Would you like to spend eternity with a group of dour, self-righteous, ritual-bound, judgmental people? Would you even want to be around them? Probably not! Then why would God?
Often so much of what we can know and love about God seems absent in the religious people who end up doing more to harm our perception of him than reflecting his true character. Even in our information-saturated, hi-tech culture, we know alarmingly little about God’s personality and his true character. Above all, we seem to have missed our main job description on this earth.
What is that?
Do you remember the very first question in the Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Do you know enough about God to enjoy him?
We find that we’re increasingly dissatisfied with our lives, often turning to food, alcohol, sex, and other addictions to fill the void in them. We’re discovering how happiness (or more importantly the absence of it) affects our entire being—physically, mentally, and spiritually. It controls how we connect with each other, our lifestyles, and our choices. There are more self-help books than you can count on how to be happy and find pleasure in life. Many studies confirm that the lack of joy in our lives increases stress, can suppress our immune systems, and can even contribute to depression and major health problems for us.
To counter this, we’re told that physical fitness and eating healthy are important contributing factors to happiness (e.g., the need for endorphins!) in our lives. So we find ourselves in fitness classes, health spas, meditation groups, and motivational conferences. Of course this all helps, but only to a certain extent, since we’ve overlooked the most important question: I’m doing all this, but I’m still missing something—what’s wrong?
The simple answer lies in the way we’ve been wired by our Creator. He has programmed us to be joyful, and the only way we can be so is by glorifying and enjoying him. He is the only one who can fill that void in our lives. If we seek any one else or any other way, we’ll only end up in more despair and hopelessness. God wants us to turn to him and enter a trust relationship with him. He knows what we need and only he can bring us to our joy-filled, eternal abiding place with and in him.
So how do we enjoy God? We all enjoy things differently. For some, just resting in the pleasure of knowing that he loves them is enough. They take great delight in the feelings of security in him and in the sense of his presence. I understand this, too. But I also take great pleasure now in knowing what’s true, and how this affects our daily lives in the real world. I love seeing how we can experience the truth about God and his character in the daily twists and turns of our lives.
Remember the line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem, “How do I love thee; let me count the ways…”? In somewhat the same way, our delight in God begins. Try this. Sit down in a quiet place and list all the things that you really love about God. When you’ve finished writing, set it aside. Then over the week, recheck the list and add to it something you’ve overlooked.
I did the same thing. One day, I began to list all the things about God I could think of that could be enjoyed—things we liked to think about as well as those practical things that we could live out. As I continued to put the ideas on paper, the list grew and grew. What I thought might be a list of a dozen or so, turned into more than forty. In the end, I was surprised to find how many sides to the diamond there were.
If we could really discern how God’s character and attributes touch our daily lives in a real way, we’ll come naturally to the realization that reveling in and celebrating God is what we’re designed for. It’s a major part of our earthly vocation. And it’s one of the very few things that we do in life that will never pass away. Indeed, the Shorter Catechism makes it clear that glorifying and enjoying him is forever. It doesn’t end with our last breath in this life; that’s just the greatest beginning. So if this is to be our vocation for eons to come, then we might as well get started now. Why waste a single day?
Also, if we aren’t truly enjoying God today, it will become obvious to other people. They may observe our piety and our churchy behavior, hear our religious words, and all the rest of it, but that’s probably not going to have much of an impact upon them. If so, it would have happened by now because there’s been plenty of religiosity to go around and to experience. Only if and when those around us see that we really know God and take great delight in him, and that he does make a real difference in how we behave, will we capture their attention in a way that nothing else will.
What do you think?
Photo by Renate Dodell via Flickr