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Christian Counseling: Pleasure Seeking Christians: An Oxymoron?

It may sound self-centered to think about directly seeking pleasure, especially if you are a Christian who practices dying to self and living for God and others. Whether or not to look for pleasure appears somewhat confusing to quite a few Christians and, at the extreme end, can result in hedonophobia - fear of pleasure. This fear often encompasses feelings of guilt, unworthiness and excessive concern over offending God that prevents a person from receiving any pleasure or feeling badly when he or she does.

All of us seek pleasure! We find pleasure in products that are better tasting (toothpaste, cereal and beverage), better looking (shirt, car and house), in reading materials that excite us, work that satisfies, a church group that brings us joy, TV shows that entertain, friends who make us feel good, etc.

Scripture has a fair amount to say about the ills of pleasure, but without the full context, one is likely to conclude experiencing and seeking pleasure only results in displeasing God.  For example, Hebrews 11:25 refers to the "passing pleasures of sin," 2 Timothy 3:4 warns us about being "...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" and Proverbs 21:17 says, "He who loves pleasure will become poor." Initially, it seems clear, "Avoid the sin of pleasure." But that is throwing out the baby with the bath water. The implication in the latter verse is not about the wrong in loving pleasure, but loving pleasure more than God or others, which is exemplified in Jesus asking Peter, "...do you love Me more than these?" (John 21:15). From what sources are we looking for pleasure? There are ones that are good and bad. Are we bypassing all righteous sacrifices?

The truth is that God is at work in us "for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Psalm 16:11 tells us that "eternal pleasures are at His right hand." The streets of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:21will be paved in gold (pleasure in seeing). In Greek and Hebrew pleasure refers to satisfaction or delight, as is the case in Luke 10:21 where we find God takes pleasure in His decisions--"...this way was well-pleasing in Your sight" (hiding things from the wise and revealing them to infants).

As are most things in scripture, balance is the name of the game. Philippians 2:4 says we are to seek to please God and others more than ourselves, but embedded in that statement is the truth that it is okay to seek our own pleasure. Are you avoiding seeking pleasure in some things that are good or neutral? You may have good reason not to, but are you clear on why you have not?

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