We housed some new friends this past weekend. After they left on Sunday, I went into the bathroom they used to gather their towels for washing. I was surprised to see that they had only used one set. One set? The other set was hung just the same as before. Why did they share? I felt so sad that what we’d provided wasn’t enjoyed.
As I thought of what happened, I reflected upon what I’d been reading in Gary Thomas’s book, Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good? (Zondervan) For whatever reason, our guests didn’t take advantage of a small pleasure. I related because at times, I have a hard time appreciating the joys that God provides. I think many Christians do.
I really appreciate all of Mr. Thomas’s books and this one is no different. He gives a very balanced view of how pleasure can indeed become an end to itself but can also point us to God.
On pages 56-67, he points to Ecclesiastes 5:19-20: “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God...God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”
Gary writes, “Look carefully at what God’s inspired Word really says: when God gives someone possessions and enables that person to enjoy them–this is God’s gift.
“The ability to truly enjoy food without becoming a glutton, to handle sensual pleasure without becoming its slave, to truly laugh in a healthy way, to manage wealth responsibly and without becoming proud or selfish–these are ‘Creator’ blessings that also require the Redeemer’s touch. When the Bible says God ‘enables’ us to enjoy them, we can fairly assume this enabling to be a second work of grace. Some people who don’t honor God may have such things, but not the grace to truly enjoy them.”
Gary continues, “Given all this, doesn’t it seem far more profitable to teach the church to thank God for good pleasures rather than to obsessively fear that somehow we must compare and contrast our appreciation for a beautiful painting or a stirring piece of music with our enjoyment of reading through the book of Psalms and meditating on god’s loveliness? God wants both acts to point us toward him.”
Gary’s thoughts are challenging me to wonder whether my enjoyment of some things maybe aren’t really as excessive as I accuse myself of. I often feel guilty because it feels like I lust after chocolate. I’m keeping an open mind as I continue reading Gary’s book. It will be an interesting journey.