It hit me on a vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I was standing by the ocean, the waves lapping my toes, as the sun rose quietly on the horizon. Dolphins appeared at just that moment, and I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place to be.
But in a second, a wave of guilt came over me. I’m here enjoying this beach with my husband when I should be working, I thought. How can I enjoy this when other people don’t get to?
The joy of the moment disappeared in a flash and I became anxious to leave the beach and do something. Perhaps this is mostly a Type-A struggle, but I venture to guess most of us have felt guilty for enjoying life. We let this guilt destroy our joy and cease to see our days as a succession of God’s blessings. In reality, God wants us to enjoy this life—but not in a selfish way.
Enjoy Your Work
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. (Ecclesiastes 2:24)
The book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, provides a fascinating look at one man’s view of the world from the end of his life. One of the things he states repeatedly is to “enjoy your toil.” You might think “toil” sounds like the opposite of something we should enjoy! To the contrary, work was created along with Adam and Eve—before sin ever entered the world. God Himself worked six days to create the world. All creative beauty requires toil of some kind.
By enjoying our work, we reflect God’s creative intelligence—a divine characteristic that we’ve received as image-bearers of Christ. That’s powerful! Every time you work well with joy, you’re speaking over your work the same words God said at the beginning: “It is good.”
Enjoy Your World
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. (Ecclesiastes 5:18)
We spend so much time on our phones and so little looking at our world. But when we really look at nature, our communities and the people we know, we can’t help but be astounded by the detail of it all.
God longs for you to recognize and enjoy the beauty of His creation. But like me on the beach, many people hurry off to an urgent task or feel guilty for enjoying God’s creation when others cannot.
By enjoying your world, you are actually able to show more compassion to those who are unable to appreciate it—those who are disabled, impoverished or too wounded to see what is good. By immersing yourself in the joy that is your life, you can bring that joy to others.
Be Grateful and Generous
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)
Enjoying life doesn’t mean hoarding material goods or selfishly using our time to please ourselves. When God blesses us with the opportunity to see, taste and experience our world, we’re left with a big responsibility. We are called to be generous and ready to share with others.
It’s easier to be generous when you recognize that nothing we’re given is really our own. Gratitude teaches us that God is the author of every good gift. When we share with others, we’re only sharing what is already God’s.
Guilt is a terrible burden to carry through life. Instead, walk in the freedom of true joy: a joy that sees God’s hand in everything and thanks Him for it.