by Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Is it wrong to find happiness in earthly pursuits? Sometimes teaching in more traditional churches can make it seem like it is. You worry that your faith is insufficient if you are not constantly, mindfully “[doing] all to the glory of God,” or if your hobbies occasionally interfere with your church attendance.
Alternately, you might struggle with feeling that life is meaningless. If God is sovereign, and has it all planned out, what’s the point of doing anything? Why put any effort into anything on earth, seeing as how it has no eternal purpose?
Christ’s Example for a Purpose Driven Life
The Lord puts us here on Earth for a long time. He must intend for us to do something with that time. We do not see Jesus setting an example of purely religious asceticism. While his earthly purpose was to inevitably die on the cross, he also engaged in ordinary pursuits – meals with the disciples, spending time with friends such as Martha and Mary, and helping people in small, private ways. The New Testament gives many examples of Jesus telling the people he heals not to tell anyone he has done it. Theologians suggest this was because he did not want it to lead to crowds of people clamoring for miracles to detract from the ultimate purpose of his ministry – proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and people’s need for redemption. He was not interested in becoming a celebrity. He wanted to maintain some kind of life for himself.
So what does that mean for us as we go about our earthly lives? It means we need to find a balance between our ultimate duty to the Lord and making lives for ourselves. Christ does not advocate abandoning your entire livelihood or our give up all our downtime to wait for his return. As he said in Matthew, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matt. 24:36 NKJV) Nor does he require everyone to abandon their livelihoods or sacrifice time with family and friend to exclusively pursue his ministry. The only people we see him commanding to give their lives completely over to serving him are his disciples.
Understanding God’s Purpose for Our Lives
While some people are called to give their lives wholly over to establishing God’s kingdom on earth such as international missionaries, many are called to serve God in humbler ways. Society needs the Gospel, but it also needs public services like banks, grocery stores, and auto shops. Even if you’re only capable of volunteering on the weekends, you’re still bringing Christ into someone’s life.
And I’m sure even the most dedicated of international missionaries occasionally take a few moments off to read or play cards or see the sights of the country they’re serving.
Life is about balance. That is why the admonition begins, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do…” (I Cor. 10:31 NJKV) Believers are allowed ordinary pursuits – they are simply encouraged to approach them with gratitude for the God who has enabled them to enjoy them.
Christian Counseling for Finding Purpose in Life
If you struggle with feeling guilty about how you are or are not serving the Lord with your life, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They can help you understand what causes these feelings of guilt, whether they have any legitimacy, and how you can address them. A professional Christian counselor will use biblical principles and therapeutic techniques to help you figure out a way to live a life that glorifies God without guilt.
“Yellow Flower,” FichardBH Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Thank You,” courtesy of appelcline, Image ID 1441782, freeimages.com