For years Christians have been leading the charge to deny pleasures in the pursuit of Jesus. After all in Matthew 16:24 Jesus tells us we need to pick up our cross and follow Him. Dying to ourself doesn’t seem like a pleasure seeking move. However I think we have been focusing on the wrong thing.
Christians have been some of the biggest buzzkills in the world. And I don’t think that’s what God wants. Think with me for a minute. God created this world and everything in it. He made the grass a vivid green. The skies a beautiful blue. He created an incredible variety in the landscape. There is a plethora of animals, many we don’t even know about. The earth is crazy. We have discovered a small fraction of the other planets in the universe and thus far none have the diversity that this one has. Why? Why would God go through such great lengths to create such an incredible world? Because He is a good God that wants us to enjoy it and be full of joy and pleasure.
All that God created would not matter had he not created us will the ability to experience it. He put thought and detail in the human body design so that we can take great pleasure from his creation. All good things come from God. I would argue that everything that we see as a “bad” pleasure actually is just a twisted view of something good. God is a good God that wants us to experience joy and pleasure in our lives. If that were not the case God would not have created the world in such a way.
Think about it this way. If you were to give your child a gift, you want them to enjoy it and find pleasure in the gift. God gives us good gifts all the time. The problem is we often take the gift and use it in the wrong way. Or we start worshipping the gift instead of the one who gave us the gift. It is like a child taking his parents’ gift and then turning and bashing his sibling over the head with it. Or a child that totally forgets his parent gave him that good gift and is ungrateful for the person that gave it to him.
Too often we worship the gift and not the giver. We settle for the lesser pleasure and worship the gift and not the one that can give us infinitely more.
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. C.S. Lewis
God is offering us infinite joy, but we still chase after something far less. Our desires are not too strong; they are weak and in the wrong place.
Maybe you are thinking now if this is true, if God really wants infinite joy, why does he tell us to deny ourselves? Why does he tell us to pick up our cross? These two don’t seem to go together. But we are looking at it from the wrong angle. God doesn’t ask us to give up a pleasure in life without the promise of a greater pleasure. When God tells us to deny ourselves it’s because there’s something better he has for us.
No, this isn’t the prosperity gospel. I’m not saying we give up something on this earth to get something better on this earth. I’m saying that we should take each gift from God and see it as just that a gift. Nothing more. A gift that will give us temporary pleasure that will eventually fade. Instead of letting our life’s focus be on the pursuit of the gifts, let the gifts point us back to God.
When you have something good in your life such as your kids, marriage, house, job, money, car, vacation, food, friends, clothes, etc… Thank God for them. But don’t let your life’s pursuit become about them. Take joy from them. But don’t put your hope in them. Worship God and not the gifts.
I think we have the wrong view of pleasure. God wants our lives to be full of joy and pleasure. Our problem is that we pursue the lesser pleasures in life. Instead of pursuing God, the ultimate source of pleasure, we settle for mud pies in the slum when have access to a holiday at the sea. Our problem isn’t too strong of desires. Our problem is our desires are too weak and in the wrong place.
Where are your desires right now? Do you take the gifts of God and enjoy them? Do you find the pleasure he wants you to have? Has your life become about the pursuit of some fading pleasure? If anything other than God is your source for joy in your life then you will eventually be let down. God is the only one that can bring you full and complete satisfaction.