So, I have been wrestling with this for a long time. I have found that the longer I am a Christian, the less I feel comfortable enjoying life. Almost guilty if I pursue anything other than my relationship with God.
I have done some exploring and have found many instances in scripture where we are basically told to be happy and enjoy life. I have a habit of appending that idea with ‘…just not apart from Christ’.
Yet I feel guilty trying to relax and trying to just ‘have a good time’. What is up with that?
Guilty and afraid.
My brain knows better yet something has a grip on me. Maybe it’s leftovers from being raised traditionally Chatholic? Seriously.
My Christian experience has been largely negative…because of people, not God. I have been greatly discouraged from trying to find a church home anymore because of all my failed attempts, but feel incredibly guilty about not having one. I want to, I’ve tried many times. I just have yet to find the right group. It always seems to be related to not having the same ‘joy’ as everyone else. I have a deep distrust of emotional Christianity.
I am absolutely open to the idea that I’m doing something wrong, but heck if I know what.
Are there prerequisites that I haven’t fulfilled yet before I can enjoy life? Or maybe a tutorial on how to do it the right way?
Actually, that would help.
And yeah, I’ve reread this a couple of times and know I sound like a flake, but I’m really not.
My Question:Is it ok for Christian's to enjoy and have a passion for something else besides their relationship with God?
Hi @Joesanch, you do not sound like a flake! You sound like an honest man seeking answers. I often find myself in the same boat so I am looking forward to reading some responses. Thank you for sharing your struggle. I am lifting this up in prayer now I trust the Lord will speak to you, myself and many others who feel the same way.
Well, I think I can definitely relate to your struggle in finding a church home. I have a similar experience, in that I have a Catholic background and am attempting to find a church home in the Evangelical world. Although I’m drawn to the doctrines of the Evangelical church and everyone I’ve met there has been extremely nice and welcoming, I don’t really feel at home attending an Evangelical service. To be honest, for me there is something soothing and comforting about the liturgy which provides a quiet anonymity. Although I’m not sure that is a reason to keep attending the Catholic church given that I don’t agree with the doctrines, which makes me uneasy about attending a Catholic service. So, at present, I don’t really feel at home anywhere. The biggest comfort I find is in the Scriptures, which indicate that as believers in this current world, we will feel out of place, but that there will be a future day when, as I heard someone put it, we will be in the place we are supposed to be, doing what we’re supposed to be doing, with the people we are supposed to be with.
Hebrews 11:13-16 King James Version (KJV)
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
It is interesting that you express the comfort you feel about the liturgy. I have attended evangelical services most of my life. I have been looking for a new church home myself. A few months ago I was visiting a friend. She is Catholic and I expressed to her that I had never attended mass. It just happened to be 30 minutes prior to a service and she said well, let’s go. It was absolutely beautiful. The reverence, the choir, the whole service had me worshipping. It was all about Jesus and the message could not have been more personal. I don’t agree with all the doctrine either but I have found myself seeking out Catholic mass.
You are right that as believers, we feel out of place. Our joy is in our salvation and a longing to be with Jesus. We are not at home here.
The scripture in Hebrews is a great example Perfect
Awesome post! Real question and real struggle. I do think that part of your struggle is indeed rooted in your Catholic upbringing, but here are a few thoughts to consider:
Ecclesiastes 3 is a powerful help in this:
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
We do have “times” and “seasons”. Did not our Creator create spring, summer, fall, and winter? We cannot do in winter (in many places) what we can do outdoors during every other season.
I am curious if you are thinking of a specific activity, as that might help clarify what may be giving you difficulty.
I struggled with this as well earlier in my relationship with Christ, feeling as though anything not specifically “pursuing” of Christ in great detail was wrong. At this point, and I am not an ultimate, perfect Christian or human being, I see Christ in so many areas of life that I never did before.
For instance, I LOVE working in our local pottery studio. I love creating, getting my hands dirty, working on the wheel, working with hand building, etc. I actually started this by sending my teen daughters because of how often in Scripture God spoke of being a potter or used that example of how He works in our lives, and I wanted them to know how intimately that God of the entire universe specifically works on them. I am in awe time and again as I enjoy my time in the studio of how incredible our God is – just as I am when I hike outdoors, investigate flowers, laugh at how funky cloud formations can be, contemplate how dogs have as varied personalities as humans do when I work at the local shelter, etc.
I think God gives us likes and dislikes, passions and apathies, and most specifically, enjoyments. Please hear me out on this. I do believe that when enjoyment alone for our own exclusive personal satisfaction is our goal, we may have a problem. However, when we are at a point in our relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we see the gift of enjoyment as coming specifically from Him – just as a father enjoys giving his children things that he knows they will enjoy and their enjoyment brings him pleasure – this is a very good thing. We don’t have to separate our Father at any point in our lives.
