Enjoying What God Has Created Without Feeling Guilty

There are a lot of Christians, myself included, who have a difficult time relaxing.

After all, there is so much to be done! I should be praying more, reading my Bible more, reaching out more, memorizing scripture more, and on and on. In addition, I read lot of books that call me to a higher level of spirituality. I’m called to love God, not the things of this world. To give away my treasures so that I can have the treasure of the kingdom of God. To pursue God harder and deeper than any other thing in this world.

And I completely agree with all these things. I must treasure God above everything else, and anything less than that is idolatry. But at times I think this perspective can lead us to over spiritualize things and neglect the fact that God made the world, declared it good, and gave it to us to enjoy.

Without a doubt, we treasure God primarily through his word. But I don’t think that we treasure God exclusively through his word. We can also treasure God through the wonderful gifts that he has given to us. In Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve and entire garden to enjoy, and they enjoyed God not just through prayer and worship, but through eating the fruit God gave them. God could have made food boring and bland, to be used only as fuel for our bodies. But instead he made steak, ice cream, coffee, bacon, and wine. We can treasure God as we delight in these foods with thanks to God.

God could have made us to be purely spiritual beings who know God only through prayer and worship. Instead he gave us bodies that thrive on laughter, sleep, friendship, and sunshine. We can please God and treasure him as we enjoy these things with thanksgiving.

God could have made us tireless, so that we never needed to rest and could always be doing more for God. But instead he created us to work and rest, and to find pleasure in both. To enjoy watching a football game or movie for the glory of God as our body recuperates.

Sometimes I think we can have this weird, dualistic mentality, where spiritual things are good and physical things are second rate at best. In reality, all of life is an opportunity to enjoy God and find out satisfaction in him, not just our devotional times.

In Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, Solomon writes:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

We shouldn’t be feeling guilty for enjoying the wonderful things that God has created. Do we need to give to the poor? Absolutely. Do we need to pursue God through prayer, Bible reading, and worship? Yes. But that shouldn’t keep us from treasuring God through the good things that he has created.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some sausage with my name on it.

+photo by TheBusyBrain

  • Steve

    "In reality, all of life is an opportunity to enjoy God and find our satisfaction in him, not just our devotional times."

    Awesome! I sometimes feel condemned for liking things in the world (videogames…). Would you mind sharing some examples of how you enjoy God through creation?

    Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Hey Steve,

      I too enjoy playing video games, and I enjoy them as a gift from God that allows me to rest. In my mind, video games can be a helpful way simply to let my mind unwind.

      I enjoy coffee as a gift from God that tastes awesome and helps me wake up. I enjoy watching football as a means to rest. I enjoy pretty much every type of meat made as gifts to be savored.

  • Todd Mogilner

    Stephen great post because I like Steve above often feel condemned and or guilty about enjoying things in the world. I think sometimes even more than feeling guilty about what I do; I want to judge what others are doing, such as what they watch on television, video games they play, movies they see etc.

    What guidelines do you use for you and your family to decide what is healthy and okay of the world and what becomes sinful or at least problematic?

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Hey Todd,

      Generally I'm always trying to evaluate if I'm spending too much time doing a particular thing, such as watching TV or playing video games. However, I tend to be overly introspective, and so I think I need to evaluate these things less and trust God to convict me when I'm going into sin.

      I really do think that balance is very important. If something takes a disproportionate amount of my time I may need to reevaluate.

  • Nick McMaster

    Have you ever read C.S. Lewis' essay "Meditation in a Toolshed?" In the darkness of the toolshed, the beam of light shining through a crack in the wall looks merely like a beam of light. But when you approach the beam and look through it, you see the wind blowing through the tree leaves outside. I think Lewis would call this "looking through" the beam rather than "looking at" the beam. When we look along the beam of creation, we see the glory of God. Therefore we can enjoy God by enjoying His creation. I think that's pretty cool. But before you think that I came up with this on my own, I didn't. John Piper wrote about it in his book When I Don't Desire God in the chapter titled "Wielding the World in the Fight for Joy." Obviously, it had a big impact on me!

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      Thanks for sharing that Nick. That essay by Lewis is a classic.

  • http://lancasterworship.org Ben Miller

    This truth really became real to me when a professor in college was teaching on the nature of God's rest on the 7th day of Creation. He said that it was not a ceasing from work because he needed a break, but that in resting, he was taking pleasure in all that he created. If God desires us to follow his example in resting, we too must follow his example and take pleasure in what God has created (of course keeping in line with the purposes for which he created). While we need to be working on our spiritual life and helping the poor and discipling others, without this biblical, godly rest that puts it all in perspective it can easily become "meaningless, a striving after the wind."

    Even still… I fail to get this concept often, and I too have an incredibly difficult time resting and enjoying what God has given.

    • http://twitter.com/stephenaltrogge @stephenaltrogge

      That's a great point. God himself modeled our need for rest and the value of rest. Unfortunately we live in a culture that values the workaholic.

  • danni mencer

    Yesterday, my day began with my husband reading to us from Psalm 1 – the blessed man's delight is in the law of the LORD and in His law he meditates day and night. Later, we drove for hours along Pacific coast highway 1 and then through majestic redwood forests. It was awesome!!! We walked down rocky paths towards steep cliffs and crashing waves. We drove over mountain after mountain sometimes driving in darkness created by trees so tall we couldn't see the sky. But we always looked forward to coming out into the light, waiting to see what gifts God would grant to us. We spoke often of His amazing creation He had graced us with. When we got back to our cabin, we turned on the tv and watched the Pittsburgh Steelers and enjoyed a lovely dinner. There was never a moment where I felt guilt about what I should have been doing, because He so made me aware that I was right in the palm of His hand.