In part one, of Article III, we began looking at what can happen to us when we allow wanton, hedonistic pleasure to rule our lives. We learned, just as the fabled character Pinocchio did, that there are consequences to satisfying our ungodly pleasures. God, however, has provided a way for us to be free from such wrongful desires. All we need do is believe in the LORD, Jesus Christ, and live according to His plan. In this article, we will look into the various types of pleasure.
There are pleasures of the mind, which consist of:
- Solving the unknown (appeasing ones curiosity)
- Using a unique skill to its full potential
- Nurturing someone or something, or being nurtured by someone or something
- Being apart of a community (a.k.a.: sociality; finding companionship, etc.)
There are pleasures of the body, which include any stimulation of the five senses:
And, there are the pleasures of the soul, which incorporate the nine “fruit of the spirit,” found in Galatians chapter five, verses twenty-two and twenty-three:
Our pleasures can be to our advantage, and promote a healthy lifestyle. It can also bring about disastrous consequences, when acted upon without discretion or outside of God’s boundaries.
One example of a healthy pleasure is proper sleep. A lack of sleep has been found to cause anxiety, depression, and weight gain. You see, our bodies use sleep to perform important routine maintenance at a cellular, and metabolic, level. Proper sleep boosts our body’s immune system, and our brain’s means to store, and recall, details from our memories. Approximately seven to nine hours of sleep, each night, is necessary. Too little or too much sleep and our health begins to decline.
A second example of a healthy pleasure is consuming foods that you enjoy, and that also have healthy benefits to them. Something like chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Did you know that chocolate contains powerful antioxidants? It seems that cacao, which is taken from the cocoa bean during the manufacturing process, has been shown to improve the flexibility of blood vessels. This flexing of the blood vessels help us reduce our risk of heart disease, and heart attack, but note: not all chocolate is going to be beneficial. You must choose only dark chocolate, and make certain that it contains a minimum of seventy-five percent cacao, and you must limit yourself to one or two squares a day.
A third example of a healthy pleasure, and one in which I will focus the remainder of this article on, is sex. Healthy, monogamous sex is probably the most incredible experience that humanity will encounter in a life time. When men and women, by way of the marriage relationship, participate in regular, monogamous sexual relations, they experience an amazing form of pleasure that appeals to their entire beings. Rarely can a pleasure, other than sexual pleasure, appeal to a person’s body, mind, and soul. Though human sexual relations primarily function as a means of procreation, God also carefully and concisely designed it to be a deeply satisfying form of pleasure.
Healthy, monogamous sex, between a married man and woman, is also a special kind of physical work out; a beautiful act of tandem exercise that can burn as much as eighty-five calories per coupling. This physical exercise is unlike any other, as it results in the intermingling (or combining) of two bodies into one, and it results in the release of “feel-good” endorphins through out the human brain. When these endorphins release, the couple becomes less likely to experience depression, individually, and they are less likely to experience dissatisfaction with their marriage relationship, due to their deeply intimate connection with their spouse. A healthy, monogamous sexual relationship, within the confines of marriage, will not solve all the problems that a couple will face in their lifelong alliance, but it does bind them in such a way as to help strengthen their resolve to work through these issues.
Another benefit for married couples who participate in healthy, monogamous sexual relations, at a minimum of once or twice a week, is that their immune responses are improved. According to the Oxford Journals, and other medical magazines, our sex hormones positively affect our immune response toward such illnesses as the common cold, flu, and other more serious infections. It’s a pretty interesting arrangement, isn’t it?
Our bodies actually produce higher levels of an antibody (a.k.a.: immunoglobulin, or IGA) that can thwart colds, and flus, where those very germs most often enter the body. Ironically, our bodies can use the very act that can transmit germs and disease (sexual intercourse) to help prevent such illnesses from manifesting. This ultimately allows men and women, who are married, the freedom to enjoy more intimacy. God wants us to enjoy our spouses, passionately. He designed us that way; it’s only when we abandon God’s design for human sexuality that sexual intercourse becomes painful, and dangerous.
