Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: "When I Don't Desire God"


Have you ever gone through a period of time in which you had little desire to read your Bible? Or maybe a time when you pondered which book to pick up next but just felt kind of "blah" about the whole thing? I went through a phase like this about six months ago. I was more aware of my failures than God's grace. I knew that I needed to focus on what God has done for me through the blood of Jesus Christ rather than reading another Christian living title that would reveal my many shortcomings in my marriage, parenting, and every other area of my life. A short time later, I began reading When I Don't Desire God by John Piper. It was hard reading for this sleep-deprived mama, and it was slow going a lot of the time. However, it was well worth the effort. God used this book to encourage me greatly. It was comforting for me to realize that "...no one ever desires God with the passion he demands" (pg. 13). Ironically, when I realize that I don't desire God enough, I'm actually in a better place spiritually than when I think I'm doing well, even if I do feel worse.

This book is classic Piper; he's singing the same tune: "...God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" (pg. 19). The first half of the book is largely foundational and philosophical while the latter portion is immensely practical. For example, we all know that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, so why is Piper writing a whole book about fighting for joy?  I'll let him answer:

"The apostle Paul said, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Cor. 16:22). Love is not a mere choice to move the body or the brain. Love is also an experience of the heart. So the stakes are very high. Christ is to be cherished, not just chosen. The alternative is to be cursed. Therefore life is serious. And so is this book" (pg. 19).

As for the practical, there's nothing essentially new here: we fight for joy mainly through God's Word and prayer.  However, Piper does have many helpful insights as to how the Word and prayer help us in our fight for joy and how to use them to this end. As usual, Piper says many thought-provoking things making this a book in which you’ll likely want to spend some time. I’ll leave you with a quote that was meaningful to me in my situation; may it whet your appetite.

“The fight for joy always involves both [prayer and meditation]. Prayer without meditation on the Word of God will disintegrate into humanistic spirituality. It will simply reflect our own fallen ideas and feelings—not God’s. And meditation, without the humility of desperate prayer, will create proud legalism or hopeless despair.

Without prayer we try to fulfill the Word in our own strength and think we are succeeding and so become proud Pharisees; or we will realize we are not succeeding and will give up in despair” (pg. 149).
 Have you read this book? If so, what most spoke to you?

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