring, I wonder if our thoughts sound like the Israelites’ grumbles while wandering in the wilderness.

Why did we leave? The Egyptians fed us steak. Now, we’re hungry.

Why did I break up with him? He made me feel loved. Now, I’m longing.

Why did I decide to go to counseling? This is hard. Now, I’m more depressed.

Here’s some encouragement for you:

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6: 20-23

Before the Lord changed our desires, we were able to get what we wanted without worrying about the controls or demands of righteousness. But, dear sister, what benefit did you reap in your sin and shame? How much more alive are you now delighting in the Lord, and allowing Him to craft your desires for your good and for His glory!

Let us remind ourselves of the blessing it is to dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Safe pasture is to rejoice in the specific calling the Lord has given you. Safe pasture is to allow Christ to reign in your heart, your mind, and your spirit. Safe pasture is to strive toward the prize, forgetting what’s behind and pressing forward and onward in Christ Jesus. Safe pasture is ours, now!

With it, we have a promise of what’s to come. To quote Psalm 37 once more:

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Father, help us commit our way to you. Help us trust you. Help us repent of any comparison. Help us to rebuke any fantastical thought that exalts itself above the knowledge of you, and to submit it to the obedience of Christ. Remind us of the gracious gift of eternal life that we now have in you. Open our eyes to the land of beauty and safety that we get to enjoy while under the secure covering of obedience and calling. We love you. Help us to love you even more. In Jesus’ name, Amen!