Did you know that the number one way to get a sexually transmitted disease (a.k.a: STD) is by having sex with multiple partners? Sounds odd to have to say, but societies all around the globe live as though this were some type of myth, or fairy tale. In fact, ninety-five percent of U.S. citizens under the age of thirty are sexually active. Thirty-three percent of the men polled, and nine percent of the women, stated that they had more than ten sexual partners in their lifetime. It is also believed that one out of every four non-married, sexually active Americans, by the age of twenty-four, will have contracted an STD. Furthermore, about sixty-five million people in the U.S. are now living with an incurable STD — sixty-five million! Bottom line, STDs such as Bacterial Vaginosis, Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, Gonorrhea, Human Papillomavirus, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, as well as other life-threatening conditions (ex.: prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and oral cancer), are more common among people who have sexual intercourse with more than one person in a lifetime.
Sexual relationships affect more that just our physical bodies, though. As stated earlier, they also affect our minds and souls. Many psychologists, and religious counselors, have found that having multiple sexual encounters with a variety of partners places men and women at a higher threat of making risky choices on a regular basis. This cycle of making dangerous choices can lead to a life filled with unhealthy and risky sexual experiences (a.k.a.: homosexuality, pornography, prostitution, and other perverse sex acts), multiple unsuccessful relationships, which can nurture a lower self-esteem, and even lead to manic depression. Again, when we abandon God’s design for human sexuality, sexual intercourse becomes painful, and dangerous.
King Solomon, known as the wisest ruler in the history of the world, wrote this concerning uncontrolled, physical pleasure:
I [King Solomon] thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly — my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2: 1-11)
To gain worldly pleasures, of any kind, will never bring about real contentment, or gratification. No amount of excessive laughter, drinking of alcohol, or reckless abandon will ever fully appease us. Completing some great project, for yourself, won’t satisfy; owning a successful business, or some huge ranch, or farm, won’t fulfill. Access to the world’s richest treasures can’t gratify, nor can the world’s greatest library of music. Not even multiple sexual encounters with the world’s most beautiful people can quench what you long for — No. True fulfillment only comes through experiencing pleasures, not as the world defines them, but as God has defined them.
Worldly pleasures look similar to many of the pleasures God provides us. They appeal to our minds and bodies, but what the world can’t gratify is our souls. Only God can supply that kind of gratification. Note Proverbs chapter ten, verse twenty-three:
A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.
You see, when we seek to please ourselves, and ignore God’s plan for us to be rightly satisfied, we become nothing more than ignorant jerks. Dumb as a wooden stump with no true happiness to be found. This is what King Solomon was trying to say. Though he sought after foolishness, God allowed Solomon to remain wise enough to know it was indeed foolishness. Though he looked to gratify his own selfish desires, God allowed Solomon to remain wise enough to know that self-gratification always comes with a consequence and those consequences can never be avoided. Sexual pleasure, that is intended to please one’s self, will never really satisfy. Sexual intimacy requires two people, one male and one female, for a reason. That reason is for the man to gratify the woman, under the blessing of marriage, and for the woman to please the man. This is as our Creator intended.
I’m reminded of an interview from 1975. In this interview, Phyllis George, from the old CBS NFL Today show, asked Roger Staubach — then the starting quarterback for the American football team Dallas Cowboys — to reveal what he felt about his image as an “All American, straight guy” (he was very well known as a “clean-cut,” family man). Roger’s image was in stark contrast to another very popular American football quarterback, named Joe Namath. Joe, who also had been recently interviewed by Phyllis George, had become just as famous for his playboy lifestyle as he had become for his ability to quarterback the New York Jets. Roger Staubach responded by saying:
You interviewed Joe Namath — everyone in the world compares me to Joe Namath. You know, as — you know, the idea that off the field he’s single, bachelor, “swinging.” I’m married, and family, and — you know, he’s having all the fun, [a smile crosses Roger’s face] and — I enjoy sex as much as Joe Namath [Phyllis begins to laugh], only I do it with one girl. You know, I mean it’s still fun.
A monogamous relationship is not a life sentenced to lamentation and sorrow; not at all. Sexual intimacy, as God intended, is free of disease, despair, danger, and worry; it’s both exciting and healthy.
True pleasure — the kind that really brings joy to a person’s whole being — can only exists when we experience it God’s way. And if we will, then we can also bring pleasure to our Creator, and others. You see, genuine pleasure is not about self-gratification at all, but about gratifying God and the other people in our lives. Let’s all strive to drink from the cup of Christ, and let’s all live merrier lives.
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