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  • Writer's picturemattlillicrap


I wonder how you're feeling at this point of lock-down...

Some, no doubt, are finally getting used to the new rhythms and feeling as though life has settled into a manageable pattern. Others, perhaps, are still enjoying the slow-down and space that life has thrown their way, while others are still reeling at the increase in busyness that has come their way; home-schooling (it's started again!), working, keeping up with friends and family etc etc. And I'm sure many are feeling a bit fatigued by it all.

Our emotions are so changeable. We can be feeling on top of the world one moment, and then in the depths just a while later. And that can have profound effects on our spiritual lives can't it? On those days when you're happy, when everything feels in its right place, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, it is much easier to remember God right with you isn't it? But when the sky turns dark, the air seems cold, friends are distant and you're feeling gloomy, it can be hard to believe God is anything but achingly far off.

And then you read Psalm 16:11:

You have made known the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

How should we understand a verse like that when we fluctuate so much?

The wonderful news in here is that those emotional fluctuations which make the world and even our relationship with God seem so changeable are not true of God himself. The precious truth, especially in a tough time for so many of us, is that God is deeply, infinitely, and unchangeably blessed in himself.

That's an old fashioned word, but in essence it means that God is supremely happy. His presence is a place of pure, unadulterated delight.

When you think about it, the Bible is saturated with joy and delight. Amazingly, much of that describes God's joy and delight. He rejoices in all he made—proclaiming that it's all 'very good.' He rejoices in his works and delights in his people. Little wonder that Paul calls him the 'blessed' God (1 Tim 1:11). God is unceasingly joyful, delighted, and satisfied.

But we have already reflected on God's independence. He is not dependent on anyone or anything outside of himself for anything that he is. That is also true of his eternal blessed happiness.

In other words, the basis for God's happiness is God himself. He is happy because he is God. This is an amazing, praise-worthy truth to get our hearts around. If God were infinitely good but not infinitely powerful, he would be miserable, unable to do the good he wants to do. If he were infinitely merciful but not infinitely wise, he would be miserable, unable to execute his unfathomably wise plan of salvation. His happiness is a wonderful reminder that he is able to do all that pleases him. Where infinite goodness, power, mercy, wisdom, holiness, knowledge, justice, grace, etc. exist together there must also be infinite blessedness, infinite happiness.

We might resist that a little. It can feel a bit like we're describing a cosmic narcissist. But we mustn't bring God down to the level of a creature in that way, as though God has spent eternity blissfully gazing into some eternal mirror.

Since God is Trinity, his happiness is none other than the deep other-person centred delight of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For example, the Father is well pleased with the Son (Mark 1:11), while Jesus, the Son, rejoices in the Spirit (Luke 10:21).

But why is this so wonderful for us? Doesn't it make it even more galling that we experience such emotional lows?

It's wonderful, because it means that God's happiness doesn't depend on us. He didn't make us to make himself happy, as though he was lacking something we can provide. That's a horrible thought. What if we let him down in some way? No, God created us out of his infinite happiness as it overflowed like a fountain.

It's also wonderful because it means that at the very centre of everything, there is eternal and infinite joy—and we were created to share in it! God's happiness in God is the reason why we are designed to find our deepest happiness in God too. That's why Jesus' wonderful invitation in the parable of the talents to those who are faithful to their master's business is to 'come and share in your master's happiness!' (Matt 25:23). What a thought that is!

This is also why the Bible is so full of feasting and rejoicing. If you asked people on the street what the overwhelming 'mood' of the Bible is, many would say 'sombre' or 'serious.' Sadly Christians have often given that exact impression. Sometimes even we imagine a tone of serious religiosity, fasting and self-denial. Think of the way Jesus has been depicted on screen so often. He usually barely smiles, let alone laughed and enjoyed feasting with his friends? Yet what did Jesus say? "The Son of Man came eating and drinking" (Matt 11:19).

In fact, the emphasis in the Bible leans towards feasting, rather than fasting, because that's where all of history is headed: to an enormous feast of delight in God's happy presence!

Yes, there's a place for lament and fasting, especially in times like this one, but that is not because we're called to take some kind of ascetic or even sadistic pleasure in lack. Rather, the times of lament are designed to heighten our anticipation of and hope in the pleasure to come, the pleasure of God's presence which flows from his very being.

Finally, it's wonderful because it means that whatever our mood, and for whatever reason, we will never find God 'grumpy' in that irritable, changeable sense, as though he's like a dad who's hungry or hasn't had enough sleep. He is always deeply delighted in being who he is, which means it is his pleasure to display his wondrous nature by making us trophies of his grace, drawing us to enjoy him through his glorious salvation.

That's worth reflecting on. Let it sink and fill your eyes with wonder.

Onwards to glory!

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