Fulfillment vs. Pleasure

You were made for fulfillment! But that’s not the same thing as saying you were made for pleasure.

Pleasure, however, is not a bad thing. Matter-of-fact, pleasure can be the natural consequence of eating a satiable meal or spending quality-time with an ole friend or behaving virtuously. The kind of pleasure that gets a bad rap is hedonism, that is, the purpose of life is to increase feelings of pleasure and decrease feelings of pain.

Fulfillment as an end-goal, on the other hand, can entail pleasure but, more broadly includes, something substantive associated with that state of being. To be fulfilled in one’s life usually entails feeling full of enjoyment or full of life. It’s the exact idea Jesus uttered to the Pharisees: “I have come that they [My sheep] may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10b, NIV).

Jesus’s explanation of the good life entails behaving in the correct way in the correct circumstance at the correct time and with the correct motive. That could call for speaking wisdom to someone who needs to hear it. But it could also call for suffering. Take for example, someone who exhibits courage by speaking truth in a hostile environment and thus being persecuted. If someone correctly interprets such a circumstance as an opportunity for disciplined obedience to the truth, then one can be called fulfilled. Actually, Christ called these persecutees “happy”: “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” (Mt 5:10, GNT)

The Greek word for “happy” is makarios, which is typically translated as “blessed.” The reason for this is that the English word “happy” has been bled dry of its substantive meaning. But if one understands the word “happy” to be associated with proper moral behavior, then “happy” can also be the correct term.

Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus counts the cost of discipleship to his motley crew amid His imminent death: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (16:24-25, NIV). 

The good life entails taking up one’s cross, which entails suffering (something that hedonism rules out). The goal is a saved life that enables one to live–right now–the best life possible in a broken, fallen world. That is, suffering via self-denial and/or persecution is a means to living the good life.        

The lyrics to the song “Good Life” from the album Underdog by the Christian band Audio Adrenaline capture this paradox of suffering-happiness beautifully:

This is the good life…
Loneliness has left me searching
For someone to love.
Poverty has changed my view
Of what true riches are.
Sorrow’s opened up my eyes
To see what real joy is.
Pain has been the catalyst
To my heart’s happiness.

Chester Delagneau

9 Responses to “Fulfillment vs. Pleasure”

  • Myriam Delagneau says:

    Hi Son, what a great message! It’s of a great pleasure to read and to capture the essence of fulfillment vs. pleasure. May God continue blessing your heart.

  • Lynee says:

    Love your message! I wish more teens could hear this! It may give them insight to why everything doesn’t happen instantly. In today’s world, they have been raised with the internet and instant gratification however they get depressed when things in “real” life don’t happen in an instant. They think everything should be at their fingertips.No longer do the youth have patience for delays, let alone long suffering. With teen suicide through the roof and so many thinking they have anxiety which leads them to depression it’s time they hear a message like yours. They have to understand there are better things beyond and life can and will change, circumstances will improve and we all need patience to get to that better place. Have hope!

  • Sari says:

    Preach, Chester! Love the way you captured the truth of happy living. Clearly and articulately captures fulfillment vs. pleasure. Makes me excited to read the future Volume 2 of Biblical Ethics.

    • Chester Delagneau says:

      Love your encouragement, baby girl. Unfortunately, Vol 2 won’t be out for quite a while. I’d like to match Vol 1’s academic rigor, research, and length, which took over five years to write.

  • Jeremiah says:

    Great article, brother. I loved LOVED how you rightly married the concept of happiness to include suffering. Truly a biblical perspective. The poem was poignant and drove the point home.

    • Chester Delagneau says:

      Thanks Jer! I like to tell people that if one’s concept of happiness does not account for suffering in a fractured, fallen world, then it’s probably the wrong philosophy.

  • Phillip Santo says:

    Oh boy that’s not a message that we are hearing much about right now in the big C- church. In the 90’s lost of preachers did alter calls with the main draw of being saved from your troubles and God coming in to your life and you were left with this idea everything would be ok after that. They left out what it would cost. That you for being a voice of truth.

    • Chester Delagneau says:

      Thanks brother! I’ve been reading two books simultaneously that deals with this essential component of discipleship: Tortured for Christ and Cost of Discipleship. I think you’d really appreciate the message, which is confirming what Scripture already tells us: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tm 3:12, NIV).

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