It’s a beautiful thing when a single sentence reorients a soul for good. When one proposition proves potent enough to be life-changing for the better. Especially when it’s a short one.
For me, it was the spring of 2000 — perhaps you have your own story about being rocked by this shorty from Lewis. An older student, who was leading a Bible study on my freshman hall, picked Desiring God as our semester focus. I emphatically did not enjoy reading and had made my way through high school and my first year of college leaning heavily on Cliff’s Notes.
It was only a few pages into the book — if it hadn’t been near the front, I may never have found it — when John Piper uncorked this revolutionary little claim from C.S. Lewis. It’s only a six-word sentence — but the context’s essential, no doubt. Here’s “We are far too easily pleased” in its native surroundings, from the opening salvo of Lewis’s remarkable sermon “The Weight of Glory”:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (26)
Desires Too Weak?
Pascal had my attention at “All men seek happiness,” but now Lewis had me reeling with “We are far too easily pleased.” Does Jesus really find our desires not too strong, but too weak? I had long professed Christianity, but this tasted so different than what I knew. It tasted! This affirmation of happiness and pleasure and desire and delight was, to me, so new in the context of the Christian faith.
My notions about God and the Christian life were exposed as mere duty-driven, and my soul was thrilling at the possibility that Christianity might not mean muting my desires but being encouraged (even commanded!) to turn them up — up to God.
But Does It Hold?
Quoting Pascal and Lewis had opened my mind and heart to a new angle on God and life — that new angle being joy and delight — but my upbringing determined there must be a final and decisive test for this freshman discovery: Will this hold in the Scriptures? I thank God my parents and home church had so clearly taught me the Bible was trustworthy and inerrant and the final authority on every seemingly true line of thinking.
And with Bible open, it didn’t take long. Equipped with this new lens — the spectacles of joy — the Scriptures began popping like never before.
The Language of Hedonism Everywhere
In God’s presence, says Psalm 16:11,“there is fullness of joy; at [his] right hand are pleasures forevermore.” I had no category for that until now. Or for the heart cry of Psalm 63:1: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Or for the holy angst of Psalm 42:1–2: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” As Piper says, “I turned to the Psalms for myself and found the language of Hedonism everywhere” (Desiring God, 23).
At last I was ready to hear Paul say, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1). And the reprise: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). And Jesus: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). As well as the glimpse we’re given into his very heart at the heart of our faith: “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). And on and on.
What Is “The Weight of Glory”?
Back to Lewis’s famous sermon. There’s even a little bit more to squeeze from the six-word sentence. He would say that not only are we “far too easily pleased” when we settle for fixing our soul’s inconsolable longing on anything other than God, but also that we’re too easily pleased if we would only see God from a distance and not soon be drawn into him. This, says Lewis, is the weight of glory.
The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination [of standing before God], shall find approval, shall please God. To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son — it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is. (38–39)
Welcomed into the Heart of Things
Indeed, we are far too easily pleased when we pine finally for anything less than God — and when we ache only for seeing his splendor from afar, rather than going further up and further in, to being “accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance” (40). The weight of glory “means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things” (41).
Our Creator has written on our hearts not only to enjoy eternity as a spectator in his majestic stadium, watching happily from the bleachers, but being brought onto the field, given a jersey, and adopted as a full member of his team, to live in his acceptance and embrace. We never become God, but we do become spectacularly one with him in his Son and our glad conformity to Jesus (Romans 8:29). Surely such is a weight of glory almost too great to even consider in our current condition.
More on C.S. Lewis and the weight of glory: