Nobody said it was easy;
No one ever said it would be this hard. (Coldplay, “The Scientist”)
O Christian Hedonism! That ancient, beautiful, biblical truth that our treasure is what most captures our heart (Matthew 6:21), that what measures our treasure is our pleasure, that if God is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4) then God’s pursuit of glory and our pursuit of happiness are one wonderful, wild pursuit! Because God is actually most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
For many of us, putting the scriptural pieces together and seeing this truth was almost like a second conversion. We saw more good in the gospel than we had ever seen before: God doesn’t merely want us holy; he wants us happy! In fact, true happiness is true holiness.
And then Christian Hedonism left us devastated. Not because it was untrue, but because we were. It exposed us. We did not value the Pearl anywhere near his worth (Matthew 13:45–46). We found ourselves still too attracted to mud pies and too neglectful of the Sea.
We had set out to pursue the deepest, purest, most satisfying Joy that exists and found the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1–3) fought us tooth and nail. They yielded no ground without a fight. Instead of experiencing joy, we often felt weary and discouraged.
All we were after was happiness. No one ever said it would be this hard, did they?
Indeed they did. We just hadn’t quite understood the extent before. In fact, the Pearl himself said:
“The way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14);
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23);
In order to have joy we must gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands if we need to (Matthew 5:29–30);
Holy, maximum happiness may cost us our family relationships and we will need to hate our earthly life in many ways to get it (Luke 14:26).
This is why the author of Desiring God wrote the book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. The former helps us understand what “the good fight of the faith” is all about (1 Timothy 6:12) — what is the good we’re fighting for. The latter is a field manual. The former shows us the panoramic view. The latter is for the ground war where we live, in the trenches with snipers shooting and mortar shells exploding. When an enemy attacks or when we’re strategizing to take a hill or when our stubborn darkness just won’t lift, what we need is very practical help.
The way is hard that leads to life. But let’s remember that the emphasis is not on “hard” but on “life.” The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
And in the meantime, with the fiery darts still flying, let’s keep close at hand the Bible and field manuals such as When I Don’t Desire God to help us keep the shield of faith in place.