When Desires Stay Unfulfilled


In my last post, I looked at God’s delight in his people and how we in turn delight in Him. But a question came up when I alluded to Psalm 37:4:

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (ESV).

What do we do with this verse when our desires go unfulfilled? Is God not faithful to his word?

I have several unfulfilled desires I’m praying over at this time. One I keep thinking is dead, then the flame flickers back to life. Still, I’ve waited years with no fulfillment.

Another desire of mine is for all my family members to recognize they need Jesus and to accept His offer of forgiveness and sacrifice. This is definitely the will of God. Yet, this desire has lingered for 28 years unfulfilled.

At one time in my journey, I treated this verse like a magic spell to get what I wanted. I would get frustrated because God wasn’t answering my prayers.

But after several years of following Jesus and studying the Bible, He taught me a few things about these unfulfilled longings.

God wanted a relationship with me through Jesus. In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus told the crowd and His disciples:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33 ESV).

Above all else, God wanted me to follow Him first. He made me for relationship and knew I could never fulfill His designed plans apart from Him.

In this relationship, God revealed things that needed working on–work that only the Holy Spirit could do. Sometimes He wanted me to depend on Him. Other times He exposed my neediness. Many times, He addressed a specific sin issue.

Most of these sin issues revealed a desire turned obsession—where the “thing” I wanted became more desirous than Jesus Himself. I had to confess my sin for what it was–idolatrous.

As I began spending time with Jesus each morning, my selfish desires began to change. My desires aligned with what the scriptures say and what God wants. My thoughts, attitudes and actions changed. My desires became His desires. The change was imperceptible at first. But after a while it was easier to let go of the things I thought I wanted. They just didn’t matter anymore. I found myself desiring what God desired for me instead.

When an answer returned no or wait, I could still trust Him. I’m not alone in these denials as God said “no” to people in the Bible. When Paul asked God to remove the “thorn in His flesh,” God denied him. This denial kept Paul from becoming conceited over the incredible revelations he had received after his conversion. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7.)

In another instance, Jesus healed a woman who suffered 12 years of illness (Matthew 9:20-22). God delivered His yes in His timing. I don’t know why God waited to act in this case, but I do know He has a perfect purpose in everything He does. God’s timing is not always my timing.

When we don’t hear from God or don’t hear what we want to hear, we should ask: Am I seeking Him and Him only? Does this desire match up with His desires for me and what the scriptures say?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, press in to God. Develop those faith muscles. In that period of development, remember:

He loves you. The depth, width, height, and breadth of His love didn’t change from yesterday.

He grace is sufficient in your weakness.

He is your Comforter when the life-long dream has died.

His ways are perfect and yours and mine are not.

He is good, and His plans are better than what you can imagine.

He is wise. You may never understand His ways until you’re ushered into heaven.

Unlike a genie in a bottle, God will never fulfill all our desires because frankly some aren’t very lovely. Most of them will never fulfill us or give Him honor like we imagine they should.

David assures us, though, in the next psalm: “all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (v. 9, ESV).

God knows our longings. He knows which ones will bring Him honor and are best for us. If the answer you are receiving is no or wait; you can trust God. He is still involved in your life and not done with you yet.




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