Pleasure often seems suspect for most of us. It tends to be associated with sinful pursuits, which we honestly want to avoid while still finding it hard to resist the temptation it brings. As such, we try to keep pleasure at arms length – not wanting to enjoy it too much lest we become guilty of lustful indulgences. While well meaning, this posture keeps us from freely and fully relishing in the pleasure God has given us to enjoy.
To be sure, it’s good to keep a watchful eye out for anything that seeks to take the place of God in our lives. And pleasure can certainly become an idol when we look to it to bring us the life that only God can. Practicing temperance helps us to keep it within its proper limits.
But keeping pleasure within its proper limits is not to live in fear of it or to swing to a pious self-denial that avoids it altogether.
God has given us many good things to enjoy in this life. And while sin distorts and cheapens many of them, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In fact, part of our maturity is remembering we have the permission to freely enjoy every pure pleasure God has blessed us with.
For instance, we don’t have to look far to see the misuse of sexual pleasure and the destruction it brings. But faithfully guarding against these abuses should not rob us of the freedom to drink deeply of sensual pleasures. These are God’s gifts to us and we allow sin and evil to take too much when we don’t fight to protect our embodied joys.
In the end, there’s danger of getting so lost in the pursuit of pleasure that we forget God. But God has given us many deep pleasures to enjoy – and with gratitude these can help us find our way back to God as well.
Learn to drink deeply of these pure and holy pleasures.