It’s been interesting to continue thinking about pleasure. As a recovering perfectionist, I have trouble with not making things “all or nothing.” Enjoying pleasure seems dangerous because won’t that mean I’ll go to the extremes?
I remember many years ago (many!), being in a Bible study with a Christian woman who knew and told us she was depressed. Her doctor gave her an anti-depressant. After a few weeks, we asked her how things were going. Her words were, “Oh, I threw them down the toilet. They made me feel happy.”
I’m sure you’re as amazed as I was at the moment. No wonder I’ve always remembered what happened. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know how to respond to her. I don’t think any of us said anything. It just seemed too bizarre. This woman seemingly was afraid of feeling happy. Evidently, that scared her.
As strange as that example is, I think it’s actually an example of what Gary Thomas is talking about in his book Pure Pleasure. He writes, “The problem with the poster that reads ‘If it feels good, do it’ is that its underlying philosophy has birthed much misery and many pleasure-destroying addictions. Feelings can lead us astray. Our appetites may lead us to ruin. We do need to set some boundaries.
“But a corresponding challenge threatens us as well: as Christians, we feel so frightened of the decadence that we often denounce the desire. The Bible calls this prohibitionist response an unhealthy and unproductive way to handle pleasure.” Then he quotes Colossians 2:20-23. (pages 73-74).
I think Gary’s insight into denouncing the desire because we’re terrified of going too far is really important. God gave us our desires. God created chocolate (or whatever is your favorite pleasurable food) for our pleasure and enjoyment. Even sugar is God-made.
Now that’s sometimes hard for me to believe. Since I’m a chocolate and sugar lover, it’s hard to believe God created such things. And anything can become an idol, yet it wasn’t created by God to be an idol. He wants us to enjoy His creation. (And by the way, that includes sex!) Satan is the one who takes God’s enjoyable things and entices us to make them idols. He is the father of lies and one of his lies is suggesting we’ll be even happier the more we eat or anything else that can go too far.
But that shouldn’t make us despise the desire or have an “all or nothing” attitude that refuses to enjoy anything. I do understand that a recovering alcoholic needs to never even sip a drink and that a former drug addict shouldn’t take any drug. But for most other things, we can enjoy God’s blessings of good things.
I recommend Gary’s book for your reading pleasure. 🙂 Let me know your thoughts on desire and dealing with decadence.