Well hello friends. I just finished reading probably the most life-changing, influential book to date (at least for me). I have PREACHED on this book already, as my friends, Jeremy, family, etc.. can attest to. I am passionate about this book, this topic, and I strongly believe that everyone NEEDS to get their hands on a copy of this one. It really is life or death.
“When I Don’t Desire God” is about just that; when you do not want God at the level He deserves to be desired at. Piper tackles this issue with boldness and practicality. Each chapter lays out very clearly a practical discipline to implement in your life if you are experiencing a lack of motivation for spending time and investing in your relationship with the Lord. We all have those seasons, guys. We all struggle at one point or another to get up and make it to church, or even just read a chapter of scripture in the morning. During these droughts, we feel emptied, ashamed; we start questioning if we are even saved at all. It slowly trickles into our relationships with others, causing conflicts and tensions; into our work life, how we handle stress, how we deal with loss or disappointment. Everything in our life becomes effected by this and Piper addresses it. He also addresses the fact that even though this season of darkness is going on, we are powerless to make any real, lasting changes on our own. The entire book gives you wonderful tips and advice on how to power through and experience more of Him, but never forgets that it is not your own works, but God’s grace that saves us from these seasons.
To start off, in the preface of the book, it states: “To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people. By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself” (Piper). He then goes on in Chapter One to explain the reasoning behind writing this book. I find this chapter extremely insightful, and helpful in understanding what exactly the goal is by the end of this literary journey. And the simplistic reason he writes is because in his own life, and in the lives of many of the great theologians before him, he has found that “no one desires God with the passion he demands” (Piper, 13). He quotes Augustine saying:
“I was astonished that although I now loved you…I did not persist in enjoyment of my God. Your beauty drew me to you, but soon I was dragged away from you by my own weight and in dismay I plunged again into the things of this world…as though I had sensed the fragrance of the fare but was not yet able to eat it” (Augustine, 14).
I resonated deeply with the very first chapter, and I believe most of you would, thus I continued to read. Chapter Two he titled “The Difference Between Desire and Delight: Discovering How Both and Neither is the Goal.” In it, he lays out more foundation to better prepare you to receive what the rest of the book dives into. Chapter Three is “The Call to Fight for Joy in God.” In the very first paragraph he writes: “not to see and savor Christ is an insult to the beauty and worth of his character. Preferring anything above Christ is the very essence of sin. It must be fought” (Piper, 33). Powerful. Demanding. Blunt. I dig it. The rest of the chapter goes on to explain why we must take this concept very, very seriously. He, again, continues to lay down that foundation of the importance of this topic before he even touches on what he really needs to say. It is a very helpful approach for those who find reading complicated and difficult. He really prepares you for the important stuff by laying down the groundwork in the first few chapters.
Chapter Four through Eleven now starts to dig in deep. Piper explains HOW to fight for joy. He uses all kinds of practical examples: through discipline in biblical study, through nature, through music and visual arts, through worship, through reading of the great theologians of our time (my personal favorite chapter), through taking care of your physical body, through self-restraint. He goes in depth on how to do these things in a manner that 1) glorifies God and 2) opens up an avenue for God to move that desire on your heart. Piper explains how we must fight for joy as “Justified Sinners” and recognizes that our fight is not on our own strength. Paul calls this fight a good fight and “it is a good fight because we are not left to our own strength in the fight. If we were, as Martin Luther says, ‘Our striving would be losing.’ In other words, when a child of God fights for joy in God, God himself is the one behind that struggle, giving the will and the power to defeat the enemy of joy (Phil. 2:12-13). We are not left to ourselves to sustain the joy of faith. God fights for us and in us. Therefore the fight of faith is a good fight” (Piper, 38).
The very last chapter addresses the fact that even after reading this book, even after putting some of these things into practice every day, there are some who will still struggle in a season of darkness. He explains how diagnosed depression, or physical diseases, terminal or otherwise, can really affect a person’s spiritual health. He uses an excerpt from Martin Lloyd-Jones on Charles Spurgeon’s battle with physical ailments to explain:
“Does someone hold the view that as long as you are a Christian it does not matter what the condition of your body is? Well, you will soon be disillusioned if you believe that. Physical conditions play their part in all of this…You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind, and spirit. The greatest and the best Christians when they are physical weak are more prone to an attack of spiritual depression than at any other time and there are great illustrations of this in scripture” (Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression).
I found this last chapter to be particularly enlightening as Piper explains the roles of medications, physical therapies, and things of that sort in our spiritual battle for joy. I know so many who could benefit from just this chapter alone, and reading it helped me to understand Jeremy’s struggles so much better.
I could not truly express how helpful this book has been in my faith. I could not really put into the proper words to convince you that you need to read this. But you do. You so do. We all struggle in our faith, we all need that push of truth to send us back up in the loving embrace of our Father. I want you all to read this and find practical tools to fight for more of God everyday. Because we all want it. We just do not know how to get it. But Piper lays it out for us in this beautifully binded book.
“But when Jesus said, ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (John 16:24), he meant, ‘In all your asking look for the fullness of joy in me. In this way all your asking will glorify me.’ So let us fight for joy by asking for it earnestly from God, and let us fight for joy by asking for everything else with this one great goal: in and through all his gifts to see more and taste more of Christ” (Piper, 148).