How can Christians find the balance between enjoying life and yet not wasting it? What should leisure/relaxing look like for a Christian?

Hello,
This is a topic that I have been thinking about a lot. I feel like some Christians look down upon other Christians for simply enjoying the things in this life - food, a good movie, a fun song, a day spent relaxing, reading a classic book, etc. Things that aren’t ungodly, but aren’t all focused on Jesus, if you know what I mean. They look down on them for doing things that aren’t specifically “Christian.”
Then there are other Christians who seem to be continually watching movies, playing games, relaxing all the time, etc. They might be binging shows and spending all their time on “fun” things. I don’t think this is good either.
Related to this, some Christians would say that while leisure/rest is important, we should use it for things like reading our Bible, doing a Bible study, memorizing Scripture, or listening/watching “Christian” things. While, I agree that these things are all VERY beneficial, I’m not sure a Christian should feel guilty for enjoying things that aren’t specifically “Christian.”
What are your thoughts on this? I guess I would just appreciate hearing how you all think relaxing/leisure fits into a Christians life. I know that rest is Biblical; however, does all our relaxing and leisure need to be doing so called “Christian” things like reading the Bible, playing worship music, etc? Or can a secular, clean movie, a fun day with friends, a clean secular song, etc, be apart of enjoying the world God created? How can Christians find the balance between using our time well and running hard for Jesus, and yet also enjoying life and the world God’s created?

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That’s an excellent question!

I think that is in relation to the person relationship with God. But I highly doubt that having fun, resting, and enjoying yourself is a bad thing. In fact, if it was God wouldn’t have made the Sabbath. But I think the issue is also whether what you are enjoying like books or tv will bring forth Godly thoughts (Philippians 4:8). Even if it’s not on either side of Biblical or unbiblical.

But I don’t claim to be an expert nor am I. So if anybody wants to chime in and maybe expand on this then please do so.

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Hi, @katiegrace! I do find the topic of rest SUCH an important one, esp. as we live in a world that seems to highly value the notions of productivity and progress. I find it beautiful that we have a God who commands rest, and I’ve been wrestling with the idea for myself for the last couple of years.

But first, some short replies to your questions:

NO. God is so much deeper than the shallow boxes we put him in. To limit ourselves like this would be to our detriment!

YES. A thousand times, yes! Though I do believe in the sacred and that sacred space exists, whomever it was that decided that ‘sacred’ = good and ‘secular’ = bad needs to be put in a corner. :smile: All of life is God’s! How boring and static it is when we restrict ourselves out of fear.

I think ‘balance’ is an important word here. But balance between what? Work and…play? rest?

Working diligently at what is in front of us is a good thing; but so is being diligent in ‘fasting’ from work. I think for all of us, we need to find out what our ‘work’ is so that we can know what it is from which we need to ‘fast’ each week! Though the ‘fast’ is not the only element of rest…maybe doing something else, something different, is also a good thing.

Another thing to consider is the difference between rest and escape. In my search for rest over the years, I have found that mere escape is not restful. It may numb me for a while, which can be quite nice, but I find that I am still exhausted, un-rested. I say ‘mere escape’ because escape can be crucial to rest. Often times I find I need to get out of (or escape) a space in order to give myself an opportunity to get a different perspective! It’s just that escape does not guarantee rest. So I suppose we need to ask: if I need to escape from something, what is it that I’m escaping to? Some of the things you mention above sound much more like escapes to nothing than escapes that allow for rest! :slight_smile:

The irony is, I think rest is something we have to work at. :wink: That is, the time that it takes to rest has to be guarded, prioritised, nurtured. It takes a lot of courage to say to the world: no, I’m not going to do that something that I do not find restful; today is my day to rest.

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That is such an important question - glad you asked.
Perhaps you should read ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by CS Lewis where he talks specifically about this - especially the importance of enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Let me begin by saying that pleasure is a gift of God, whether it is derived from listening to a good song or reading a good book, or simply taking a walk enjoying the scenery.
Psalm 16:11 - You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

In ‘The Screwtape Letters’, the senior devil reminds his young protege, (I quote) - “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 (God’s) ground. I know that we (Devil) have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours.”

Again, the senior devil chastises the younger one for allowing the human to enjoy simple pleasures for the sake of enjoying them and not for anything else - because in doing so they are actually getting closer to God and away from temptation.
“And now for your blunders! …you allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends.”

