Whether it’s playing the guitar, cultivating a garden, or upcycling an end table, we all have activities we enjoy. But for some reason, we often feel a need to refrain from such pleasures or add a religious element to justify the use of our time. However, Trillia Newbell, author of Enjoy: Finding Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts, thinks we’re coming at fun the wrong way. We recently sat down with her to find out more about how Christians can begin to get it right.
In Touch Magazine: So why write a book about enjoyment?
Trillia: I wrote the book because I love God and love people and believe that as we learn to rightly enjoy Him and all He has given to us, our eyes will be fixed on eternity, where we’ll be delighting in Him forever.
Too often, we make God’s gifts about us and not about Him. Focusing rightly on the gifts as they are—gifts—helps take our focus off what we have or don’t have and turns our hearts to the One who has given us all we need. The central message of the book is that we have freedom to enjoy all that God has given to us—namely, Himself.
ITM: You’ve said, “Enjoyment isn’t about us. It’s about God.” Could you explain what you mean by that?
Trillia: As we look to enjoy life, we’re really seeking to remember the Lord. I think we neglect Him, and throughout our day it’s easy to eat our lunch and overlook the fact that it, like so many things, has been provided to us by a loving God. In Psalm 103, David says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Of course, he’s talking about salvation, but there are so many benefits that God has provided. That’s why I believe ultimately our enjoyment is about the Lord and remembering that He is good, He is gracious, and He is the giver of all things.
ITM: So why do we Christians have such a hard time allowing ourselves to enjoy things?
Trillia: I think we get tripped up over language. The word fun is nowhere in Scripture, after all, so it can be difficult for a lot of people to see the word and think, Wait a minute, does the Lord have fun? I think He does. In April, when everyone was obsessed about the giraffe that was giving birth, I thought about God creating the first giraffe. How much fun must it have been to think up an animal with short legs, a long body, and a long neck! He had to have enjoyed that immensely.
The Bible tells us God delights and rejoices and that when He created every element of our world, He called it good. What fun it must have been for our Maker to create the ocean and all of the amazing animals in it. So when it comes to misunderstanding fun, the fault isn’t His; it’s ours. And I think it’s partly due to the fact we don’t have a category for it in our language.
Too often, we make God’s gifts about us and not about Him.
ITM: Let’s talk about work, which is not something a lot of people call fun. But it wasn’t the result of the fall. God works for the joy of it, and He instructed Adam and Eve to tend and make as well. How do we recover that sense of enjoyment in our work? And how do we make it sustainable?
Trillia: The biggest problem is, we’re looking for something to complete us. We’re looking for something that will be our ultimate calling. We’re always being told, “Follow your calling. Follow your heart. Find something to fulfill your every need.” Work will not do that. We need to understand this. So we need to re-evaluate and approach work differently.
Maybe work is hard or draining. We may not necessarily want to go and sit at a computer, but are there other aspects we can find that are enjoyable? Maybe the fact that it’s part of the way we are being provided for brings us joy. Or perhaps there are relationships within our office we can develop. When we stop looking to the labor itself to be our source of fulfillment, we are free to find enjoyment in it.
ITM: For most people, the opposite of work is play or even rest. You believe that we have a tendency to make an idol out those words. If these things are truly good, how can they go bad so quickly?
Trillia: We humans are pendulum swingers. We can make rest an idol, and that can be part of the reason why we grumble at work: because we don’t want to be there. Or we can borrow money for a vacation that we ought not take, because we idolize vacations. There’s a number of different ways that we can make rest and play into idols.
When we stop looking to the labor itself to be our source of fulfillment, we are free to find enjoyment in it.
Idolatry can be tough to pinpoint until something happens to the thing we value most or the thing we’ve placed our hope in. For some, work is such an idol in that it not only hinders the enjoyment of rest; it also becomes difficult to actually enjoy the blessing of work. God tells us to have no other god before Him. When we go against this command, it will only take away our true joy.
ITM: The first question of the Westminster Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is, “To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That’s easy to say. But what does it actually look like in real-world practice?
Trillia: I don’t want to just give a list of how-tos. I can’t tell you exactly what you must do in order to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Yes, we must accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, but beyond that, I can’t tell anyone, “This is what your life must look like,” because we’re so different! God has given us different gifts, different desires, and different loves because that delights Him.
However, I will say that Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth is a good place to start: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whatever we’re doing, we should do it with contented, restful, thankful hearts. Ultimately, what it looks like is fearing the Lord, worshipping Him, and walking that out in the way that God has called us. One day, it will all make sense, and we will be able to enjoy Him with a pure heart, rejoicing, asking Him all the questions, and being completely and totally satisfied. Until that day, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling and do our best to walk—and work and rest and, yes, even play—fully submitted to Him.
Photography by Jeremy Cowart