When I was struggling with addiction people would always tell me to just stop doing drugs—stop living for pleasure and just be normal. If you are an addict you’ve probably heard the same thing. “Just stop seeking your pleasure and take care of your kids. Just stop seeking your pleasure and be a good spouse. Just stop seeking your pleasure and be a good person. Just stop seeking your pleasure and do the right thing.” It’s said in many different ways, but the point is always the same.
I tried many times to heed this advice, often with tears in my eyes. One time, I came home after spending 28 days in yet another treatment center with a strong motivation to be clean forever and to start a new life but made it less than one hour before I was high again. Another time, I was court mandated to attend an outpatient alcohol class, in which the only rules were to come to class once a week and not get drunk or high. On the way home from the first class I cried my eyes out because I knew that my willpower was not good enough and I was going to get high when I got home. I did. This is the story of millions of people around the world. Can you relate to this?
What if our problem wasn’t that we are seeking our pleasure too much, but that the stuff we are seeking our pleasure in isn’t working? What if the problem isn’t that we are addicted to pleasure, but that the object of our addiction isn’t good enough? What if the drugs aren’t a strong enough pleasure to satisfy our souls? What if we were made for a Greater Pleasure?
The famous quote by CS Lewis says, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and staggering nature of rewards found in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory)
CS Lewis is saying that all sin, including drug addiction, is like a mud pie in a slum. The sad state of people like you and I is that many of us will spend our entire lives jumping from slum to slum looking for better mud. We have decided that the best life could ever be is an updated version of what we are currently experiencing—a different mixture of drugs, a different sexual partner, a new city, etc. We know the mud isn’t fun anymore, but we don’t know what to do. We try to put the mud down and just “be normal,” but we end up with our hands dirty once again. We can’t seem to “Just stop seeking our pleasure and be normal.”
CS Lewis wanted us to know that THERE IS A BETTER PLEASURE! There is a holiday at sea! Our problem isn’t that we are looking for pleasure too much, it’s that we need to find a better object of our addiction!
Over the past seven years with the help of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, John Piper, CS Lewis, Matt Chandler, and many more, I have come to experience and know this Greater Pleasure. If you can relate with the despair and emptiness I’ve described above and are hungry for MORE, the next few paragraphs have the potential to change everything in your life.
The truth about the world is that there is a real God who made literally everything in the universe (sunsets, mountains, love, sex, family, food, coffee, and every other good and beautiful thing) for His glory and our joy. We were all made for a relationship with this God. In the context of this relationship is where we were made to find peace, security, comfort, joy, identity, meaning, and yes, pleasure. Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
As we all know, something has gone terribly wrong with this design. Because of our rebellion against God (aka sin), we are separated from Him. This separation leaves us empty, searching for pleasure anywhere we can find it (alcohol, sex, popularity, power, drugs, etc.) with little to no results. This is why you feel the void deep down in your soul. We are like that ignorant child jumping from slum to slum playing with all kinds of mud hoping to eventually find the one that actually works.
Many of us have realized our need for God and have begun to climb the ladder of religion hoping to earn our way back to Him. Many programs and religions focus on this approach. Their mantras are, "What can I do to unblock myself from God? What must I do to earn right standing with God again?” In my opinion, this is a worse condition than the first. At least sin is fun for a season—dead religion is not (except for the pious pride that dimly sparks some sort of mediocre pleasure). Earning God’s approval back on our power is impossible. It’s like trying to jump from here to Antarctica; even if we train our whole lives to become great long jumpers, it's still impossible.
Because God is perfectly holy, infinitely beautiful, and completely just, His wrath is on all sin—including us. There is no way to escape this or to get right with Him by our own effort or steps or religiosity. That may seem like bad news, but here is the best news: He is not only a Holy Judge but also a Loving Father. God loves YOU. He loves you and I so much that He sent His Son Jesus to make a way that we can be right with Him again. Rather than making us climb the ladder of religiosity, Jesus came down the ladder to save us. He lived a perfect life in our place, died for our sins on a piece of wood in the shape of a cross, and rose from the dead conquering the power of sin (and addiction) and death forever. This is what people refer to as the Gospel. It is the only way to God.
“For God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
The only right response to God’s incredible love and grace is to repent and believe. This simply means that we turn away from our old way of life and trust Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for our right standing with God. When this truly occurs, we will be reconciled to God. Like the ignorant child invited to put down the mud and enjoy the holiday at sea, we will begin to taste the joys of a restored relationship with God. This means that you no longer need to earn God’s approval, but you can live in freedom knowing that you are fully loved, completely forgiven, and eternally secure. This does not mean life will be easy, but it does mean that we will have God and He will be enough regardless of our circumstances.
After seven years of experiencing this, I plead with you right now to not settle for mud pies anymore! Don’t waste another day settling for mediocre pleasures when infinite joy is offered! Repent of unsatisfying sin and dead religion and be saved! This is the Answer you’ve been looking for. This is the Pleasure you’ve literally been dying for.
"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:39)