Monday, July 21, 2008

Discovering Joy Is A Daily Process

I damned the fact that joy is the core of existence...
-Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged

"If I were were to ask you why you have believe in Christ, why you have become Christians, every man will answer truly 'for the sake of happiness.'
-Saint Augustine

Joy. Happiness. Delight. Jesus endured the Cross because before Him, right in front of Him, in the midst of His pain, His suffering, His taking on the wrath of God the Father, was pure, complete, and perfect JOY (Hebrews 12:2)! I am reading Desiring God by John Piper because as Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand's masterwork, Desiring God is Piper's and I have yet to read it. For me, this is the summer of masterworks I guess. I resolved to read this book at the beginning of the summer as I continually fight for joy in my own life. Piper's premise in this book, and for that matter all his books, is that God's ultimate purpose and our ultimate purpose are the exact same thing--His glory. The vehicle through which this is accomplished is also the same for both God and man--by enjoying Him. To put it Piper's words,
The chief end of man God is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.


The chief end of God is to glorify Himself by enjoying Himself forever.
Now I know that for some who read this it may seem controversial. From whatever background you may come from--Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Hindu, spiritualist, agnostic, atheist--I suggest reading the book and allowing Piper to defend his premise from where he derives it, the Bible. Then make your conclusions. I am not writing to for the purpose of summarizing him.

However, I am writing about joy and my pursuit of it because I know that this is a pursuit for all of us. I think that most humanity discovers early on that the experience of joy--sheer, unadulterated joy--is something we desire at the very core of who we are. Some people suppress it, calling it sacrifice, kind of like Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged; some have it stripped away from them through abuse or addictions and they lose all sense of value of who they are as humans, performing basic instinctual functions, such as breathing, eating, etc., but aren't really alive anymore.

The phrase I mentioned in a previous post comes to mind here: Whatever makes you happy. That cop-out phrase not only exposes our lack of really wanting to dig deep into each others' lives, but it also reveals that we all desire joy and happiness. For most people my age, they think this will come through marriage. Once they find that right person, then...oh then...then they will be happy. But it comes in other forms: A nice house, the latest iPhone, a good movie, a successful job, a fun night out with friends, having a lot of sex. We all want to be happy in our own way.

But Augustine, who's Confessions shares that his own pursuit of joy looks very similar to that of a college-aged frat guy, realized that after looking around and living in this world, for this world, that joy can be found nowhere else in its most complete form than in that which is most enjoyable, namely God Himself.

How often do people hear that they will never find more joy in anything else--anything else--than they would in God? How often do Christians themselves know and live in this truth?
There are many who say, 'Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

-Psalm 4:6-7

You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy
at Your right hand there are pleasures evermore.
-Psalm 16:11
Fullness of joy is in God--Father, Son, and Spirit! This truth stands with a glaring, piercing eye toward a world that screams joy is found in everything else but God. I personally believe that the understanding and experience of joy in God Himself is missing immensely in the church today, both in practice and in teaching. I personally do not live in the joy of God much in my life, and confess how I am more often filled with anger, an anger that I am continually bringing before Him. But I fight and I press on, because I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I know that deep down, because of Jesus Christ's beautiful work on the Cross, that I am filled with a joy that is glorious and inexpressible (1 Pet. 1:8). Knowing this, the daily process of discovering His joy and how He has moved me from death to life is what I go through.

So I must humbly ask some questions that are difficult because as Christians we like to come off as if we have it all together. I also fight (against myself and my pride) to be the first to say that I don't. The questions I am asking these days are,

Do I delight more in my anger than in God?

Do I actually enjoy being angry more than I enjoy Jesus?

On an intellectual level the answer is easily no, but I know my heart and I know seek to and delight in and enjoy my anger more than God Himself. These are difficult questions to ask because they expose what I want to hide and keep in the darkness. But as Christ is the "light of the world" (John 8:12) and by His light He exposes darkness, I trust these questions come by His grace and love. Though I am quick to anger, God is slow to it and abounding in love toward me (Psalm 103:8), because ultimately He doesn't want me to enjoy my anger; my Father wants me to enjoy that which is most enjoyable--Him. So He is patient, drawing me and countless others closer to Himself. I am immeasurably thankful for Him and how He deals with me.

But the questions can be asked for you as well. What do you seek to delight in more than God? What do you seek to enjoy more than Jesus? Do you even know or have you ever been taught that you were created to enjoy God, and by doing so, you actually experience the most fulfilling, most satisfying, most enjoyable joy you could ever know?

I pray that you will sincerely try to answer these questions as I have been doing. Your joy is at stake.

By His Grace.

1 comment:

  1. I taught a Sunday school class a few years ago that used Desiring God as our study book. It was the most amazing and motivating book study I've ever done. It is a phenomenal book.

    I was glad to find your site. My blog is called "By His Grace - For His Glory" too, so we're kind of twin sons of the same Father.