From another journal entry in 2016—like most new high school grads, I was excited about life and of course, wanting to be happy. But how did that square with my faith? For some reason, Edwards’ writings were immense help at the time, and my journal an outlet for processing a lot of whirling thoughts.
“Edward’s life—far from being the most miserable, sought happiness as its end. One would imagine a life so dedicated to religion to the point of scrupulously keeping seventy resolutions would be burdensome, dull, tiring. But that’s not how Edwards saw it.
Even then, the amount of sacrifice for his family and to his personal reputation would seem to draw a cloud over an otherwise sunny life. After all, being kicked out of one of the most prominent New England churches not long after you had overseen a revival wasn’t exactly pleasant. Nor was loosing your oldest daughter at the tender age of seventeen after contracting tuberculosis from her care, David Brainerd.
But once again, that’s not how Edwards saw it. Sure, trials are never easy, and living every moment in light of eternity doesn’t exactly feed your comfort.
Take a look at what Edwards said:
‘A man may love himself as much as one can, and may be, in the exercise of a high degree of love to his own happiness, ceaselessly longing for it, and yet he may so place that happiness, that, in the very act of seeking it, he may be in the high exercise of love to God; as, for example, when the happiness he longs for is to enjoy God, or to behold his glory, or to hold communion with him. Or a man may place his happiness in glorifying God.’ (Charity and Its Fruits, Banner of Truth, 165).
A Christian can’t seek his own happiness too much—so long as that happiness is placed in the right object: Christ alone. And how can it be placed anywhere else? All else, whether it be self or friends or pleasure or comfort—is but a mud pie compared to a vacation at the sea, as Lewis put it:
“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.” — C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory