Distinguishing between desire and delight

By Dave Henning / March 9, 2013

In Chapter 2 of When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, author John Piper asserts that while both desire and delight enable us to glorify God, only God is the ultimate goal.  Pastor Piper begins by observing that, contrary to Western culture, in the Bible words like desire and delight can be positive or negative, physical or spiritual, depending on the context.  He adds that most of us make an oversimplified distinction between desire and delight, seeing delight as present and desire as future.  Yet, the two words are interrelated, for desire is awakened by tastes of pleasure (delight).  Spiritually, then, the desire for and delight in God’s Word cannot be separated.

As the author points out, desire and delight have one thing in common: “Neither is the Object desired or delighted in.”  As John concludes, “Whether we are desiring or delighting, the end of the experience is God.”  C. S. Lewis expressed this distinction in Surprised by Joy:

“I perceived (and this was the wonder of wonders) that . . . I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself.  Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all.  All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring.”


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Dave Henning

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