In his book Desiring God, John Piper is challenging me and pointing my mind to think about some things that I have not seen as clearly before. As I read the Psalms, I am amazed at the language that the writers use. They do not come to a distant and demanding God. They come to a God who is extremely close to their heart, and is at the very center of their affections and pursuit of joy.
“You make known to me the path of life;
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11)
“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness,
When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” (Ps. 17:15)
“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.” (Ps. 42:1)
What is different about these words is that the writer does not merely say that we should worship God because it is the good and right thing to do. Neither is he saying that we should come to God because he will make us happy. Rather, he is expressing the true and deep satisfaction that his soul finds in knowing, living and praising God.
We all seek joy. It is the only reason that we ever do anything – because we believe that in some way, it will make us happy. Its interesting to observe that, despite the fact that everyone seeks joy always – there are so many miserable people in this world. Aside from being miserable, there are many people who seem to be only half-happy.
As I look around, into the lives of the people around me, and into my own life, I see that there is very little true joy in this world. There are many stimuli which promise joy – but in the end, often dry out and fall flat. There are also many things that do indeed give great joy and satisfaction – but they last only for a short while. But I see very little true, penetrating, peace-giving, soul-satisfying joy in this world.
Now, although I do believe that true joy is found in God alone, I am not saying that all we need to do is come to Jesus and you will have it. Its not that simple. There are no quick fixes in life. I have been a christian for 5 years and still find myself being drawn to find joy in things that I myself know won’t truly give it.
Although all of our souls run on this drive to find joy, it seems like our aim is all out of whack. We are constantly drawn to a million little momentary joys – many of which we ourselves know won’t give it. I’m sure we can all admit that we are often tempted to do things that we ourselves know are wrong. But we are still tempted. Why is that? As C.S. Lewis points out, “We are far too easily pleased”. The tendency for cheep joy seems to always reside in our hearts.
But in contrast to all this there is such a deep joy and satisfaction in the words of the Psalmists – “In your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This is the kind of joy that we do not see very much of in this world. It’s depth and stability is a rare thing in this depressingly stimulating world.
If there is a God who made all things, than he himself is the inventor, and greatest source of joy. If this is true, than knowing him and living a life that is permeated by his influence is the only true source of unshakable joy – a joy that permeates the character and foundation of our souls. This is not a joy that just comes and goes, but rather, is one that itself acts as the spring of all other joys in life.