Dr. Connie Befus
Seriously? Doesn’t it sound presumptuous to enjoy God? Well, no. The Westminster shorter catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Hmmm. I think we understand the “glorify God” part. Even if we don’t always do it, we know we are to live our lives in a way that honors God in our behavior and in our thoughts. But … is it supposed to be fun? We know we are unworthy; we know we often fall short of God’s standards, so … enjoy him?
What does God’s Word say?
Does God’s Word “agree with” the Shorter Westminster Catechism?
Not too surprisingly, yes, it does.
Psalm 28:6,7 says: “Praise the Lord for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”
Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”
The night before he died Jesus told his disciples, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9-11)
And the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church (from his jail cell!), “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Clearly, we are to enjoy the acceptance and forgiveness of our salvation in Christ. And we are to enjoy the presence of the God who is always with us. So how does one go about enjoying God?
Clues from enjoying what he has made
Let’s take some clues from how we enjoy the things God has created.
God created us with our senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, sensation. And he created us with the capacity for pleasure in using those senses. He created many things that please us wonderfully: sunrises, sunsets, the world of nature, sounds of music, birds … the taste of coffee, blueberries, chocolate … It is no accident that we deeply enjoy these things. God, the creator, made his world for us to enjoy, and made us to enjoy his world.
James 1:17 assures us that “Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” Every wonderful taste, every sound we love, the warm, furry bodies of our pets, the affection and laughter of people we love—these are gifts. Not only did God make them, but he made them for us to enjoy.
So, one of the ways we can consciously begin to enjoy God is to intentionally enjoy the gifts he has given us and focus on enjoying them as from him. And we can thank him as we enjoy his gifts—which probably means we’ll be doing a lot of thanking.
As we enjoy one of God’s gifts, it would also be good for us to think about what that gift shows us about God’s character. Savor those blueberries in your mouth … Aren’t they wonderful? What does that sweet-tart taste and the crunchiness of fresh blueberries tell us about our Creator? Isn’t it interesting that God made cats and dogs to keep us company? He made them fuzzy and warm and made them to purr or bark, and to enjoy our company and comfort us. Based on some of the antics of our pets, our heavenly Father clearly has a sense of humor! What else do we learn about him based on our pets and other gifts?
When I give someone a gift, I want them to enjoy it. I want it to meet a need or give them pleasure. I would also like the gift to remind them that I care about them, that I understood them well enough to know what they need or enjoy.
We receive all God’s wonderful gifts whether we appreciate him in those gifts or not. But enjoying those gifts and then extending that enjoyment into an intentional awareness of our father’s lovingkindness IN those gifts is a good first step to enjoying God more.
Clues from enjoying other people
We can also learn about enjoying God from how we enjoy other people in our lives. What is it that we enjoy about a close friend? A partner? A child or grandchild?
Sometimes it is hard to “take apart” why we enjoy someone, but it is usually because we are comfortable with them: we feel accepted and safe. Sometimes we enjoy a person because we share a lot of history together, or a network of relationships. Often, we share certain tastes or interests: music, food, movies, sports, hobbies, being outdoors. We may love the person’s laugh, their sense of humor, a quirkiness in certain behaviors or expressions. Often our joy in someone else’s company is a mixture of all of the above.
Whatever the reasons may be that cause us to enjoy another human being, when we are with them we feel happy or content. And the contentment often bubbles up into joy. Most of all, we feel accompanied, accepted, and appreciated in return. We do not feel lonely.
What we learn from the enjoyment we feel in human companionship we can apply to enjoying God.
Reasons to enjoy God
The whole message of God’s Word, repeated hundreds of times, is that he is faithful, trustworthy, and full of lovingkindness. Does he accept us? Totally. If we have confessed our sins and trusted in the Lord Jesus as our savior, then we live in forgiveness and grace. (1 John 1:9, Romans 5:1,2)
As far as the east is from the west—that’s how far he has removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12) We are far from perfect; we still sin, but he works in our hearts and minds to transform us to be more and more like Jesus. (Romans 8: 28,29; 12:2)
We are always loved—“nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)
There is no one in the whole universe who knows us more thoroughly and loves us better than God himself! In spite of ourselves! Not only should we be grateful for his incredible love, we should relax into his love and enjoy it: revel in it. Nothing that can happen is going to make him stop loving us.
We can enjoy God by remembering these truths, and by reveling in the fact that we are always, constantly, securely loved by our God—who only wishes us good.
Enjoying God’s presence
Another way to enjoy our wonderful, loving God is to remember that he is always with us, and “tune into” his presence.
The promise that God is always with us is one of the most common promises in his Word (so I won’t list them). But we often forget about his presence. We get involved in what we are doing, what we are thinking about …
However, we can train ourselves to remember, to pay attention to God’s presence, to focus our thoughts on him. That’s what I mean by “tuning in.” It requires some mental discipline to remember to focus on and enjoy God’s presence with us, but it brings an incredible reward.
In Jeremiah 29: 13,14 God said to his people, Israel, “Then you will come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord…”
What an incredible promise. Our Lord promises that if we focus on his presence, reaching out to him in our hearts and minds, he “will be found” by us. Being consciously aware of and in our Lord’s presence gives us confidence and joy.
How can we increase our enjoyment of God? What does God’s Word say?
- We can intentionally enjoy each and every gift God gives to us: small and large. We can savor them, appreciate them, thank him for them, and think about what that gift tells us about his character.
- We can enjoy and revel in the glorious safety of our salvation. No one can condemn us, or take away our eternal life. Nothing in all the universe can stop God from loving us. We can relax into his love the way a toddler snuggles into the warm embrace of his mother.
- We can focus on and enjoy the presence of our loving Lord. If things are hard, he is with us to provide comfort and strength. If we enjoy something he is with us in that enjoyment. He is like—or better than—any person whose company we enjoy.
Does God really want us as friends and companions who enjoy his company? The amazing thing is that he does! He has gone to enormous trouble to create us, and then redeem us, so that we can be in relationship with him. He wants us to experience joy in that relationship.
We are not equals, of course. He is the mighty creator and we are mere humans. But God has invited us into an intimate, trusting relationship with him.
If the Westminster Shorter Catechism is right, then we are to enjoy God—and do so forever. We probably ought to begin now, don’t you think?