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Once, while walking through a McDonald's restaurant, I saw eight 10-year-old girls celebrating a birthday. Each of their faces wore a smile. The warmth of sheer, unadulterated happiness permeated the gathering. It was as if a light had been turned on and I could see God's pleasure, his delight, in this scene. God felt happy that these girls were happy. Their delight, their joy, even their giddiness, gave God great pleasure.
Have you ever thought about that—that you can give God great pleasure by enjoying yourself?
The fact that we are children of God—and that Jesus urges us to become like children—speaks of a certain demeanor, a certain delight, a certain trust in God's goodness and favor toward us. Children love to play. The thought of children forced to work in a factory or to toil all day long in the hot sun appalls us—we've passed laws to prevent it. And while God's servants are not merely his children (he also calls us to sacrificial and mature service), we never become less than his children. And healthy children often engage in play.
Now contrast children with certain teenagers and adults who sometimes hold back from play for fear of being embarrassed or looking unstylish or "uncool." They sacrifice their own pleasure on the altar of pride.
Has your approach to life been an act of worship that makes God laugh and clap his hands with glee while he watches you? Or could your attitude make him shake his head and whisper, "I really wish so-and-so would lighten up. What kind of example is she setting for my kingdom?"
When the church teaches a glum faith of responsibility, a faith devoid of joy; when the pulpit treats pleasure like some kind of spiritual leprosy; when people of faith speak as though they are anti-sex, anti-humor, anti-fun, anti-anything that brings pleasure, we risk fostering the kind of devotion that the Bible shockingly and without reservation rejects.
Connecting our pleasure with God—even seeing pleasure as a legitimate and blessed pathway to worship—builds our souls and strengthens our devotion. Pleasure divorced from God leads to pain and misery. Looking at our pleasure as a way to please God slowly begins to shape what we take pleasure in.
Sometimes we forget the reality that pleasure comes from a good God who loves us deeply. To help internalize this truth, try this step.
Take a moment to make a short list of activities that bring you true satisfaction. Think about how God is glad to provide you with those gifts. Schedule one of those activities in the next 24 to 48 hours, and consider God's role in giving you the ability to experience pure pleasure.