Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happiness Is Limited in This Life So You'll Enjoy It Forever

I want to make sure that I am clear in what I mean when I say God wants us to be happy. I do not at all mean that God promises we will be happy all of the time in this life, or that we will mostly have joy and very little pain. Joy is not a constant thing. If you have many seasons where you must struggle to find joy, you're normal. God does provide joy, and God is the only one you can rely on to provide everlasting joy. But He deliberately limits our experience of it in this life, and I think C.S. Lewis understood why.

I have been helped and encouraged immensely by C.S. Lewis when I have been struggling to find joy and happiness (as you can see from the link). Lewis has made more sense out of why we long so much for satisfaction that seems elusive, and why we suffer so much, than just about anyone else outside the Scriptures. The only other Christian author that has helped me this much is John Piper, and I suspect that is in no small part because Piper himself has been richly helped by Lewis. Piper titled his biographical sketch of Lewis "Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul" (a title that will be explained by the next post). It summarizes well how much Lewis thought about joy and satisfaction and the longing to find them.

Lewis's conclusion about why happiness is limited in this life was simply this: God gives us as much happiness in life as is good for us, but not so much that we miss out on everlasting joy.

"The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacles to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Or, as the Scriptures put it: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17.

And not only that, but their joy abides forever too.

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