Christian Hedonism: Fresh Thoughts on Joy

I am pleased to note that the Executive Director of Tourism in the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, is Jacki L’Heureux-Mason. Her name means “Happy Mason,” a moniker which I too am pleased to claim, ever since 2002 when I published my book on joy, Champagne for the Soul.

Once a book is published, I seldom look at it again. The one exception is Champagne for the Soul which, even two decades later, I still sometimes take off the shelf to scan a few pages. I’m always amazed at how good it is! And how truly joy-inspiring. The maintenance and pursuit of joy continues to captivate me, and from time to time I jot down new thoughts about it in my journal. What follows are some recent entries. 

Happiness is the belief that God is good, and unhappiness is the belief that God is not good.

Imagine you’re at a smorgasbord, standing with your empty plate before a laden table. As you walk along, is your eye caught by all the foods you do not like? I hope not. I hope, like me, you choose to load up your plate with dishes you can hardly wait to sink your teeth into. Why not follow this same policy with the smorgasbord of life? When you look at your average day, is it filled with dreariness, or with things you enjoy? Try doing as John Piper exhorted in his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Piper wasn’t talking about wasting time on shallow pleasures; he meant pursuing those things that bring deep joy to your heart. Because joy, like the blazes on a trail through a dark forest, is how God leads us to do His will.  

In Margaret Laurence’s novel The Stone Angel, the protagonist is an old woman named Hagar who, toward the close of her life, is struggling to understand what it is that God has wanted her to do or be. She knows her calling has eluded her, but what might it have been? At the end of the book, hearing a minister read the words of Psalm 100—Come ye before Him and rejoice!—Hagar realizes that this is what God all along had been asking her to do—to live before Him in joy. And she completely missed it!

Don’t be like Hagar. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24). Or as Paul wrote, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor. Today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). 

Joy is our natural state. Having arrived in this world fresh from heaven, created by an all-loving God, and placed into a world so beautiful and majestic that it could only have been made by Him—why would we not be joyful? Yes, there is evil and pain in this world, but joy, even in the midst of darkness, is not something alien and difficult that we must drum up. It’s our birthright. Joy is our baseline, our default, our natural condition. If we aren’t joyful, it’s not because we’ve lost something, we’ve only forgotten. Often when I forget joy, I think of the image of a hot air balloon. If I were in a balloon that was sinking fast and about to crash, I would have to jettison some ballast. I’d have to throw something out in order to rise again. So I think: What do I have to get rid of right now? What am I clinging to that is dragging me down? Throw it out! Quickly! As I do so, I return to my natural state of buoyancy. The joy, the loft, was there all along, but I had some heaviness on board that had to go. Sadly, most people would rather hang onto their useless ballast than trade it for joy. Let it go! Let it go! And rise.

The Psalmist says, and the author of Hebrews quotes it, that the Messiah is “anointed with the oil of joy more than any of His companions” (Ps. 45:7; Heb 1:9). As John Mark Comer translates this verse, “Jesus was the happiest person alive.”

There is a line running through everything
in the world and in your own life.
Like the night terminator, this is the line
that demarcates light from darkness.

 Living in joy is a simple matter
of staying on the right side,
the bright side, of this boundary. 

Are you in the dark? Why not just
step over this line into the light? 

One step is all it takes.

Champagne for the Soul by Mike Mason is available here.

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