This is a question I’ve struggled with for a long time. Maybe you have, too.
The way we answer this question can really determine whether we do enjoy our lives or not.
Why the struggle?
Often either we rebel from that image by running away from God and enjoying life on our own terms, or we submit to that image and became solemn, serious, and not so fun ourselves. I would probably have fallen into the latter type.
I really wanted to please God and so I tried to submit to what I thought was His way of doing things…. and I added a bit of judgmentalism in there, too, to complete the package. The only thing was, I wasn’t enjoying my life much… in fact, I was downright depressed a lot of the time.
Thankfully, over the years, I’ve been coming to realize that the way I saw God wasn’t really the way He is or how He describes Himself, and that’s not the way He wants me to be either (any fellow recovering too-serious types out there with me?).
At the beginning of each of month for the next few months, I plan to blog about this question: does God REALLY want us to enjoy our lives? I don’t have all the answers, and hope to learn along with you. But what I have been learning has really been making a big difference in my life, and I’d love to help you in this area, as well.
Ultimately, I think the question about whether God wants us to enjoy our lives is about whether we decide to enjoy them selfishly or unselfishly.
I believe unselfish enjoyment shows love for God, the people around us, and healthy love for ourselves. We gratefully enjoy the good things He’s given us, and share the gifts we’ve been given with others to spread the joy. We enjoy life in ways that help others and at times, we enjoy things by ourselves to help us replenish (eg. vacation) and therefore better enjoy God and give to others later.
Selfish enjoyment keeps all the good things for ourselves and “enjoys” things and activities at the expense of others or in ways that hurt ourselves or others. We also aren’t really thankful for what we’ve received and complain about our lot in life a lot, no matter how much we have (this is easy to do, by the way).
I love watching my 2- year old enjoy life as he lives with us in our home. I love to see him laughing, dancing, exploring his toys and the world around him, and enjoying being with me and my husband. I love to see him learning about new things, like snow and counting “one, two, twee!” I also love to see it when he shares with others and spreads the joy.
But if he gets bored quickly and has a really whiny day, or if he wants to hoard all his trucks for himself when other kids are around (or even worse–grab one away from another toddler), it doesn’t increase my joy much (even if it is normal for his age).
I think our Heavenly Father feels similarly. He gives us wonderful gifts in life and wants us to gratefully enjoy them. He also wants us to share them with others to spread the joy. And most of all, He wants us to enjoy HIM, our loving Dad.
The God who makes zebras and sunshine, waterfalls and Jupiter, laughter and mountains, dolphins and roses, toucans and palm trees, colours and textures and tastes, sunsets and laughter… I think it’s obvious He created these things to be enjoyed.
Here are some verses to think about:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) NIV
“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (1 Tim 6:17 -19) NLT
But if God wants us to enjoy our lives so much, why do so many people in this world suffer? Why does suffering come into our own lives? And what about the many verses in the Bible about “being ready to suffer” and “denying ourselves”?
These are good questions and here is a post I wrote with my current thoughts on this. Hope they are helpful and feel free to comment.
[If you are interested in joining the “Loving My Actual Life” Monthly Challenges 2017 that I’m doing strongly based on the book by Alexandra Kuykendall, you can read about the challenges here and find the link to join in if you like!]
For now, what do you think? What questions do you have? Do you think God wants us to enjoy our lives? Why or why not?