The Problem of Pleasure
One question that is often discussed has to do with God and human suffering. If God is good, then how do we understand His allowing pain? This question has been approached from many different angles and will continue to be debated. A question that one rarely hears raised relates to God and the human experience in relation to pleasure.
Who doesn’t love experiencing pleasure? Isn’t to be happy what everyone wants? Of course it is. Don’t pleasurable experiences lead to happiness? That would seem to make since, right?
We certainly live in a culture where one need not look too far to find activities or items that evoke a pleasurable response. As late rocker, Kurt Kobain growled, “Here we are now, entertain us.” We demand to be entertained. We crave pleasure. Everybody wants their slice of the American dream and pursues anything that might bring pleasure, even with reckless abandon at times.
To state that there is a problem with pleasure would cause many to push back. Finding and experiencing pleasure is what life is about, many would say. So we find ourselves in an endless rat race to have more. It must be harder, better, faster, stronger! The empire of me must be expanded. We seek more power and greater prestige. Many seek to satisfy their lust with endless sexual encounters, all in the pursuit of pleasure. We look to enjoyable experience after enjoyable experience to bring us happiness.
Yet, in the midst of a culture where entertainment is big business, sex is a commodity, and one can find enjoyable activities readily available in many different venues, we find so often that happiness eludes us. Yes, pleasure has its own share of problems.
King Solomon, a man whose life knew no bounds. He had everything one can think of, and perhaps some of what one might not think of. There was no experience left untried, no desire left untasted, and no conquest left undominated. Yet, in the midst of his wealth, power, and experienced life, he uttered the words, “Everything is meaningless…completely meaningless…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
As G.K. Chesterton once so pointedly remarked, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain, meaninglessness comes from weary of pleasure.” Such great focus is placed on pain as that which ruins lives, but it is pleasure that is far more capable of dealing a death blow. When we attain our greatest pursuit expecting to find happiness and are met with disappointment, we are left with nowhere else to go.
There is nothing wrong with being happy and seeking pleasure. The difficulty comes when one seeks to find something of value apart from God. Pleasure alone will never satisfy our thirsty souls. Our hearts are like broken cisterns that can never be filled by pleasure alone. It is all just smoke and mirrors, a chasing of the wind, apart from the eternal, transcendent, all loving Creator.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
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