“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” — Nehemiah 8:9-10
The first step to real gospel joy is real gospel brokenness. We cannot get to real happiness in God until we get to real despair of our sin. “Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet,” Thomas Watson tells us.
But once we have despaired of all sin and the gods at their genesis, we are free. Really, truly free. To eat fat juicy steaks, for instance.
In fact, we cannot really enjoy the good gifts God gives us until he as their Giver is our greatest joy. Until he as their Giver is our greatest joy, we will be left trying to enjoy his gifts for things they are not, rather than the things they are.
In Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis credited a close friend with cultivating in him “a determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being so magnificently what it was.”
John Piper echoes this enjoyment of quiddity in his book Don’t Waste Your Life, commenting on this kind of awareness: “To wake up in the morning and be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the sheer being of things… ”
If I don’t believe the gospel, I will miss out on the joy of the it-ness of things. I will be looking to these things as drugs, as appetite-fillers, as fulfillers, as powers, as gods, as worshipers of the god of myself.
If coffee or chocolate or anything else other than God is the highlight of my day or the ultimate joy of my heart, my joy is temporary, hollow, thin.
But if I believe in the gospel, I can finally enjoy the chocolate-ness of chocolate and the coffee-ness of coffee. Only the gospel frees me to enjoy things as they truly are and as they someday will be.