What kinds of things in life do you enjoy? What brings you joy, happiness, or pleasure? What delights you, brings a smile to your face, makes you wish it would never end? I think that for most of us, delicious gourmet food or refreshing beverages rank pretty high on that list. Some of you love the great outdoors, so you might say bird watching, or hiking, or camping, or just sitting on your front porch and feeling the sunshine on your face. Others of you who are more “indoorsy” maybe prefer the comforts of home, such as a comfy chair, a fragrant cup of tea and a good book. You might enjoy collecting rare things, watching exciting movies, playing fun games, going to sporting events, or playing an instrument. Some of you might even enjoy more mundane things like cleaning, dusting, organizing, and projects around the house. And again, for most of us, time with family and friends probably ranks pretty high as well.
Whatever it is you enjoy, picture one of those things in your mind. Now, have you ever asked yourself this question: Why do pleasures exist in the first place? Why do beauty and love and delight and joy even exist? Why is it that eating, for example, can be so enjoyable? It could have just been a cut-and-dry chore that we do to stay alive, but instead it can be one of the highest pleasures that we humans enjoy. Why?
Not Just Evolution, But By God’s Own Nature
There are some people—and maybe even some of you!—who would say that pleasure, as we know it, is just a fluke of evolution. It’s just a survival mechanic, an incentive to get us to do certain things that keep us alive and allow us to more effectively propagate as a species. But I believe there’s way more going on than that. After all, we already have much better survival mechanisms in our lives. Sensations like pain, hunger, thirst, discomfort, the fear of death—all of these motivate us to stay alive and stay safe. We don’t need pleasure to motivate us to stay alive when we have much better negative motivators.
So if pleasure isn’t just some random fluke of evolution, why does it exist? Why is it that when we look at a sunset or hear a piece of beautiful music that our hearts well up within us and a tear comes to our eye? The answer, according to the Bible, has to do with who God is, and who we are.
The Bible says that God is the source of all joy, beauty, delight, and goodness in the universe. Every pleasure, every joy, every good thing comes from Him has its origin in Him. The Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” He is the source of all joy, the well from which all our pleasures are drawn. And all of our pleasures, in some way, shape or form, point to Him. The beauty of the natural world reflects God’s own inherent beauty, and all our appreciation of nature should ultimately be expressed as appreciation of Him. The love of family and friends is a reflection of God’s perfect love, both for us as well as within Himself—the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even the satisfaction we get from doing chores reflects God’s good ordering of the universe. Every single earthly joy points ultimately to HIM. And we, who are made in His image, are uniquely capable of experiencing these pleasures. Psalm 34 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Taste. And see.
No Counterfeits Accepted
This is why no earthly pleasures, no matter how amazing, can truly satisfy us. Every earthly joy comes to an end, and leaves us hungry for more. It’s also why sinful pleasures and guilty indulgences can’t make us happy either. No, we must either find our happiness in God Himself, who is the source of all happiness, or else we will never find the true joy that lasts forever. The Bible says that those who trust in Jesus as their Savior will have “pleasures forevermore.” Doesn’t that sound good? Infinite, eternal pleasure alongside the author of pleasure itself? I can’t wait.
John Piper put it well when he said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” He said that the way you glorify a mountain spring is not to lug buckets of dirty water from a cistern and dump them into it. No, the way you glorify a mountain spring is to get down on your hands and knees and drink deeply from it and enjoy it. That is how we are to glorify God—not by doing things for Him, but by enjoying Him.
Saint Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” And that’s true. So I ask you to consider this: the next time you really sit down and enjoy something, remember that that enjoyment is pointing you to a greater reality. It’s reminding you of God, who created all joy and in whom are pleasures forevermore. And if you find yourself restless, remember that there is no earthly pleasure that can truly satisfy the longings of your soul apart from the Lord. May God work in my heart and yours to make Him the #1 joy of our souls.