they lose their grip on your soul only when

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“How sweet did it suddenly seem to me to shrug off those sweet frivolities, and how glad I now was to get rid of them – I who had been loath to let them go! For it was you who cast them out from me, you, our real and all-surpassing sweetness. You cast them out and entered yourself to take their place, you who are lovelier than any pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, more lustrous than any light, yet more inward than is any secret intimacy, loftier than all honor, yet not to those who look for loftiness in themselves” (Maria Boulding’s translation of The Confessions, Saint Augustine, p. 170. Augustine, in this translated excerpt, is describing what happened in his conversion experience.)

“Fruitless joys”…or “sweet frivolities” are what we turn to when life is boring and gray and lonely and we know that tomorrow nothing will have changed. They aren’t necessarily scandalous sins. They may be little more than harmless hobbies in which we invest countless hours to make life a little less dull. They may be the newest gadgets we work so hard to own and worry about losing. They may be the fantasies and daydreams that swirl around in our heads that we know will never come true but somehow strangely bring a measure of excitement to an otherwise dreary life…

They are fruitless and inane because no matter how effective they seem right now, in the long term they can’t satisfy…They lack the capacity to go beyond surface impact. They fail to reach deep into the soul and make a difference where it counts. They leave us empty…No matter how well they work in the immediate present, we know God made us for something bigger and better and more satisfying…

Fruitless joys don’t just magically disappear. They don’t go away of their own accord. If their power to please begins to wane, the human soul will soon find adequate replacements…They will lose their grip on your soul only when they are displaced by greater joys, more pleasing joys, joys that satisfy not for the moment but forever…Augustine didn’t cease his sinful indulgence because he had given up on pleasure. He simply found a more pleasing pleasure, a longer-lasting joy, a fullness of joy and pleasures that never end (Psalm 16:11). By grace, his soul turned from reliance on fruitless joys to reliance on God’s promise of a superior delight in his Son, Jesus Christ.

This is the true meaning of grace. Grace does not demonize our desires nor destroy them nor lead us to deny them. Grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming our desires so that knowing Jesus becomes sweeter…than every fruitless joy. Grace is God satisfying our souls with his Son so that we’re ruined for anything else!” (Taken from One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God by Sam Storms. Read a more thorough excerpt here.)

Related: Even more beautiful and Better than a thousand substitutes.

St. Augustine in His Study by Vittore Carpaccio, 1502

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About Jill

I'm a wife, mom to three beautiful children, and currently work at two jobs for which I'm very grateful -- part-time at my kids' school, and as children's ministry director at Redeemer PCA in Athens, GA, a place our family treasures as our church home. It's been thirty years since the Lord saved me, and to this day I'm astounded at His steadfast love shed upon unfaithful me. My hope would be that I might speak and write in ways God would use to soften hearts toward Him, that we would together be enamored by the glorious beauty of Jesus and awakened to His love unimagined. Thanks so much for reading!
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