I’ve just started reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and I am blown away by the section on pleasure. The following is spoken by Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood, a lesser demon. So “Enemy” in this context means God, not Satan.
“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures; all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.”
I’m ashamed to say that I was rather shocked by this. When I read it, I realized that I really never attribute pleasure to God. My default thinking is that if I enjoy anything, it must be wrong.
Now I know that God is NOT a miserly or reluctant provider – I know this! But experiencing God as loving Father is not the same as understanding Him as the Creator of pleasure. Some part of me still associated God with awkward silence and droning tedium and all the somber and most severe forms of asceticism. So reading this next bit by Screwtape was akin to being poleaxed:
“All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.”
“Least redolent of its Maker”—so much so, in my case at least, that I’ve ceased to associate God with any pleasure outside of spiritual bliss. The small, daily pleasures are only generally connected with God, as in, “Thank You for this delicious food/lovely breeze/cool drink/warm coat!” The context is still more gratitude for the provision than an acknowledgement of Who He IS.
“[The Enemy] has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.”
I feel like I’m looking around and seeing the heart of God in my life in completely new areas. I think that I viewed many of the simple pleasures of my life (eating, sleeping, laughing, etc.) as neutral. Not sin (necessarily), but not a genuine pleasure either. Just neutral. As if God is some joy-slurping black hole overall, but a few things slid under the radar and He hasn’t caught on yet that they’re enjoyable. I had no idea that that view of God was in me!
And really, WHERE did that view of God come from in the first place?! All five human senses are engaged regularly – daily! – in pleasure. The Creator of my senses also created the things that I sense! I cannot escape the beauty in the world around me. So how did I miss what it says about the One who dreamed it all in the first place?
Let them shout for joy and be glad,
Who favor my righteous cause;
And let them say continually,
“Let the Lord be magnified,
Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”
Psalm 35:27 NKJV