Review by Jennifer Linz
· Date Reviewed: Jul 2023
· Book Reviewed: “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy” by John Piper
Number of Pages: 234 (excluding Notes and Indexes)
This is a book I’ve had on my to-read list for a while and I’m so glad for the opportunity to finally read it. I’ve read a number of other books by Piper and, like all the others, this one does not disappoint! The inscription on the back of the book gives a quick overview of its content:
“We all want to experience liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God. But the reality is that we often struggle to find, and hold onto, true and lasting joy-even when we have embraced the good news of God’s grace. So, we face a crucial question: What should I do when I don’t desire God? John Piper aims to help us find joy in Jesus that is so deep and so strong that it frees us from bondage to comfort and security and impels us to live merciful and missional lives. Written with the radical hope that all Christians would experience the fullness of life in Christ, this book will help you fight for joy daily by leading you to rediscover the soul-satisfying glory of God.”
One of the things I appreciated the most about this book was its return to those things that are foundational to our faith…the very “habits of grace” as David Mathis calls them in his book with the same title (another excellent read if I may also recommend it to you!)…the things that include the Word, prayer, and fellowship with the body of Christ. Funny enough, Piper wrote the forward for that book too. We all need these reminders, wherever we at in our walk. According to Ralph Venning, a Puritan who wrote on the four stages through which the learners in Christ’s school pass before they enter heaven, “Though the stars differ from one another in glory, they are all stars. The fathers, the young men, the little children, and the babes also have this in common, that they are of God’s family and of the household of faith, the sons of God. They are all in Christ’s school, though not all in the same class.” There are some lessons we need to learn and re-learn no matter how far we’ve come on our journey. It behooves us to pay attention to these foundational truths and Piper not only takes us through the many Scriptures that remind us what are those most important ways to fight for joy but he offers numerous ways to practically see that lived out in our day-to-day lives that are most helpful and encouraging.
The final chapter of the book titled “When the Darkness Does Not Lift: Doing what we can while we wait for God-and Joy”, was my favorite as it dove into the depths of what it looks like waiting in darkness, but not as ones without hope, because we are not lost and not alone. This chapter takes us back to Psalm 40:1-3 where it says “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” All of us will experience times of darkness in our lives, but we have so many wonderful mercies from God that will carry us through…sometimes we just need to be reminded.
“Nothing is more foundational for the joy of undeserving people than the cross of Jesus Christ. The fight for joy is a fight to grasp and marvel at what happened in the death of Christ-and what it reveals about our suffering Savior. If it were not for the death of Jesus in our place, the only possible joy would be the joy of delusion…Infact, that’s the kind of joy that drives most of the world – a joy that preserves the power of its pleasures by being oblivious to the peril just ahead. Their joy depends on their ignorance.”
I was greatly encouraged by this book and would recommend it to anyone who may be currently walking a difficult road or anyone who would like to be equipped with some excellent tools to help others who are struggling. I will remark that I thought the beginning chapters of the book were a little slow and less engaging than the later ones ,but those are well worth the read so I would definitely suggest pushing through to the end and you will be very glad that you did! I find that I have a tendency to underestimate the time it takes me to read books by Piper and this one was no different…while I probably could have finished it in the 2 weeks' time that books can be borrowed for from the CRBC library, I actually ended up renewing it and finished it in 3 weeks. Did you know that you can easily renew a book that you don’t quite have enough time tof inish? It’s a great option, especially when it comes to books like these where you don’t want to miss out on the best parts of the book because they come later!
And for those looking for an excellent follow-up to this book, may I also recommend checking out Thomas Watson’s “All Things for Good”, another great book available from the CRBC library!