Earlier this week, my husband and I attended a production of The Screwtape Letters. We’ve both previously read C.S. Lewis’ book by the same title and looked forward to a fun evening. If you are not familiar, the story is told through correspondence between a senior devil, Screwtape, and his nephew, Wormwood. Screwtape offers Wormwood advice on tempting a human away from heaven and into hell.
One part that struck me was when Screwtape admits that God (Who is cast as the Enemy in the story) created all pleasure and that evil can only distort, not create, pleasure.
“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures; all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.”
The true enemy, Satan, has to twist pleasure before it is a useful tool to him. Satan tempts us to enjoy pleasure in forbidden ways, and not just forbidden in obvious ways like sex outside of marriage, pornography or adultery. The enemy works in much more subtle ways within marriage as well. Sexual pleasure is twisted and outside of God’s design when it is offered selfishly – only when you want it or only within your comfort zone without regard to your spouse’s healthy desires. God’s gift of sex is distorted when we absent mindedly go through the motions in the bedroom, when we are not discovering more about ourselves, our spouse or God through the experience. Sexual pleasure is short changed when we bring shame, baggage and lies into our marriage beds rather than leaving them at the foot of the Cross and accepting the healing He desires for us.
In the story, Screwtape warns his nephew that allowing the human to experience “real pleasure” should be avoided because it helps him realize who he was made to be, which draws him closer to God.
Think about it, in its untainted form, pleasure lets us know who we are and Who God is. It draws us to Him. Let’s run to claim God’s design for sex within marriage and live in the fullness of the freedom and pleasure that He desires for us!