In another place, he chides the younger devil for allowing the man to enjoy a walk and take in the scenery simply for the enjoyment of it and not for some greater purpose such as exercise and keeping fit! Quoting him again - “I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for county cricket, or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have no virtue in them, but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them that I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world for its own sake… is by that very fact forearmed against our subtlest modes of attack.”

So to answer your question, it is never a waste of life to enjoy the good pleasures that God has given us. However, in doing so, it is important that we keep to certain boundaries and limits -

  1. There are pleasures that are clearly sinful and ‘forbidden’ which we must avoid at all costs if we love our souls.
  2. Also, it is important that we do not indulge in a hedonistic lifestyle that is focused only on our own pleasures (though legitimate), while not caring about the genuine, great needs of others around us.
  3. Enjoy the simple pleasures of God’s creation but let them not lead you away from the more important disciplines of prayer, study of God’s word and worship. Let pleasure lead you to a pursuit of God rather than away from Him; let the pleasure of a beautiful book or a piece of art or a lovely scene lead you to worship the God who created these.

Honestly, when we are truly following Christ, there is no pleasure that is greater than that of hearing from Him and communing with Him. Just as a stomach filled with good, healthful food keeps us from the craving for junk food, so also the pleasure of knowing and following God and enjoying the genuine pleasures that He has provided, will keep us from those that are sinful. Such a person is truly at rest - healthy and satisfied.

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@andrew92 That is a very good point about whether or not the thoughts are glorifying to God! I think that it’s often a very individual thing. I know some Christians who cannot read or watch almost any romance because of the thoughts they struggle with. While other Christians could watch more and not have any bad thoughts. While I do believe some movies/books are totally wrong for a Christian to watch, I think there are many where it may depend on the Christian and how it affects them.
Thank you for your thoughts! I agree.

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@KMac, Kathleen, thank you so much for sharing! Your words are very encouraging to me. I like what you said about the difference between rest and escape. I think a helpful question when it comes to rest is "Am I going to this thing for satisfaction/contentment/etc? I thing that enjoying entertainment or anything else should come from a place of satisfaction, not a means for satisfaction. We should already be content and satisfied in Jesus, and whatever activities we choose should just make our joy overflow!
Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post!

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@tonyabthomas, thanks so much for sharing! I was really encouraged and inspired by your thoughts. And I appreciate you sharing from The Screwtape Letters. I have heard so much about that book, but never read it. I just ordered it from the library now!
I like what you said about every activity we do should lead us to worship God. I think that is such a personal thing for each of us. Someone may feel that sense of awe and worship through being out in nature, or another person might feel it from watching a musical. God is so creative, and I feel confident that he loves when his children delight in his creativity!

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hello this question fascinates me because it belies our human tendency to fall back on our own performance as the means to attaining acceptance / sanctification as opposed to grace! I marvel at the clever ways in which the enemy has so formed our thinking that even legitimate joys of everyday life come under the “funsucking” scrutiny of the law. I say that with all the authority of a mother of three grown children, having suffered the humiliation of that accusation myself on more than one occasion for not recognizing the essentiallity of the ingredient of joy in the evangelisation and education of my own children.
The great fallacy here is that somehow anything that brings us delight humanly speaking is in conflict with God’s will or is somehow “unholy” .
Some of the confusion can certainly be pinned on our modern system of marketing because it isnt difficult to find products or advertising in the marketplace that are marketed as so good that they are labelled “sinfully delicious” or some other such phrase, with the underlying implication that anything enjoyable must therefore be so wrong that it is sinful!
If one stands back from the counter far enough to disengage from the narrative being suggested, it is easier to recognise this as a tactic of the evil one himself.
Naturally I make the disclaimer that anything that contradicts the clear commandments of Christ and the ten commandments is not to be in any way endorsed as allowed. But we are not talking here about breaking His commandments, of which the two greatest have to do with Love.
By way of responding in the spirit of Liberty that Christ Himself commonly imparted to those who sought His presence and message, I would like to compare it to a marriage relationship. When one is single one is free to do as one chooses. Whereas a married person, while free in many respects, has chosen to forego certain freedoms to commit to that one relationship. Depending on the couple this may entail more or less enfringements. For example, a farmer may need his wife to sacrifice her love of travel to help him on the farm, a choice
she freely makes in order to support their lifestyle. Another lifestyle may mean other sacrifices. What they are isnt as important as the greater question of what serves the highest good in the relationship.
So it can be applied here, we are the bride of Christ; each with our specific gifts and calling. Whereas for someone like Ravi who delighted in extensive reading, God was better served by this inclination, and God Himself bestowed on him the blessing of great pleasure in this reading as the very means by which he could sustain it at such great lengths and draw from it in turn as an enriching part of his ministry. Someone else, a parent such as myself, might end up spending more time in the park, or watching movies as I spend time with my children. It isnt so much the activity but the relationship and the commission of God on our individual lives that determines what is permissable. As St Paul says all things are allowable (lawful) but not all things are expedient. Whether or not one may enjoy a movie or a “secular” lawful activity is really irrelevant. Its not the right question to ask. Because as the beloved bride of Christ, He is with us in EVERYTHING we do, and therefore it is acceptable and sanctified already! There is in fact, really no activity for us that is secular anymore since we bring Christ into it by our very participation! The real question is to have the deep assurance and close walk with Him to ensure that His Spirit leads and remains with us in whatever activity we choose to engage…and this is even more critical to grasp the essentiality because those very activities may be the means of evangelisation and witness to those in our circles that may not be particiants in so called “Christian” activities and therefore would not otherwise be reached for Christ. Remember that Jesus Himself associated with tax collecters and sinners was called a glutton, because most often he was found engaging in eating drinking with them, at parties and the like…but always with the fixed focus and desire of revealing the ardent love of the Father, the good news to those within His hearing. Enthusiasm itself derives from the Latin “En Theos”; to be In God. Whatever we do therefore, the real question and priority should not be whether or not it is somehow “spiritual” or religious, but whether or not we enter it with the conviction of love and with the spirit and companionship of Christ leading us. Such conviction and joy is the most irresistable witness and the richest blessing to our own lives as well, which Our Lord undoubtedly desires us to delight in, as His beloved children.
And that, when it comes right down to it, it true religion after all.

