"David sent his agents to get her (Bathsheba). After she arrived, he (David) went to bed with her."
II Samuel 11: 4, The Message Bible
"Pleasure, Happiness and Joy"
" ‘Pleasure, and ‘joy' not only are not synonymous, but may be as profoundly different as heaven and hell."
Sidney J. Harris
How would I define the word, "pleasure?"
What does it mean to be filled with the "joy of the Lord?"
"In diving to the bottom of pleasure, we bring up more gravel than pearls."
Honore de Balzac
"Pleasure-seeking is a barren business."
J. I. Packer
The year was 1990. Twenty years ago. It seems impossible, but that's when I found a gem of a book, written by Ben Patterson, entitled, Waiting. I'm thankful I found the book when I did, for I could never have imagined at that time, the amount of "waiting" I'd be doing in my future. This volume, by the way, contains two biographical sketches. One on the life of Abraham and the other on the life of Job - both who learned to wait upon God.
As I went back to reread several passages in this book recently, I smiled as I turned page after page containing underlining and notes that not only struck me the first time I read the book but also stuck with me over the years. In particular, Chapter 7 begins with a short story that I have never forgotten and I'm quoting the author because what he wrote is so profound:
"I still flush with embarrassment and shame when I think about it. I had put on my best Carl Rogers counseling demeanor, asked lots of questions, listened sympathetically to all Tom said and fed it back to him. I did everything I could to understand his situation. After about an hour and a half of this, as near as I could tell, Tom wanted to divorce his wife simply because he wasn't happy with her anymore. No cruelty was involved, no adultery - just boredom. Then I dropped Carl Rogers and tried to talk him out of it, to persuade him to recommit himself, to go the long haul with the woman he promised to love until death did them part. He listened to me for a while, and then said, ‘But Ben, what about happiness?' And here's the embarrassing part - I could think of nothing to say to him.
It had never occurred to me to tell him that he might have to wait to be happy."
Through the years, as I have faced personal times of challenge when my happiness has turned to sorrow, when joy has been supplanted by heartache, I've reflected on this brief thought and asked myself, "Do I have to wait to be happy?" How about you? Does a long, dark hallway of gloom sum up your daily existence? Are you waiting to be happy, too?
With the past twenty years of my life as a backdrop upon which to reflect, I'd like to offer a perspective that has developed from my study of God's Word, as well as from my own personal experience.
The lessons I've learned on pleasure, happiness, and joy apply directly to our text today when David, seeing a "stunningly beautiful" woman, as The Message Bible describes Bathsheba, decided that personal pleasure, immediately gratified, would bring him lasting happiness.
It was the ancient Roman philosopher, Cicero, born in Arpinum, Italy on January 3, 106 B.C., who spoke these words: "Where pleasure prevails, all the greatest virtues will lose their power."
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a spoil-sport who never smiles and denies myself the pleasures of life. But somewhere along the line, in our over-hyped media culture, we have come to believe that if we aren't happy every minute of every day, living on Cloud Nine with the pleasures of life taking care of every vacancy in our lives, then something must be wrong. I can't tell you how many people I know who feel that until they are satisfied by so-called pleasures (whatever they have identified as their necessary pleasures), they'll never be happy. And quite possibly, with this kind of thinking, it's possible happiness will indeed become their illusive butterfly.
If the so-called pleasures of sexual experimentation or abundance of gourmet delights that stimulate the palette are some of the answers to our happiness deficit, we should be in ecstasy for society has certainly partaken indulgently of the tree of self-gratification since Adam and Eve ate of another tree in Eden's garden home. If satisfying our longing for pleasure is the path to happiness - we should be elated. But we aren't. In fact, quite the opposite. For it is rather apparent the more of the "false" we have, the "less" happiness we have.
And so I want to return to Ben Patterson's story and his thoughtful question: "Might we have to wait for happiness?" And I'd like to offer this view, especially having spent the last ten years of my life struggling, on a daily basis, with the disastrous disabilities that have sapped the energy and at times taken away many of the earthly pleasures my husband, Jim and I used to enjoy.
First of all, pleasures are not evil. God created our senses so we could enjoy life to the fullest. I love this description of heaven's gift of delightful pleasures by Richard Baxter who reminds us, "Remember that God would give you more pleasure, and not less, and that He will give you as much of the delights of sense as is truly good for you so you will take them in their place, in subordination to your heavenly delights. And is not this to increase and multiply your pleasure? Are not health, and friends, and food, and habitation much sweeter as the fruit of the love of God, and the foretastes of everlasting mercies, and as our helps to heaven, and as the means to spiritual comfort, than of themselves alone? All your mercies are from God; He would take none from you, but sanctify them."
The key, as noted in these words, is this - "taking pleasures in their place." Often, in our race to find happiness, we drink from a cistern of pleasure that really contains pain. And this was exactly what David did when he made a choice to take another man's wife to satisfy his longing for happiness. He couldn't wait. He didn't wait. He wanted the "pleasurable," that he saw, right now! So he sent for her, took her, and lay with her - and then the Bible says, "She returned to her house" (II Samuel 11: 4). Just like that! And don't think for one minute there was any joy in Bathsheba's heart on her ride back to her house. I also strongly doubt David found the happiness he longed for, either. A momentary hook-up. A lifetime of heart-ache.
In the book of Nehemiah, the governor, known for his undertaking to repair the walls of Jerusalem after they languished for years in disrepair, recorded the words of Ezra the priest who told a disheartened group of unhappy Israelites who were "grieved and depressed," that "the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold" (Nehemiah 8: 10 Amplified Bible).
On those days when the earthly pleasures of life escape our grasp, may we take hold of the strength of the Lord where we are promised joy everlasting! It was David, himself, who at a time of close association with God in nature's beauty, wrote, "But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who have Your name be joyful in You" (Palm 5: 11, N.K.J.V.)
Do you want to be happy today and everyday - then let us drink from heaven's well of joy, and not substitute earthly pleasure, for as described by Charles R. Hembree in this beautiful way: "Joy is like a well containing sweet water. It is not enough to know the water is there or even to drill the well. If the well is to be useful, the water must be brought to the surface. Those who know Christ have found the source of joy."
"Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here' is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment's rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of Ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven."
C. S. Lewis
The Joyful Christian
Full of Joy
"My dear child…I want My joy to be in you and your joy to be full…It's great when you want to skip and dance and rejoice with Me. This is My joy in you…Joy is not an emotional response to situations. I am not an emotion; I am spirit. Joy is a fruit of My Spirit in your life. I don't want to see that joy suffocated by problems and cares that concern you. I will never take My joy away from you. It is always within you and can always be expressed in your life."
My Dear Child
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.