Christ Following, Core Values, prayer

The Problem With Pleasure

November 28, 2010 • By

Pleasure.  Even the word is rather… pleasurable.  We love pleasure.  We enjoy that delight, that state of gratification we find ourselves in when something really pleases us.  We are, after all, pleasure seeking creatures and we’ll go to great lengths to experience it.

From sex to sunsets, chocolate to sea cruises, we spend most of our lives (and a great deal of money) on sensual satisfaction.  Even when our lives are over, our coffins are made to be soft, comfy, and cozy so that our corpses have a nice pleasant little box to decay in.  I know that’s rather morbid, but we really do live and die for pleasure.

My pleasure?  I have a penchant for sweets.  Anyone who knows me well can tell you I know the Nestle’s Toll House cookie recipe by heart.  I love to snack on the dough while I’m making those delicious chocolate chip cookies and often use the excuse “They’re only fresh once!” to eat two or three extra while trying to make my glass of milk last.  And don’t even get me started on warm, gooey brownies (no nuts please)!

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I love the picture this paints.  We can take pleasure in knowing Jesus.  I’ve found from experience that this is true.  As I spend time with Him, I find it really enjoyable.  I experience peace in the middle of stressful circumstances, focus when I’m distracted, and joy when I’m mentally and emotionally maxed out.

One interesting thing about pleasure is that it can be learned.  For example, I detested my first cup of coffee.  It tasted way too much like, well, coffee.  After a while, though, I learned to like it and, eventually, really enjoy it.  I like the aroma it gives, the richness of flavor, and the pick me up I get from the caffeine.  I can hardly pass Caribou without wanting to grab a tall drink!

The other interesting thing about pleasure is that it can be unlearned as well.  If I go for a few weeks without sweets, I actually stop craving them.  If I starve that part of my brain that craves chocolate, hot fudge, or Swedish Fish, I can easily pass them up without feeling the need to indulge.  I can even reach a point where I know longer receive pleasure from the things I love.

Which brings us back to Psalm 34:8.  Over the years, I’ve had the extreme displeasure of seeing some very good friends walk away from Jesus.  It’s massively heartbreaking to see them fall away.  I wonder how someone could possibly choose temporal pleasures over eternity with Jesus.

About a year ago, a dear friend walked away from Christ, his wife, and children because he found pleasure in the arms of a younger woman.  He explained to me how this younger woman made him feel so good and that he just wanted to be happy.  I used to challenge this man to spend time in prayer, to “taste and see” every day how wonderful Jesus is.  He could never bring himself to cultivate a devotional life because he took so much pleasure in reading the morning paper while watching the sun rise from his back porch.  He had starved that part of himself that longs for Christ until it became too easy pass Him by without a glance.

I think that’s why many people walk away from Jesus.  They’ve neglected “tasting and seeing” until their appetite for Him has simply withered away.  They’ve found pleasure in so many other things until there’s no more room at the table for Him.

I think we all need to do a little more “tasting”.  We all need to feed our craving for Christ.  It’s easy for days to turn into weeks, and weeks into months without prayer.  We need to starve off some pleasures to make room for the Ultimate Pleasure because nothing else compares!

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” ~Psalm 16:11


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