Pleasures on the Path of Life

In Psalm 16:11, we see that the path of life is a path full of pleasures, because it is a path that leads to God’s right hand. It can be easy for us to forget just how excited God is to fill our lives with pleasures, but in a culture that spends much of it’s time seeking pleasure, there are many wrong turns we can make when we try to combine the ideas of God and pleasure together. The first of these concerns how we view the path, and the second looks at two sides of misunderstanding pleasure.

The risk of the path is to confuse the path with the destination. In an age where many view “seeking”, “journeying”, or “exploring” as ends in themselves, we lose the urgent awareness that everyone’s path ends in eternal life or eternal death, heaven or hell. We have another name for endless journeying, always growing, but never reaching maturity, always seeking, never finding. We call it “being lost”. This means that your marriage itself is not the destination. Raising godly children is not the destination. Living a fulfilled life is not the destination. All of these good things are meant to prepare you for something greater than themselves.

The whole point of the path of life is the destination. Your journey will either bring you closer to the presence of God where there is much joy and pleasure, or it will take you away from the presence of God, where there is sadness and agony. “Enjoy the ride” is terrible advice if the ride ends up anywhere other than at God’s right hand. That is the risk of the path, but being human, we’ve managed to screw up pleasure, too.

The great risk in singling out any earthly pleasure is to turn that pleasure into your god. This is why it is important to realize that the path does not lead to pleasure as the ultimate; any particular pleasure that we experience along the path is meant to lead us to God. The greatest pleasure human beings can know is to be welcomed into the presence of God, and so if we view any lesser pleasure as the end of the path, we will soon lose the rightful experience of the joy that that pleasure provides. When your parents told you that eating candy late in the afternoon would spoil your dinner, they were speaking a far more profound truth than perhaps they knew.

But the opposite error with pleasure comes when we understand that earthly pleasures are gifts that reveal the love of the Giver. The first error celebrates the gift and forgets the Giver. This error is more subtle: it spurns the gift in order to have a special sort of direct relationship with the Giver. “I’m too spiritual for pleasure, for earthly things, for temporal gifts. Pleasure is at best a distraction, at worst a replacement for God, and I just want God.” But here’s the problem: without a gift, the Giver is not a Giver. Giving pleasure through created things like marriage and food and beauty expresses who God is. God wants us to experience pleasures forevermore, and since we are creatures, the only kind of pleasures we can enjoy are creaturely ones. The Creator who made us this way is a giver who loves giving this particular kind of gift. And if you don’t like God’s gifts, you don’t like God.

So don’t spurn God for the sake of earthly pleasures, but don’t spurn earthly pleasures for the sake of God, either. Instead, enjoy pleasures at God’s right hand. Enjoy them with God, and enjoy God Himself through the pleasures that He lavishes on you as you walk down that path of life that leads to the greatest pleasure of all: enjoying the presence of God.

Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013 by CJ Bowen