Browsing Tag

pleasure

Book Highlights, Faith, Spiritual Growth

Finding Fullness of Joy

December 5, 2016

 

 

We humans naturally pursue what is pleasurable. We were created with innate longings for joy and enjoyment and spend our lifetimes capturing it wherever we can. That longing is a good thing, planted by our Creator to draw us like a magnet toward the fountain of pleasure that is found in Him.

The problem is that sin has distorted things and we’re constantly getting drawn into poisoned pleasures that lead to death. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8, the mind set on satisfying the cravings of the flesh is death. The earthly pleasures found in sex, food, entertainment, days off, observing the beauties of nature, and the like ultimately all fall short. We consume them and walk away needing more. The pleasures and joys of this earth aren’t full. We need more than what they offer.

Where pleasure is found

In Psalm 16 David gives an answer to the pleasure-seeking ache that every human has. He writes,

“You make know to me the path of life;
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
– Psalm 16:11

Where are we to find the joy and enjoyment that we need? In the presence of God.

Almost every Christian I know would agree with this in general, but in practice we tend to function as if we don’t quite believe what David’s saying here. Note that it’s not in the Bible that David says joy is found. It’s not in church. It’s not in quiet times. It’s in God’s presence. That means that if we’re in God’s presence we can have joy and pleasure.

The question is, where is God’s presence? If we want joy and pleasure and it’s experienced by being close to God, then we must know where God is and go there.

The Apostle Paul states what echoes throughout the Psalms and the rest of Scripture when he declares God, “is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28). God is present throughout all the earth. He fills his creation as the waters fill the sea. As David wrote in another Psalm,

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
– Psalm 139:7-10

Long story short, God’s presence is everywhere. You can’t get away from it.

This truth has amazing implications for our search for joy. If it is both true that God is present in all places and that in his presence there is total joy and pleasure, that means we can walk in constant fullness of joy, regardless of our location or situation. In the midst of family conflict we can have joy. In the midst of moving to a new city and knowing no one we can have joy. When nothing goes according to plan we can be pleased, because God is present and in his presence is pleasure forevermore.

How to get there

In another Psalm we read,

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
– Psalm 100:4

Want to get into God’s presence where there is pleasure and joy unending? The way to get there is is thanksgiving and praise. Thanksgiving gets you through the gates, praise into the courts of his presence. If we want pleasure and joy we must put praise and thanksgiving as high priorities in our lives.

When you’re feeling dissatisfied with life is your response to start thanking God for all the good he’s given you? When you’re stressed and joyless do you turn on the praise by declaring to God his glorious character and promises? God is present in all places and at all times, and we can encounter that presence in a real, mind-and-emotion-impacting way through thanksgiving and praise.

If you’re struggling to grasp joy and find pleasure in God or in life, set aside regular time to worship. Read the Scriptures and respond with verbal, out-loud declaration of thanks when you read something good. Write out a list of what you’re thankful for in this moment. Turn on worship music and soak in the lyrics. Inevitably you’ll find that as you do so your heart and Spirit rises to the joy and pleasure that is found in the presence of God. And that, my friends, will make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

Journal, Life, Parenting

Parenting and Shrinking Joys

August 18, 2016

 

 

 

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
– Philippians 4:12-13

 

Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If, in your bold creative way, you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.
– Chesterton, Orthodoxy

 

It’s been nearly a month since our son Micah was born. Crazy how fast the past few weeks have gone.Leading up to his birth I’d had this expectation of some explosive revelation moment when we first met our boy. I’d heard so frequently that having a kid gives you a deeper understanding of God’s love for us, and apparently I’d figured that realization would come all in a rush there and then when we held him for the first time.

Maybe for some people it does. For me it didn’t. And, in all honesty, the last few weeks really haven’t been particularly enjoyable. Oh, there have been beautiful moments, but the vast majority of our time is spent feeling somewhat inadequate and frustrated as we try to to figure out feeding schedules, how to get a little human to fall asleep, how to do everything one-handed while holding a baby, how to operate on 4 or so hours of sleep a night, etc.

The first weeks of parenting aren’t particularly rewarding on a human level. Oh sure, we’ve got a really cute little human to hold whenever we want to, but all the work that comes with it is just hard. There’s a reason why more and more people are opting to have children later or not at all. It costs a lot, financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I still haven’t had a huge moment of revelation or anything, yet as I sat next to Micah several nights ago watching him sleep, praying over his life to come and that Kelly and I would survive to see it, I realized how much my view of the world had changed and just how good that is.

Things have shrunk. Our joys and pleasures have become much smaller than they were. That may sound like a negative thing, but I don’t think it is.

