“For many people, Christianity is a tedious and ultimately unsatisfying aversion to temptations they would much prefer to indulge. Nothing depresses me more than to think of expending my one life on earth merely suppressing my deepest desires, always acting contrary to what my soul continues to crave. But there is little hope of it being otherwise so long as I seek satisfaction in something other than God.”
—Sam Storms, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, 127.
Thankfully, that is not what Christianity is all about, because God is not a killjoy. He offers far better pleasures than any alternative available to us. His promises are not empty, which when when you think about it, that cannot be said of much else. We spend our lives in the pursuit of pleasure. What kinds of pleasures are we pursuing?
Consider these lyrics:
You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Because God is good, we do not have to look for a satisfying life anywhere else.
Sam Storms describes in his book, One Thing: Developing a Passion For the Beauty of God, a significant story from Greek mythology. Perhaps you already know the story of Jason and Ulysses, as they encountered the Sirens. In Greek mythology, the Sirens are creatures with the head of a female and the body of a bird. They lived on an island (Sirenum Scopuli; three small rocky islands) and with the irresistible charm of their song they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island.
The Sirens sang when they approached, their words even more enticing than the melody. They would give knowledge to every man who came to them, they said, ripe wisdom and a quickening of the spirit. Countless unwitting sailors had been lured to their death by their outward beauty and the irresistible song of the sirens. They would unwittingly follow the song, crash their ships on the rocks surrounding the island where the sirens would devour them. Any crew passing by needed a fool-proof plan to steer clear of disaster.
Ulysses had been repeatedly warned about the song of the sirens so he had his crew put wax in their ears to block out the seductive song. He commanded his men neither to look to the left nor to the right, but to row for their lives. But Ulysses had other plans for himself. He commanded that he be strapped to the mast of the ship, leaving his ears unplugged. He wanted to hear the song and he instructed the men that he was not to be removed until a safe distance way.
Were it not for the ropes that held him, Ulysses would have succumbed. Though his body was tied, his soul said yes to the temptation. He made it through safely, but the fact that he didn’t give in was only due to the external shackles. Sadly, this is just the way many of us try to resist the appeal of sin, with our hearts chasing the passing pleasures of sin while we shackle ourselves to legalism changing only the outward behavior.
Contrast the approach of Ulysses to Jason, who had also been warned of the seductive siren song. Jason brought with him a man named Orpheus, a musician of incomparable talent. When his music filled the air it had an enchanting effect on everyone who heard it. There was not a lovelier or more beautiful sound in all the world.
When the time came, Jason declined the ear plugs, nor did he ask to be tied. He had no illusion about the strength of his will, instead, he ordered Orpheus to play his most beautiful and alluring song. The Sirens didn’t stand a chance! Jason overcame temptation with something better.
(Which is where the quote from the top comes in.) Storms, and the story of Ulysses and Jason, shows us we do not need a “tedious and ultimately unsatisfying aversion.” We need to find more joy in God, more satisfaction in His promises, than we feel in the alluring — and empty — promises of this fading world. His music needs to be louder than all others, for it’s far more beautiful. He offers us pleasure beyond our wildest dreams.