Does that make sense? Luke 11 also addresses this idea. " What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
In the context, this is talking about prayer and what God gives when we ask, but the idea of God giving us things we do enjoy (although He does NOT give us everything we want – thankfully so), is a good thing.
Hello, @Joesanch! I don’t see you coming across as a ‘flake’; it seems you’re just a guy who’s trying to come to grips with what’s not sitting well with you. We’re privileged that you’ve brought your struggle to this community. I pray the replies you’ve received thus far have been an encouragement!
First off, I can remember a couple of years ago when I just couldn’t shake a feeling of deep frustration similar to yours. I had two dear friends who were praying with me (actually, it was more like for me because I was so angry at God that I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him directly!), and I found myself yelling, ‘What does He want from me?! If He would just tell me what He wants me to do, I’ll do it!’ So I can definitely relate a bit to where you are coming from.
I wanted to reply with some thoughts on a couple of things that struck me in what you wrote. I don’t say these things with any judgement about whether you’re right or wrong, I just wanted to offer up a bit of what I see. I also fully accept that I could be entirely off-base, so do push back.
Re. guilt, you wrote:
I am curious about how you seem to separate the idea/event of ‘life’ and ‘relationship with God’. That is, it seems (via the guilt) that you feel like you have to tack Christ on to everything…almost like he’s some kind awkward appendage. I don’t know if it actually feels like that to you, but I do wonder what is driving the wedge there. Of course, I also don’t know what you mean specifically by ‘enjoying life’ or ‘having a good time’…maybe there is some aspect of those things for you that Christ is calling you to give up. Only you can know that.
Another question that comes to my mind is, do you experience God mainly as a kill-joy rather than a bringer-of-joy? I can hear you wrestling here against the kill-joy. It’s almost like the guilt’s telling you ‘you’re not doing it correctly…and the most important thing is to do it correctly, or else…’ And then your brain is like, ‘What does that even mean? Can’t I just be?’
The Christian narrative that I believe says that relationship with God is life…and freedom. Knowing God frees us up to enjoy life more fully. Yet, what is it for you that brings on that guilt and fear? What story plays in your head when you’re feeling that guilt or experiencing that fear?
You’re not the only one who distrusts ‘emotional Christianity’! I’m curious, though, how those people who have ‘joy’ come across to you? Does it seem fake…manufactured? Or, if it is real joy, is it a sense of jealousy that you don’t have what they have? (I’ve been in both places!)
I don’t know what your Catholic upbringing entailed, but we all in some sense wrestle with how we were brought up. I was brought up nominally Christian and then really began to grow (i.e. gain intellectual knowledge) when my family began attending a Reformed church. Those two experiences still colour how I see and relate to God, even as I broaden my understanding of different Christian perspectives. (…similar to what @sig mentioned!)
What I’d encourage is an exploration of who God is to you. That is, how do you both understand him (cognitively…what do you believe about him?) and how do you experience him (relationally…what have your encounters with him been like)? Sometimes this can help identify dissonances that we feel.
Praying, brother! All the best to you.
Just some thoughts on liturgy: I was raised in a more non-denom. setting but in recent years spent time in Anglican contexts (college and church) in the UK and then Anglican-influenced settings in North America (some heritage at my non-denom. grad school, as well as interactions within the widely-varied expressions of the ACNA church network). I was inducted into the richness of liturgy which I had previously assumed to be dry, Spirit-less, and ritualistic. While I have witnessed liturgical (and evangelical) church expressions which were all of those things, I have now also have experienced rich and life-giving liturgical church expressions.
I’ve experienced “high” and “low” church expressions, and been surprised by the varied possibilities of expression across these traditions both in the UK and Stateside. I wonder if Anglican-related or perhaps another protestant liturgical tradition might be an interesting avenue for you to explore?
Hi @joesanch, I loved the honesty with which you have asked your question. I am not sure I have the answer to your enjoyment, However, I do feel that there are a lot of ways that we can enjoy life, with Christ, but not smothered by a religious identity.
As for the church, I was baptised and raised Anglican for 20 years. In University I met my husband and started attending the Catholic church. 20 years later, I was starving to know God and began attending a Pentecostal church. I now attend both the Catholic and Pentecostal church on a regular basis. I have struggled with the Lord over where I am to be, and in the end, I feel like he is saying, wherever I choose to worship, is my church. Denomination, doctrine, rules, that is not the important issue, it is whether or not I can find Christ, be led by the Spirit and follow the word of the Lord? I find the Spirit meets me each week regardless of whose roof I am under. His Grace is sufficient for me.
Good luck Joe in finding the answers you seek. My advice, through my own experience, don’t try so hard, Jesus is not difficult, he is love!
@Lizibeth Yeah, it’s funny you mention it, that’s sort of the direction I was headed in! I actually had been attending an Anglican church that has a more Evangelical style service as well as a Book of Common Prayer service, but I’m still sort of feeling it out.