The world’s expectation

The world tells us that our pleasures should always be increasing in size, scope, and intensity. This year you went on a vacation to Florida for a week. Next year you should take a two week vacation to Hawaii. The relationship you were just in was good, so you shouldn’t settle for anything less than amazing in the next one. We’re trained to be disappointed if our future experiences don’t outdo our past ones.

A prime example of this is seen in the continual increase of large, explosive scenes in the movies that we watch. Contrast the slow, intricate emotional impact of Twelve Angry Men, a film from 1957 that takes place almost completely in one room, with the city-destroying explosions and two-second cuts of the recent Avengers films. We expect the next spectacle to outdo the previous, or we feel disappointed.

The problem with this is that it burns our senses out, increasingly numbing us to the daily pleasures of life. If you’re used to the explosions and constant action, the pace of films from 20 years ago seems lethargic and boring. We build up a resistance to experiences just like we do to drugs or alcohol.

There’s a reason why billionaires still search for satisfaction despite the fact they can buy anything they want.

What these first weeks of parenthood have taught me is that the small joys bring lasting pleasure. The grand, world shaking ones fade away in an instant.

God of the shrinking joys

In stark contrast to the world, God seems to delight in drawing us into smaller and smaller joys so that the grander things seem ever greater. Witness Elijah’s experience of God speaking through the small, still voice rather than the whirlwind. The quiet encounter made the nation-shaping miracles seem all the more powerful.

Whereas previously a great night for Kelly and I was going out to eat, watching a movie, and staying up late it’s now several minutes of quiet with Micah asleep before we go to bed. A weekend trip has been replaced with the smaller joy of two hours out to eat when grandma comes to watch the baby.

Pleasures have shrunk, but not lessened. The things that were becoming for us commonplace are now precious. We are being taught to take joy in small things and as a result the big things become even bigger and more wonderful. As G.K. Chesterton says, it is limitations that make art art, and therefore beautiful.

Don’t buy this world’s demand that you always need more than you currently have. Instead zoom the frame in, shrink your joys into the concentrated power of simple pleasures and learn to delight in the nuances and small gifts that God showers upon us each day. Attempting to constantly increase the grandeur of your pleasures will drain you and leave you empty. Embracing the God of shrinking joys will lead, ultimately, to eternal pleasure and joy.

As I sat there next to Micah’s tiny sleeping form and soaked in the joy of a peaceful moment, two weeks of a thousand frustrating moments melted away. I am, indeed, learning to be content in all circumstances, and in that there is great reward.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Relationships, Spiritual Growth

Pleasure and the Death of Love

July 29, 2015

“Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.”
– Proverbs 21:17

We’ve been raised in a culture defined by instant gratification and total satisfaction. If you want it then getting it now is necessary and good, no matter how much costs you in the long run. Across my generation the lusts of the flesh are deep strongholds.

One of the most deadly ways that I’ve seen Christians worship pleasure is the way we avoid relational tension. Rather than engaging in deep relationships and dealing with each others issues, we maneuver with impressive skill to keep things surface level for decades. Rather than doing as Jesus commanded and exhorting each other towards righteousness by confronting one another’s sin we settle for the pleasure of peaceful relationships while our brothers and sisters drift further from their true identity in Christ, selling souls to purchase the pleasure of tension-free relationships. Doing so will inevitably lead to being poor in eternity.

We need to be wise investors, storing up treasure where it will give us the greatest return. In the context of relationships that means being willing to have hard conversations with people, sitting through the pain of long silences, going through the struggle of learning to love people who frustrate you, and being strong enough in grace to stay in a community when everything in you says run away.

It means setting aside the lie that the goal of Christian relationships is the pleasure of niceness and replacing it with the deep truth that God’s intention is for our relationships be filled with the power of love. Love that looks like Jesus. Love that serves when it’s tired. Love that tells its friend to their face when they’re thinking in line with satan rather than the Father. Love that gives up it’s own comforts for the sake of comforting others because it cares more about other’s good than it does for itself.

If we pursue pleasure for its own sake, our relationships will never have the deep-rooted love that God means them to have. Pursue comfort now and live in poverty for eternity. Follow Christ now and spend eternity in the fountain of pleasure, surrounded by the riches of God’s goodness. Whoever loves the pleasures of this world will be a poor man, but the man or woman who loves Christ and gives all to follow as He leads has infinite riches at his disposal.

The Apostle Paul speaks of how he could abound in all circumstances. He had the same joy and satisfaction in prison cells and barren streets as he did during times of feasting and comfort. I want us to be people like that – people who don’t depend on our circumstances for our happiness or abundance. People who will lovingly confront and coach each other for the sake of eternity, even if it means things are harder in the moment. That is, after all, what Jesus would do. That’s what love looks like.

Let the life of Christ live in and through you, even when that means doing hard things. As you do so you’ll discover depths of love that you’ve never seen before.