About a week ago, I thought that my pregnant wife and unborn child were going to die…
We had been at the hospital for the second day in a row and the doctors were running miles and miles of tests, and all of them were coming back negative…and my wife was getting worse. The doctors finally came in and told us that, because they had been unable to deduce what was wrong, they needed to do a dangerous procedure. They told us that they were in a position where they had no other choice (and we really pushed them on that notion). My wife was in bad enough shape that she wasn’t able to offer me any counsel, and I had no idea what to do. I prayed for wisdom and discernment and then made my decision…we would allow the procedure to happen.
It’s interesting to think about how, as I look back on the situation, I can see that it wasn’t as dangerous as I was thinking it was right in the moment. My wife and child weren’t in as much danger as I had supposed they were. Maybe it was emotionalism, maybe it was how tired I was, but there in that room, I was very scared for their lives.
After the doctors left to get everything ready for the procedure, I had to also leave…I couldn’t let my wife see the bad shape I was in of course;-)
As I was sitting outside her room, I listened to a short podcast that a friend of mine does each week, and it was very simply this week. One thing he said stuck in my mind: “God has prepared you for this…”
Whatever you’re going through, whatever situation you find yourself in, God has prepared you for it.
I told him I didn’t feel very prepared;-)
It was in that moment though, as I began to weep for fear of losing my loved ones, that something very interesting happened.
I felt fear yes, and sadness…but then, all of a sudden…joy.
Very suddenly I began to feel overjoyed…not simply having a peace that God was in control, though that came of course, but I felt joy.
I felt joy as I considered that I have a big God who works “all things together for good” for me. Even though I don’t know what good is all the time…He does.
I felt joy knowing that for my wife…to die was gain. There would be no greater gift that God could give her than to bring her face to face with Him.
I felt joy knowing that God is gracious towards children, and that God could care for my child in ways that no doctor ever could.
And as my tears of selfish fear began to melt away, God began to comfort me with His Word.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
“So also you have sorrow now, but I [Jesus] will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
“But now [God], I [Jesus] am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.“
These verses and others came to my mind, and I remembered something that we so often forget…
God wants us…to want joy.
Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and it’s no accident that it’s listed second only after love.
I had wondered before last week, if I was all talk when it came to truly being joyful, but as God began to remind me, even in suffering, there is joy. This isn’t because joy is something in and of itself that we can objectively have…instead it’s because there is only one thing that can ever truly bring us joy. If I were to say “christians should seek joy with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength” would I be out of line?
I would say no, because if we truly understand what it means to seek joy, then we know that the word joy…is synonymous with Christ.
There isn’t joy anywhere else…no matter what people may call it, any supposed satisfaction or happiness that comes from something other than Christ IS NOT JOY!
To say “christians should seek joy” is simply to say that we should seek Christ. We should seek to see how the gospel of our Lord Jesus shapes EVERY situation, circumstance and action in our lives. And as we do this, we will find that we have joy. As we go through suffering and trials, we aren’t commanded to count it all “in God’s control” (though that should of course bring us peace and comfort)…no, we are to count it as JOY! We are to seek to find joy in our circumstances, and there is only one way to do that…through Christ and Him crucified.
As I was sitting there outside my wife’s room, I realized that I truly am a christian hedonist, not just in theory, but also through God’s “Spirit wrought” work in my life.
Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Think about that…how is the Psalmist trying to motivate us to delight in God? Through the knowledge that God will give you the desires of your heart. In essence God is saying “It is GOOD for you to seek to fill the desires of your heart….when you are delighting in me.”
God has told us that it’s GOOD to seek joy, and it’s GOOD to desire to be happy. God simply reminds us though, that there is only one way to do that…and it’s by delighting yourself in Him! God is saying to seek joy (delight in Him) and He will give us joy (the desires of our hearts)!
Now, I don’t want to press that verse any further, as I’m sure there will be plenty of people who read this and disagree…but here’s what I would challenge you to do.
Ask yourself why God uses various means to motivate us. Why does God describe Heaven with such vivid language? I mean, if we’re to believe all the conservative circles in evangelicalism today, then we ought not to be moved by how wonderful Heaven is, because then that means that we’re not fully satisfied simply in the knowledge that Christ will be there (which I think is completely ridiculous).
Or why does God promise blessing for obedience? I thought it was wrong to “reward good behavior”….isn’t good behavior reward enough in itself?
Why does God promise that if we “sow abundantly” we’ll “reap abundantly” when we ought to be content sowing and spreading the gospel regardless of the results?
My answer to these questions? Because God wants us to be happy, and to have joy. God wants us to be overwhelmed by the joy of not only seeing Christ “face to face” but also at having such a wonderful place to share with Him for all eternity!
God wants us to know that He is mindful of our earthly needs AND wants. Jesus could’ve just fed the 5,000 enough to not starve, but He fed them until they were satisfied! And still He had more to give!
And God wants us to know that what we do matters in the grand scheme of things…we may be great at saying “God is in control” but we must never forget that He’s in control of us, and that He is using us. He wants us to want a part in His story.
He wants us to have joy…as a matter of fact, He wants us to have joy so much that He “infuses” it into us through the fruits that the Holy Spirit continues to work inside our hearts. God says that He cares so much about us having joy that He guarantees that we’ll have it!
So, I will seek after joy. I will seek to find joy even in sorrow. God has commanded that I “rejoice always.”
It is right to seek after joy…
So I am a christian hedonist. I want joy…do you?
P.S. For all of you who think I’ve gone too far. For those who think I need a little more “He must increase, I must decrease” perspective…I understand.
But sometimes, we need to be reminded that God really IS love, and that He really does say that He cares for us. We can’t abandon the truth just because it’s abused in our culture. God is big and we are small, and we must never lose sight of that…but in truth, that is one of the biggest keys to understanding true joy. Romans 8:28 would never be possible if I were sovereign…but because God is sovereign, and I am wicked, Romans 8:28 is not only possible…it’s wonderful.