God in the Pleasures of Life

Greetings friends!

This question is rather personal for me, so please bare with me as I do my best to state it clearly.

I’ve grown up my entire life in the Church. I cannot recall a day in my life not being aware of God and loving him. I grew up hearing the Bible and many of the classic 20th century works. I appreciate all of it.

What I have found, however, is that my heart leans towards asceticism and stoicism. I tend to think in terms of conviction: “I think it would be good to go help this person”. Furthermore, I have a propensity towards self-sacrifice, seeking first to take care of those around me and make sure they have what they need before tending to my own desires.

In a way, I think much of that is good. Where it starts to get tricky for me is that the counterpart to this feels underdeveloped. It can be very difficult for me to communicate my own desires or to even be aware of what those desires are! I know that it’s important for me to be aware of my own needs and to communicate my needs, but when it comes to simple desires (not sinful ones) I feel strangely at a loss.

One last point of clarification: I understand that all desires can turn to sin, as C.S. Lewis so poignantly described in Screwtape Letters the exaggeration of a desire perverts itself — a natural desire for food turns to gluttony, and so forth. I’m not talking about this here. I’m talking about desires and pleasures in their purest form, like the Lord taking a walk through his grand garden I believe he did so (at least in part) to enjoy his creation.

So here’s my question: Where is God in the pleasures of life? I believe God made us to enjoy life, and not merely to make sure everyone else around us is enjoying it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. What scriptures do we see of God encouraging this sort of thing? I’ve heard that God desires to join us in this; where do we see this in scripture? I want to grow in understanding of God’s perspective on the wonderful desires and pleasures he himself baked into life.

Thank you! Please feel free to ask me any further questions of clarification. I’m hoping to keep this discussion strongly in scripture and to avoid getting too heady. :slightly_smiling_face:

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@jasontheadams Great question :slight_smile: My summary would be that:

God is the author and giver of every good gift we experience in life (love, joy, good food, friendship, family) and He desires to be present with us in the midst of those experiences just as He walked with Adam and Even in the Garden. But while God is near every one of us, we cannot fully experience God’s joy and presence along side us until we have be reconciled to Him through Christ Jesus and filled with His Spirit.

Below are some Scriptures I hope you find helpful. Christ grant you wisdom.

James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Acts 17:27 - God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Jesus Brings the Wine to the Wedding

In John 2:1-12, Jesus brings the wine to the wedding. Tim Keller has a good sermon where he points out that God is not killjoy. To the contrary, Jesus is the Lord of the Feast!

In Revelation 19 we also see the imagery of the marriage supper of the Lamb. This same image is found in Isaiah.

Isaiah 25:6 - On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

The Covenant Blessings

We also see clearly in God’s promises to Israel that the Lord delights to give His people the things necessary to live an abundant life here on earth. While in the New Covenant of Christ we know that we wait for a New Heavens and New Earth to experience full healing from the hurts and sufferings of this world, these passages do show us that God created us to live a full life.

Deut 28:9-11 - The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

The Garden

We also see that the very good world God created in the Garden of Eden had all that man need to be fulfilled in their work, in their body and in relationship. God made man and woman to delight in each other. God gave humanity meaningful work in caring for creation. And God Himself walked in the Garden with us.

Genesis 2:8-9 - Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.

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Thank you very much for the quick and thoughtful response, @SeanO!

I appreciate everything you’re saying. It’s such a wonderful reminder that God is the “author and giver of every good gift we experience”. I especially like when you said “He desires to be present with us in the midst of those experiences…”

That thought has stood out to me. Another friend, whom I greatly admire and look up to, said a very similar thing. I love the idea of God experiencing the good things of life with me. For some reason, I confess, I have an easier time being aware of God’s presence in the pain and challenges of life. It’s easy to imagine him as the kind and mighty hand that rescues, than the hand giving you a fresh glass of wine with a smile at a party. I deeply want to experience this side of God.

As I’m thinking here, it occurs to me that it’s not that I have trouble believing that God gives good things. In my imagery of God hading me a glass of wine, it’s not that he’s handing me something — for he’s blessed me with so many wonders — but rather that he’s at the party with me. I suppose I could say it’s hard for me to imagine that God isn’t too busy or important for such things. I have had moments in life where I do believe God did do something (even ridiculous) with me and laughed with me, but I tend to drift away from this.

I’m going to listen to the Tim Keller message you provided during my commute today. I’m also going to talk to the Lord more about this and continue to reflect on what it means for Him to be in my simple pleasures with me. Frankly, the idea of God enjoying all such pleasures with me seems too good to be true, but that’s what drives me to pursue it.

Thank you, friend!

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@jasontheadams Sure thing :slight_smile: I think one reason it is so much easier to see God is our suffering is because that is when we reach out our hearts to seek Him, whereas when we are enjoying life we tend not to think of God as much. However, I’ve always found that when I’m really enjoying life - out on the soccer pitch on a beautiful evening or out with family and friends - and I take a moment to turn my heart to God in thanksgiving, He is just as near then as He has ever been in my suffering. I know that is not a universal experience, but it has been my experience.

My Grandpa always used to say Jeremiah 33:3 is God’s phone number. If we call, He will answer. I don’t think that means God always feels near, but I’ve found the most of the time when I persist in prayer the Lord does indeed draw near tangibly.

Jeremiah 33:3 - ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Matthew 7:7-9 - “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

One amazing passage that combines God rescuing us from danger and God being with us in blessings is in Zephaniah. We see that God not only rescues His people from their enemies, but he actually rejoices over them with singing. That image of God singing over us - dancing around us with joy - is so amazing. The God of the universe sings over His children. Amazing!

Zepheniah 3:14-17 - Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

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Hi @jasontheadams,

That was a wonderful question to ponder, and I glean so much from reading @SeanO ‘s and your discourse.

Loved Sean’s comprehensive response. I’m not sure if I can add anything more that wasn’t already said much better by Sean.

I would just leave you with the encouragement to keep growing and maturing in Christ, so you may discern which is the good gift from God, and which isn’t.

Heb 5:14 NLT
Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Blessings in Christ,
Roy