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Thank you very much for that very insightful post, Random Mom! And a very warm welcome to RZIM! I’m new as well. :slight_smile: This whole thread has been very helpful, personally speaking. Not to get too into my own situation here, but one reason it’s been helpful is that presently I’m in a situation where I work 10 hours a day and on my days off there’s a lot of down time.

Part of that is spent listening to bible studies and reading scripture. The snag, lately, has come as I re-evaluate how I should actually be spending all that downtime. Entirely in prayer and bible study? Is leisure time spent solely engaged in something not prayer/bible study related alright? Of course I don’t mean going out and getting sloshed at a pub or watching patently ungodly movies (have actually become a documentary person over the last several years, any way). “Hyper sensitive conscience” is the term I’ve heard before. ha ha

Again, thank you very much for your post. This whole thread has been helpful.

In Christ!

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@RandomMom Your response was so helpful and encouraging to me! Thanks so much!!!

@BretG So glad it’s been helpful to you too!

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What a great question! And ditto to all said here so far. I used to struggle with these questions as well and now that I am in my 40’s and a bit more comfortable with my motivations in life, I can safely say that I do just about anything that I want and I don’t think any of it is wasted. When I garden, I don’t feel guilty that I am spending that much time on my own hobby. My relationship with God is such that I am always aware that I am working in his beautiful creation, marveling at its intricacies, and aware that I am creating spaces that will give others pleasure as well as glorifying God in its natural beauties. The work is good for the body and soul and is also great time for fellowship with the person that occasionally helps me. Many activities are this way.

This is so true, and how I approach every activity every day. I will minister when called and when opportunities arise, and I will relax when I feel tired, and play when I need to play, etc. Our souls need to be refreshed, our minds need to be nurtured, and our bodies need to be cared for. We need to have good relationships with others and to be generous and loving. We need to live for God in everything that we do.

As far as secular vs “Christian”, I had the thought that we should not attempt to limit all of our activities to what could be labeled as Christian because we would lack a whole experience. Do we enjoy art, food, gardens, music done by non-Christians? Their talents are God given just as much as any Christian’s. God’s beauty is in almost everything in spite of the corruption of man and it is ok to enjoy it. Having a good relationship with our God will help us to be discerning as will the Spirit so that all things can be kept in balance. God made this world for us to work in and filled it with an abundance of things for our pleasure. He did not create so much beauty for nothing. :wink::hugs::deciduous_tree::hibiscus::sunflower::leaves::mushroom::blossom::herb::mountain_snow::beach_umbrella::star2::rainbow:

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@gchop Your words are so encouraging to my heart! Thank you for taking the time to write this! I totally agree with everything you said, and I’ll be thinking on it in the coming weeks.

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