Hello Mr. Joe, Sanchez,
I ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit, and His protection over your body mind and soul…I read you letter–sound for a cry for help…Longing for what you have been missing for a long time…I am not a theologian but I have read the Bible and also looked into my own life deeply…the reason I did that for I wanted to find the answer according to Bible…and compare it with answers I remembered.
In part of your letter you said that you had negative experience with Christians…I want to let you know that Bible is read and understood by different people differently–it is possible that you have been worshiping God with you life for a while and later on you began to worship God with your human understanding of things…helping others in the name of the Lord is a form of worship…
There is a physical realm and there is a spiritual realm…from what I know and have observed I have found that we know very little about any of these realm. Through personal experiences I have learned that LORD GOD, Yahweh–Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, can put of hedge of protection over you…and in an in an instant he could save you and bring you to His Light. But due of extremely complicated circumstances…I have to face a great deal of hardship…the hardship that was much of it was due to human misunderstanding of things.
From the time Lord Called me for nearly ten years were trial and tribulations…through those hardship and tribulation was that I would see the Glory of of Our Lord Jesus Christ–I have cried…and wept…uncontrollably at times–and yet withing those flames of fire of tribulation that I would see the Grace of God, His Light,and His Glory…(it just hit me right now Lord in the burning bush that he called Moses…didn’t He?..I also remember Him saving Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–Lord was with them in the midst of fire–to make a long story short Lord would delivered me from flames of fire: When I asked why he allowed the hardship His answer was simple: to show my Glory…and prove your innocence–so you could say I was Saved by Powerful hand of LORD God, and saved by Grace of God our Lord Jesus Christ.
Not long this passed October…2019 when Lord put an end to a long search…the answer might surprise…it is simple…your salvation comes from LORD God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and your free in Christ Jesus and not alone for you are the temple of God…Please read Psalms 90…John 1:4, John 1: 9–at the beging He was our dwelling place at the we become his dwelling place…in Adam the dust of the earth, in second Adam from Heaven above. The first Adam Saved by the Second Adam, Please read Isiah 9:6-9…And also remember what Lord told us you must born again…born of Spirit, and water to see the Kingdom of God…He did not tell us born a second time of man or woman.,He told us born of Spirit…that is how we could truly worship God.
Jesus told us I am the Shemesh, the serving Light, the center light, the light of the world…no man is the light of the world but Christ that came from Heaven, the ethereal Son of God. Read Isaiah 53: the promised Messiah… Read, once again Genesis Chapter 1, read it in original language…it help us understand the bible better. Read Psalms 72:6…
Read John 10: 28
…No one can snatch from my hand the one I have saved.
Lord Bless you and keep you.
Abdul Wahab Saifee
No you are not a flake; but like most people I suspect trying to make sense of our life while here on earth.
I keep a journal I call ……“Been Thinking About” My entry dated 08 Feb 2017 I wrote: “In the autumn season of life I find myself reflecting upon family and friends who have been so much of my life (Purpose); for better or worse.”
May I be so bold to suggest for your consideration; that happiness only comes from a personal relationship with “Jesus Christ”; and if you are relying on people (family and friends) for happiness while on earth; this will be fleeting and temporary at best if Jesus Christ is not central to all your earthly relationships, and especially in Church; which often is a source for misunderstandings as to what people believe.
So my prayer for you and those people who are important to you is that Jesus Christ is the source of your joy, happiness, and most importantly your Saviour. while time permits with those who you love and love you.
See John 14;6 1 Cor.2:16 Matthew 10:28
Love to you my brother
Greetings Sir Joe! First I should like to encourage you to continue to be introspective, sharing truth no matter how we feel about it with God and surely with the Ekklesia. Now you might be surprised at that word, but I used it on purpose, for you see, do not assume that what you enjoy and probably what is not found in your local church is what was practiced in the first century Church, you and many others should be surprised at what a ‘real’ church is or what it means to be Christian. This has alot to do with your question/perspective, it might be that what you enjoy and pursue, God is right there with you and wanting to share it with you for what I have come to experience is joy, amazement, wonder beyond compare. I love adventure, stories like Lord of The Rings, Star Wars and I live my life with excitement and fun knowing God is in the midst behind it all! No one from my local churches comprehends this, they never read about organic church, pagan Christianity (both from Frank Viola) please research. What about The Sacred Romance from John Eldredge? Read it! C.S. Lewis knew of the Sehnsucht, which is what you are experiencing, he alluded to it in The Chronicles of Narnia. My friend, you are on the precipice of an adventure that God is unravelling. Just because you might believe Christians might not understand or enjoy something, doesn’t mean what you are feeling doesn’t have God in it, I certainly would say He is there and you should continue to seek Him with all your heart! Peace n Grace my friend! PS as always I have oh so much more to say, but I hope this tidbit picques your curiosity, n you start your adventure of discovery!