God, Fun, and Happiness, part 1

Isn’t God fun?

I’d be surprised if you didn’t at least raise an eyebrow or crack a smile at that question. Humans don’t tend to describe God as fun, and so that question might seem humorous, silly, or even irreverent. But I do mean it as a serious question: Is not God fun?

I’m guessing most people, Christians included, would hesitate to affirm God as fun. Holy, yes. Powerful, yes. Loving, yes. Fun? Hmm…not sure about that.

But I believe those feelings point to one of our most persistent and damaging misconceptions about God. We too easily believe the rumor that God is a mean old codger, incapable of having fun except to maybe prevent others from having much fun.

Unfortunately, this misconception is reinforced by the behavior of certain religious types: always serious, rarely smiling, and usually upset that something’s not quite right. They claim to know God, but it seems they can’t recognize and appreciate the perfectly good things that God has given them to enjoy.

I rankle every time I hear a religious person denigrate the idea of having fun. Granted, they are often trying to make valid points with which I’d wholeheartedly agree: fun is not the most important thing, fun can turn harmful in a hurry, and the pursuit of fun should never be used as an excuse for reckless or destructive behavior. Still, we shouldn’t criticize fun just because it has the potential to be turned into something bad. And we should think twice before squashing fun in the name of holiness, for we might actually be putting ourselves at odds with God.

So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This will be food for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it—I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed. (Genesis 1:28-31 CSB)

God has woven enjoyment into the very fabric of human existence and fulfillment. He didn’t simply create a world in which we could exist. God made a delightful world and gave us senses to experience the joys of that world, like the glow of a sunset, the warmth of human touch, the sound of water rushing, the scent of wildflowers, and the sweet taste of ripe fruit.

God also gave us a creative spirit akin to his own, and gave us the ability to make new expressions of wonder out of what he has made. We cultivate, landscape, build, cook, design, compose, and produce using the creative mind that God has given us and using the materials that God has provided for us. And God created us with a built-in desire and appreciation for food, conversation, music, sport, visual arts, games, laughter, and sex.

Of course it’s true that our desires have been distorted, and so we habitually twist God’s good gifts into evil shapes. But God created those things to be good, and no matter how hard we twist them, we cannot fully undo the power and goodness of God’s original design. God always intended for us to enjoy his creation and praise him as the One from whom all good things come.

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:14-17 CSB)

We still tend to question whether God is really fun, and we are constantly tempted by forbidden enjoyment. But when we think of the most fun experiences of our lives, we gravitate towards moments of pure joy, without the stain of guilt, mixed motives, or selfish intentions. We feel no need to hide in those moments; we know God is smiling along with us. It’s in those moments that we are having the most fun.

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