What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. – Prov 10:24
We love the old school Disney flicks and classic Westerns for many of the same reasons. The black and whiteness. I don’t mean the lack of technicolor, but the black and whiteness of the characters, the plot, and the outcome. Good guys wear white hats, bad guys black hats; the prince ends up with the princess, while the villain falls into his own trap.
When we find proverbs like this one, it seems like God is saying that this is the way the world works. Outcomes are black and white results of lifestyle. But it doesn’t work like that. Look at Job. Look at your kind, faithful, God-fearing friend, who’s suffered unspeakable tragedy. How can God say that what the wicked fears happens to him, much less that good people get what they want?
We’ve got to look a little bit deeper. We’ve got to understand that although Proverbs have a general, widespread observational truth (bad people usually get comeuppance in the long run, and good people often successfully reach goals), there is a much more important inner, spiritual reality in play.
Have you ever been in the grip of a dominating anxiety? A fear takes hold of your mind, and pushes everything else to the margins. Try as you might, your mind keeps circling back to the same fears, the same doubts. Your mind calls up the same mass of fears faster and faster even as you try to move away, to more and more distant and unrelated matters. Without having God as a stronghold and refuge, fear, the flip side of desire, takes center stage. “What you dread will come true” means, not necessarily that you fall prey to a specific evil you were trying to avoid, but that dread multiplies and magnifies the occasions for dread.
Take for example a fear of failure, which today often serves as a euphemistic stand-in for less popular terms of sin and guilt. The more you dread failure, the more your minor failures will haunt you. You will replay them in your mind, repent of them, take vows to never repeat them. And thus failure, the very thing you are trying to avoid, will control you. It will guide your hand, and chain your soul. Fear, or dread, is an emotion of worship. Every other object of worship, besides God, will cheat us. The more we fear disappointing it, the more it is able to, and will, make demands of us. This is why a man of avarice can feel destitute and stingy even while riches are pouring in.
On the other hand, God grants the desire of the righteous. This is the Psalm 37:4 maxim: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Jesus takes great pains to make it known that he is not a genie. He is a Savior who cares a lot about our hearts, and he promises to change them, so that we want the sorts of things he gives to us freely. He provides the water of life and the bread of life without price, and without limit. So when God changes us so that we want more of Him, He promises us we’ll always be getting what we want.