Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16 NIV
Footnote [b] holy
“You need to sit down! I want you to have some pleasure.” My father offered me a glass of wine, something simple to eat, and an opportunity for a relaxed conversation. He was the hardest worker I’ve ever met, but he refused to rush and took frequent breaks to enjoy the world around him. Unlike my father, I work intensely, and wear myself out. I had been cleaning out cupboards for him, and as usual, wouldn’t rest until I reached my goal for the day. My father was concerned because I was working too hard in a single minded pursuit of my goals.
Why did my father say “pleasure” and not “rest”? Why does Psalm 16 conclude by connecting a “life that pleases God” with “eternal pleasures”? Are “eternal pleasures” to be enjoyed only in eternity, or are they never ending gifts Christians can, and perhaps even should enjoy right now? After observing my father’s example, I believe that taking time every day to experience this pleasure is necessary in a healthy Christian life.
In his first message in the current series on marriage and relationships, Alex pointed out that people inside and outside of the church often conflate love and sex. Similarly, I think we often see pleasure and sex as synonymous. I’d also venture to guess that pleasure is not something we often enjoy as Christians and as Americans. A brief word study of the Bible reveals something quite interesting — God is often described as having pleasure; He delights in people who are living lives like the one described in Psalm 16. When human pleasure is mentioned in a negative way, it often describes peoples’ out-of-bounds activity and selfish pursuit of sexual satisfaction.
Can we as frail humans experience pleasure and also say:
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6 NIV
Could it be that humans can be mentally and physically healthier, more joyful, and more resistant to distorted pursuits of pleasure when we take time to experience pleasure in creation around us and in our non-intimate relationships? Could taking the time to pause to rest from our God given use of our talents help us connect more with Him and with others? Can opening ourselves to our senses — whether we are single, widowed, divorced or married — help us love God and our neighbor more deeply?
Based on observing my father, I believe “pleasure” is different from other words that describe a full life in relationship with God — joy, delight, blessedness, and peace — yet it’s an integral part of Christian life. “Pleasure” most fully captures how we experience the world with our senses — sight, sound, hearing, touch, smell, taste. For my father, and me, it also includes having a sense of humor. Pleasure can be experienced by anyone, and not only those who are in an intimate relationship. My father showed me that pleasure can be experienced when we are all alone and in very ordinary, or in even less than optimal circumstances. He showed that sharing pleasure with someone else (a delicious meal or beautiful sight) magnifies the pleasure everyone experiences. My father’s approach to life showed what loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself in an abundant way can look like.
Take time throughout the day to reflect on the amazing world we live in. What about God’s wonder and beauty can you experience most fully though your senses?
Consider watching the film, Babette’s Feast. See if this film would help you understand your own approach to life, pleasure, and faith?