"Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You" (Psalm 63:3).
Do I really believe this verse? Oh, I profess it, but do I really live like I believe it? Where is my joy ultimately coming from? I know that ultimate joy is found in obeying my living God. Am I willing to sacrifice my life to know God and His pleasure? I would love to think that I would but when I think about my choices, each and every day, I begin to cringe. Is God's steadfast love and mercy really sweeter to me than life? I've been pondering this thought for a few days. As I looked at this verse I kept being drawn back to the word "life." What if I substituted other words for 'life?' What would I think then?
Is it better than a new job for my husband? Is it better than having more money? Is it better than my friendships? Is it better than my health? Is it better than my marriage? Is it better than having obedient children? Is His love the greatest source of pleasure, happiness, or good?
The Lord knew that joy was found only in obedience and fellowship with His Father. Surely it was with thoughts of God's pleasure, "the joy set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2), that Jesus endured the Cross. Otherwise, how did He endure? What drove Him to withstand the beatings, the betrayal of Judas, the mocking? What did He hold on to as He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" What was so desirable to Jesus that He endured the Cross and separation from His Father? That is what I want...I desire it with all my heart!
Peter must have 'got' it. In Acts 2:28 he says, "You will make me full of gladness with Your presence." And, David seemed to have grasped it pretty well when he wrote, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever" (Psalm 16:11). I believe they both knew the joy that was more valuable and desirable than life. Consider for just a moment, wholly worshipping Him without any weakness or sin!! I know....I can hear you saying it, "Not on this side of heaven!"
Delighting to do God's will means I have to turn from the deception that joy lies outside of obedient fellowship with Him. Think about Eve. Why did she choose to disobey God? Look at Genesis 3:6, "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." The words "good, delight and desirable" are some of the motivations behind her (and most definitely, my) actions. My choices are predicated upon what I think is "good," what I think I would "delight in," and what I find most "desiring." Now, I don't know about you, but I always choose what I believe to be for my best good. I will always choose what I believe will bring me the most delight. Are you like that at all? Even a smidgen? I am NOT saying that I always choose what is morally good, for then I would have no sin and I KNOW that isn't the case. What I am trying to get across is that I go through my day making choices on what I believe is best...what will bring me happiness. Even though I purposely choose to disobey God, just like Eve did, I always do so because I believe that is the best choice at the time. Just like Eve thought that eating the forbidden fruit was her best, most delightful and desirable choice. She believed that disobedience was better than life. She totally forgot God's sweet lovingkindness. When we sin it's because of our belief in its goodness. Richard Baxter writes in A Christian Directory, "The will never desires evil as evil but as ....seeming good."
This really hits home with me in this example. I need to exercise. Exercise promotes better health. Health is good, delightful, and desirable. I know that God desires for me to take care of my body. I even think about how wonderful it will be to lose the extra pounds and to have more energy, strength and vitality. I am definitely going to exercise!! Oooohh, the struggle begins when my alarm goes off in the morning. Some days my schedule is so full that I have to get up early to get my exercising in for the day. However, when my alarm rings I see another good; the pleasure of the warmth and comfort of my bed. Those blankets are soooo cozy! All of a sudden something else seems more desirable to me...the good of staying in bed and getting more rest. What seems like good to me in the early morning was not good but had the appearance of it. I chose to stay in my bed because, at the time, it was the best choice. It held the highest good for me, at the time. Was it the best choice? Probably not. If it becomes habitual, then I will suffer the consequences. What appeared good to me at the time was not.
Now, I'm back to my original thoughts. I create images out of my thoughts of my highest good or happiness. And whether I realize it or not, those images are the driving force in my life. They direct my worship, either toward God or away from Him. Those same thoughts tell me that I should cherish more than Him. Where do I turn to change my thoughts? I turn to God. He alone can teach me that He is my highest good. He is the One who can show me that all my happiness is in Him. It is the Holy Spirit whom can illuminate my heart and cause me to grow in my esteem of Christ and at the same time, create disdain for the charms and allures of this world. As long as I define joy and happiness as God does then I can pursue to my heart's content! And, I'll never be disappointed. I need to remember that my goal is to be able to say, along with David, "Nothing, not even life, brings me more happiness than Your love!"