A buddy of mine and I were reflecting on the state of our souls as they relate to pleasure and joy. We agree with John Piper that God created us with the capacity to seek after pleasure and joy. Like Augustine, we agree that being fallen creatures, we love (i.e. seek pleasure) inordinately. In other words, while we have been created to find infinite delight in God, thus seeking the greatest pleasure in the one most worthy of and most able to provide the greatest joy, we love things less worthy and less able to provide such lasting joy. With C.S. Lewis, we are “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Blaise Pascal tells us that these worldly pleasures, like the mud pies, are diversions from our own wretchedness. We seek pleasure in things, in activities, to keep us from contemplating our sinful condition. The irony is that, in Christ, that condition has been transformed, thus our diversions are no longer “freeing” us from our own despair, but keeping us from eternal joy.
Seeking our eternal happiness is more difficult. Because along with eternal joy comes temporal suffering. We don’t like that much. However, we must remember that it is worth it!
Here’s a visual aid for comparing earthly pleasure to eternal joy:
Remember, we have a God-given impulse for Joy. However, being born with sinful fallen hearts, we immediately direct it towards temporal pleasures, some are not sinful, in-and-of-themselves, but they distract us from God. Others are sinful and worldly. Both kinds provide real pleasure and satisfy that impulse. But over time, these pleasures show their true colors; they twist and lead us into despair, addiction, and destruction. They fail to satisfy. Thus there are periods of time where we feel very dissatisfied. As we are converted and undergo the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, the temporal pleasures lose their influence, we grow in holiness and begin to experience eternal joy. However, we learn joy through, among other things, suffering. So it appears to us, at times, that our impulse for Joy is not being met. The more temporal pleasures we have, the more diversions, the greater dissatisfaction we will experience as these pleasures start spiraling downward into despair. Yet, the Holy Spirit is weaning us from the world and we by faith go forward. Eternal joy always conquers earthly pleasures (and despair). Thus, we must continue keeping our minds fixed on heavenly things, looking to Christ, with whom our life is hidden with God (Col 3). Then, we die, and our experience of eternal pleasure grows exponentially, infinitely, into eternity.
More than anything, I’m writing this to remind myself, and I’m creating this visual aid as a memory tool for myself. I hope that it is helpful for you. Please comment and share as you see fit.