Day 15. Enjoy God forever

[above: Michigan Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore—Yinan Chen / Wikimedia]

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11, NRSV)

The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify.

—C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

When I was a child, reared on what Lewis calls the “Scotch catechism” (the Westminster Shorter Catechism), I never quite grasped what its first answer meant when it said we are to “enjoy” God forever. As an adult, partly from studying Jonathan Edwards, I came to see that the joy is the delight of encountering “the beauty of the Lord.” 

Beauty is a central motif in much of Christian thought, as it is in Lewis’s. When he speaks of our deepest longings, it is always longing for that beauty. And the joy that surprises us is that of actually finding what we long for in the depths of our being.

Beauty has a sort of magnetic power that draws us to it. If we encounter great beauty in nature, in art, or in a great work of music, we want to keep telling others about it. But nothing compares to the beauty of love, and the highest beauty is the beauty of the most perfect love. It is the astonishing love of the perfect being for the utterly undeserving, as seen in Christ’s death for us on the cross. Lewis explains our need to praise God for such love as being like that of lovers who cannot stop talking about their love. 

That helps explain a Christian paradox. In effecting our salvation, God does everything, yet he waits for our own free action. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear the “good news of great joy,” we will be captivated by the beauty of Christ’s sacrificial love. Yet none of our actions are more truly free than our overwhelming response of love and joy.

PRAYER: Father, help us to be renewed today and each day by the sheer joy of experiencing your love in Christ. Amen.

By George Marsden

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #133+ in 2019]

George Marsden is a historian and the author of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: A Biography. He has also written on Jonathan Edwards and on the history of American evangelicalism.
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