Friday, November 6, 2009

When I Don't Desire God - chapter 2 - when I don't desire God

As I write this, rejoicing in God is the last thing on my mind. I'm exhausted. I didn't get much sleep. I've got a Bible study to write - and this post. So far this morning, I've dealt with no less than three emotional meltdowns. My fourth child was running and jumping around the house, noisily annoying anyone within reach.

Chapter 2 is an odd little chapter. Piper seems to go to a lot of effort to explain that desire and delight are two sides of the same coin (the man does love defining his terms!). His illustration about sex makes a lot of sense to me:

Who could draw a line between the power of sexual desire and sexual pleasure? The desire is part of the satisfaction. We speak of climax not because that is the only pleasure, but precisely because it is not the only pleasure. All the desires leading to it and following after it are part of the one big pleasure. (p. 26)

He's right: desire and delight overlap and merge into one another. But I'm not sure why he's bothering to make this point.

That's until I realise that it has important implications for days like today, when I don't feel delight in God. In fact, if I'm honest, I don't feel desire either - not today! But I'm immensely comforted by Piper's words:

We kick ourselves that ... our desires for [God's pleasures] ... are pitifully small compared to their true worth. It is helpful at this point to be reminded that our desires - no matter how small - have been awakened by the spiritual taste we once had of the presence of God. They are an evidence that we have tasted. It is also helpful at this point to be reminded that our desires are only a tiny part of what is to come. ... That truth can rescue us from despair and keep us fighting in this fallen world for all the joy possible in God. (p.28, my emphasis)

My faint but persistent desire for greater joy in God is a tiny foretaste of the immeasurable joys to come. My grief over my lack of joy in God is a sign that I have tasted the joy of knowing him. You don't miss what you've never had.

Ultimately, of course, it's neither desire nor delight I want: it's God himself. If I concentrate on what I'm feeling (or, today, on what I'm not feeling) - a flutter in the belly, a fleeting emotion - it's all pretty pointless and selfish. As CS Lewis said in his autobiography Surprised by Joy,

Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. ... Inexorably Joy proclaimed, "You want - I myself are your want of - something other, outside, not you nor any state of you." (quoted by Piper on p. 30)

It's worth remembering that Piper is helping us to fight not for joy "without reference to God" but for joy "in all God is for us in Jesus" (p.31). Knowing God naturally and inevitably leads to joy. But it's God I want, not some psychological experience. Jesus is the source and the object of my joy, and that's true whatever I feel.

On this dreary day, when joy is the furthest thing from my mind, I can at least hold on to that.

Questions for discussion and reflection:
Are there times when you wonder if you have any real desire for God at all? What does Piper encourage you to remember during these times? Do you find this comforting?

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