A Book You Can Be Caught Reading

A Book You Can Be Caught Reading

Some books we rarely read in public. Spiritual Depression. Almost Anorexic. Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave. Anything on sexual purity.

Regardless of our reason for reading, it can feel like a confession — like we have to explain ourselves if we’re caught with one of these books at church or a coffee shop. Any chance you’ve put When I Don’t Desire God in that category?

This Is for All of Us

I know I did. I felt like I had to wait for a major spiritual crisis to come. Something awful had to happen that threatened my joy in God like never before. It seemed like depressed people should read about depression, addicts should read about addiction, and broken, miserable, morose Christians should read about the fight for joy. Not me. Not the happy Christian Hedonist.

The book was written for the broken, but not for some elite group of the sad and discouraged. It was written to help us all live the truth we had fallen in love with in Desiring God. I can’t imagine anything better than knowing that the one who created the world and everything in it wants what my soul wants — that what pleases him in all his wisdom, power, and authority will also make me most happy forever. But how does that happen for me?

The truth is we all must fight all the time to find our first and full joy in God. Some of us are naturally or circumstantially happier than others, but none of us treasures God as we should. So here are three reasons I recommend you go ahead and get caught in public with When I Don’t Desire God.

1. A Word for Joy

Your daily time in God’s word is not ultimately about knowing new things, but about delighting in God. Personal devotions are not merely about understanding his Book, but about finding him in it and enjoying who you find. The happy, godly man does not love the world, “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

Jeremiah said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). When we are God’s, his words become an unlimited source of true joy — the joy we all need every day, regardless of our circumstances. We all need help finding daily joy in God for our life — for the exciting and mundane, the vocational and recreational, the personal and relational. In short, we all need to learn to read the Bible for joy.

2. Repentance Is About Restoration

David slept with another man’s wife, attempted to deceive the husband and cover his offense, and then had him murdered while he fought for David’s people. If it wasn’t for the rest of the story, he might have gone down as one of the worst villains in the Bible. But God confronted, convicted, and redeemed David. He repented of his sin and returned in faith to his Savior. And the language of his return was, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12).

Repentance — the daily, even hourly, act of turning from sin to God — is about restoration. It restores us to God and to the infinite, lasting joy he purchased for us at Calvary. Even after we’re saved, the sin still in us separates us from the joy that’s already ours in Christ. So we need to turn, again and again, and rediscover our joy in Jesus — and not just on our worst days, but any day we’ve traded trust in God for trust in anything or anyone else.

3. Joy to the World

The best friends in this life will be those who point you to the best place to find joy. Paul summed up his ministry by saying, “We work with you for your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). That’s the end of any ministry — vocational, cross-cultural, personal — joy. We should be striving to be the kind of friend, father, sister, pastor, coach, and person that brings real joy. That will take tools you may have never needed for yourself, so fill up your belt with others in mind.

Why You Don’t Desire God — Yes, You

When I Don’t Desire God wasn’t meant to be the field guide of a few especially sad Christians. It was meant to be the handbook of every Christian Hedonist, a playbook for pursuing our fullest, deepest joy in Jesus. None of us, not even John Piper, is above or beyond the need to think through the practical implications of this life-changing joy. After all, the title does say “I,” not “you.” The book is his personal and practical confession and dream for himself and the rest of us.

The command “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4) should thrill and undo us. It seems simply too good to be true. But it is — for all of us.


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Marshall Segal (@MarshallSegal) is executive assistant to John Piper, a recent graduate of Bethlehem Seminary in Minneapolis, and author of Single, Satisfied, and Sent: Mission for the Not-Yet Married.