Where can I find joy that is full and pleasures that are everlasting? This is the one great pursuit of men in every age. In the words of Pascal, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception.” Because this is true we immediately recognize a problem. While I may experience some joy in this world, I have never experienced a fullness of joy on level with, say, the fullness I’ve felt after a Thanksgiving meal. I might say, “That’s enough turkey.” But I’ve never found myself saying, “That’s enough joy.” And to compound the problem, not only does this world fail to max out my capacity for joy, but the occasional pleasures I do experience quickly dissipate so that the dullness of life settles in… again. So not just any joy will do and not just any pleasure will do. I am after a joy that is full and pleasures that are everlasting—where can I find them?
The psalmist answers our heart cry for full and everlasting happiness in his praise to the one true God: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). In God’s glorious presence there is a joy that is unbounded by space and time, one that is bursting with fullness and untouched by temporal decay. Fullness—like pouring a thousand oceans into a single bucket. Forevermore—like the ancient mountains withstanding the test of time from age to age.
We exist to experience this, and every lesser pleasure will leave us unsatisfied and longing for more. “You have made us for yourself,” Augustine prays to God, “and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Similarly C.S. Lewis remarked,
It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The Westminster divines also knew that joy wasn’t merely optional for us: “man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Twice Paul refers to God as “blessed” or “happy” (μακάριος; 1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15). We have been created in the image of the supremely happy God whose dwelling is charged with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
What we come to marvel at in Scripture is that God reveals himself to be fiercely committed and desirous to dwell with his people in unhindered communion so that we might enjoy him forever. Here is the very heart of God as he has expressed it in his covenant: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” This is what drives the biblical story from its conception to its consummation. Playing off the words of Psalm 16, we can say that the theme of God dwelling with his people in joy-full fellowship is a vital vein that runs throughout the single story of the Bible stretching from Genesis to Revelation.
We have already begun to trace this theme as it is first set forth in blueprint form in the Garden and then, following the entrance of sin into the world, the period of the patriarchs. In our next article we’ll consider the advancements that the tabernacle made toward this end of joy-full fellowship. We consider these Old Testament realities with our eyes looking forward to the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 16:11 in and by Jesus Christ who will graciously confer it upon his church—but more on that later.