The Grief of Finite Joy

Somehow my oldest child is a freshman in high school. As I’ve experienced those where-did-the-time-go emotions that come with such minor milestones, I’ve started to feel a deep, preemptive loss.

I have loved being a parent. It has been one of the best callings in my life. My sadness at (possibly) having less than four years left with my daughter at home is not mere nostalgia for familiar or picturesque days. In the midst of a happy season, I can see its end on the horizon.

I’m not alone in this, and these feelings are not reserved for parents. I’ve felt this same grief in the middle of a family vacation as the lightness of the first few days becomes weighted with regret as I feel the end approaching.

This grief creeps into small things too, like stretching out the end of a good book to avoid snapping the cover closed for the last time. Or savoring a delicious coffee so long that it turns cold and sour.

This is a narrow, specific kind of grief, but it can be stifling. At times I feel myself pulling away from gatherings or experiences because I dread their endings. An honest person has to see how powerless the world’s pleasures are to give true, lasting satisfaction.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10, “Hope”)

God has put eternity into our hearts, and we long not just for joy but for joy unending. Every happy experience we have on earth will end. That prick of incompleteness, of a premature finale, is an indication of the capacity of our souls. It points to a new land.

In the midst of a much-debated passage about the second coming of Christ, we read this from the apostle Paul.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Perhaps it is too well-known to warrant our attention, but the word “always” jumped out at me recently in this verse. Once we are with the Lord, we will never be away from him. I don’t know if this will be full-time, ecstatic joy, but the absence of the curse, along with unmediated fellowship with God, will give us a settled, fulfilled happiness that won’t ever be cut off. (See Revelation 21:3-4.)

Our joy will stretch out like a long road before us. We will no longer flinch when considering the end of a great happiness, for our happiness will have no end.


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4 thoughts on “The Grief of Finite Joy

  1. There’s a Buddhist saying: “You suffer because you believe that finite things should be infinite.” There’s some truth in it, but as a Christian, I think there’s also an opposite truth: we suffer because we are only able to experience infinite things in finite ways.

  2. Desculpa. Estou lendo o texto, mas não aparece quem escreveu para mim. Quero saber a fonte pois eu gostei muito do texto e ao compartilhar quero dizer que foi que escreveu.

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