My roommate reminded me of a verse the other day:
In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11b
On its surface, the verse looks like a happy-go-lucky, name-it-claim-it kind of verse. Everything is sunshine and rainbow unicorns if you trust God! La-dee-dee.
But she reminded me of the verse on a day when I was struggling with the pleasures that the world has to offer. It was a day when I was getting annoyed that I don’t get the pleasures that come along with marriage.
Besides the obvious wink-wink, nudge-nudge pleasures that come with marriage, I’m looking forward to heaps of things: being dropped off at the door while my man finds a place to park, waking up and snuggling for a few minutes until the alarm goes off, letting someone else take care of my car when it breaks down, writing love notes on the mirror, making out in the back of movie theaters, etc.
I’m not dumb – I know marriage is hard, because relationships are hard, and I enjoy not sharing a room. But that particular day this past week, discontentment with the lack of marital pleasures was underscoring my day.
When my roommate reminded me of the phrase, “At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” I realized just how not-shallow that verse is. It comes at the end of a chapter in which the speaker is talking to God about how people who follow after other gods don’t get the permanent pleasures of knowing God. At the end of the Psalm, the speaker rejoices because:
- In God is where true pleasure/joy is found – everything else is just a shadow of what will be in heaven with Him.
- In heaven, we will have pleasures FOREVER. Not some pleasure mixed in with some hardship or an endless cycle of good and bad. No. Only Pleasure, always and always, past the end of time.
Here’s what gets me about this particular promise of God: He’s not promising me joy and pleasure forever in eternity because it’s what I deserve or because I did enough good things in this life or I’ve had such a hard life that I deserve a break in the next one. He’s promising those things because I belong to Him. That’s it. I’m His, He loves me, and He is going to take care of me forever.
On my own, I’m a sinner. I get distracted by the pleasures of this world and angered with the petty frustrations of this world; I want what I don’t have, and don’t want what I do have; I make God small in my world, and I elevate my desires above God’s plan.
Despite all that, God sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life, untainted by the pleasures of sin, angered only by what displeases God, wanting nothing but to do the will of God perfectly, and displaying the glory and power of God in every word and action.
Despite (yet because of) Jesus’ perfect life, He was killed (sacrificed), thus taking on the punishment I deserve so that I can have the relationship with God and eternal life that He deserved. He traded places with me so that God could fulfill His promise of joy and pleasure forevermore.
God takes His promises seriously – so seriously that He allowed His Son to DIE to prove it – and that’s why Psalm 16:11 isn’t just a light and fluffy kitties-in-the-clouds kind of saying.
But how does that help now? I mean, sure, in heaven I’m going to have a nice life or whatever. But now? I’m still not married, I still don’t have someone to hold hands with in public or kiss hello at the end of a long work day.
The verse helps because the pleasures of this life have two things wrong with them:
- Even wonderful things (ice cream, weddings, Doctor Who, fatty Russian novels, the beach on a perfect 75-degree day) can become idols; they can become more important to me than God and get in the way of my seeing Him and His promises. When they become idols, they are sin – which is what separates me from God in the first place.
- All wonderful, pleasurable things of this world will come to an end someday. I’m not talking Firefly-getting-cancelled end; I’m talking you-can’t-take-it-with-you end. You will die. I will die. Even the earth will die. Whatever pleasures I glean from sin or from anything other than God – they’re temporary, and they won’t satisfy me for long. Even marriage is going to end; even if I’m married happily for 50 years, I can’t take that with me, and my pursuit of the pleasures of marriage will seem silly as I walk through the gates of splendor into the arms of my all-satisfying Savior.
Psalm 16:11 and the idea of “pleasure for evermore” at the right hand of God is actually super encouraging, because it keeps this life in perspective. It reminds me that God is only and forever for my good, and that pursuing or pining after a different relationship status is shallow.
It reminds me that I am deeply, irrevocably loved by the God Who made the pleasures of this world and the next so that I can worship Him limitlessly now and forever.