Last night, as I worked well into the morning, I watched a documentary about Amish teenagers. Apparently, there is some sort of ritual when the Amish turn 16 where they are sent out into the “real world” so that they can make a decision whether they truly want to be baptized into the Amish religion or to leave their confined lifestyle behind. I was surprised at my own response to the reaction of these teenagers. Instead of feeling disgusted by “religion” or “legalism”, I found the innocence and purity of these girls somewhat enduring. They didn’t seem to feel restricted by their lifestyle. What many think is fun and amusing in the world, they considered to be defiling. I assumed that these young women would be full of religious pride but instead they were actually quite humble and compassionate toward the people they saw in living darkness. One girl in particular went on to talk consistently about experiencing God’s pleasure throughout the day and that it was so much more satisfying than going to a nightclub or listening to a rock band, even after they had experienced both of these things. And honestly, I felt that she was very sincere about her opinions and that she actually believed that experiencing God’s pleasure was so much more enjoyable. I couldn’t help but smile.
There’s a real danger in gaining the whole world; in being successful, in being beautiful, in gaining wealth. I’ve seen very few people be able to pull it off and still be able to enjoy God. In fact, in my own life, I’m finding that sometimes it is a little bit easier to experience God’s pleasure when you are in the dungeon. More and more, I see the reality of God’s pleasure over me even when I am feeling weak and pitiful. I think people that are always experiencing difficulty are ones that God is shaping to really bring change in the Kingdom of God. Whether it is God forming character in them or simply teaching them to depend on Him in intimacy, difficulty tends to be a pathway to higher things in Jesus. If you are truly experiencing His enjoyment during difficulty, it creates a certain depth in your relationship with Him.
So what does this pleasure look like anyway? How do we make it happen? How do we experience it?
I think it starts with believing who God says He is and believing the truth about who we are to Him. It’s knowing that He is captivated by us and takes pleasure in us as well as obtaining revelation about who He is, His personality, and His attributes which we can find in the Word. We can experience His pleasure by meditating on scripture, singing about Him, and simply sitting before Him, allowing His love and mercy to wash over us. It’s forbidding doubts and fears to take entrance into our minds and filling those places with truth about Him. And when we make mistakes or let sin gain entrance into our hearts, God uses repentance as an invitation to experience His passion for us. I have been hearing Mike Bickle say the same thing over the past five years and I am just now believing it about myself: God actually likes me. HE LIKES ME! He doesn’t just love me but He likes who He made me to be. He likes all the little quirks that I hate (not the sin, just the quirks). When we understand this about Him, feeling pleasure in His presence is always available to us.