In testimonies, Christianity is often described as a lifetime of continuous joy after one’s conversion. We know this is not true; the Christian life is not like this.
John Piper, in When I Don’t Desire God, has written a profound book showing the reality of the Christian life: Christians struggle with indwelling sin. We often give more thought to God’s blessings than to the fact that He is the source of those blessings. We forget that God commands us to delight in Him alone. Thus, when providence does not go our way, we mutter and complain and sometimes sink in the waves of self-pity. Neglecting the reading of God’s Word, we struggle with wrong priorities and bad decisions.
The opening chapters focus on scriptural teaching, pointing to the Christian’s duty to rejoice in God. In doing so, we can glorify Him. Piper is quick to point out that there is not a methodology to finding true joy. God gives it. However, God has provided the avenue toward joy as the Christian diligently seeks Him in the Word and in prayer. True joy involves a faithful fight where we are not satisfied with possessions but only with God Himself.
Successive chapters provide practical, pastoral, passionate counsel that aids Christians who are caught in the rut of a mediocre life. Asserting that believers must preach to themselves daily, in addition to sitting under good preaching, he provides much ammunition for the battle. Chapters are devoted to the importance of God’s Word itself and the application of it to our culture. This is a critical point in our day, when stress is placed on the image rather than the printed word. Abiding joy comes through our meditating on and memorizing Scripture passages.
Piper turns our attention to the importance of prayer in the early church. The persecuted Christians lived in evil days. However, their prayers were not concentrated on escaping peril. In text after text, we see believers praying for a greater awareness of and knowledge of the triune God. They desired God’s kingdom to advance in the world. They wanted greater sanctification in their own lives. They sought God’s wisdom so that their decisions could be God-honoring.
Piper provides insights into using God’s Word to motivate us to pray as well as to read the Scriptures more effectively.
The author next turns our attention to rejoicing in God as we live in His world. He shows how we can use our God-given senses to fight for joy. He does not overlook food and sex. Our culture portrays these two activities as ends in themselves. However, Piper sees them as God’s gift to His creation. Their right use causes the Christian to rejoice in the God who gave them for His glory and our good.
A final chapter addresses the fact that at times medicine may be needed to fight depression. Even on these sad occasions, Piper provides wise counsel for Christians to continually fight for joy in terms of Scripture and prayer.
Piper has penned a practical volume. He shares wisdom from years of counseling and his own personal struggles for joy in God. Also, he points readers to the experiences of early believers so that we can learn from them. This work is full of Scripture quotations that are critical in this lifelong pursuit.
Piper’s writing is God-centered and easy to read. I suggest that the reader meditate on the practical issues it addresses. It can be read and reread with profit.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.