A seven-year-old climbs in the minivan after attending a birthday party. “Did you have fun?” his mother asks. A star quarterback tells the after-game interviewer, “We said at halftime, ‘We’re too uptight. Let’s just go out there and have fun, and we’ll win this thing.’” An employee is asked by his friend how the new job is going, and reports, “Good! I’m having lots of fun.”
It goes without saying that all of us relish an enjoyable time, an experience that leaves us smiling and energized. We would much rather rejoice than suffer; celebration is always preferable to despair. But is “having fun” the be-all and end-all of life? Should all episodes of our daily activities be weighed on the fun-meter, so we can repeat the most pleasant and avoid the unpleasant?
Among the last pieces of writing that the British novelist and professor C. S. Lewis—a cheerful man, to be sure, even a bon vivant—ever completed was an essay for the American magazine Saturday Evening Post entitled “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness.’” It came onto the newsstands less than three weeks after his death in 1963. He argued that a right is “a freedom guaranteed me by the laws of the society I live in”—e.g., the right to use public roads, or to collect on a lawful debt. But many other things are outside such guarantees. “A right to happiness doesn’t, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to get good weather whenever you want to have a picnic.”
Now a half-century later, I wonder how many of us have gotten into the habit of assuming we’re placed on this planet to “have fun”—and if on a given day or week or month we’re not feeling the warm buzz of enjoyment, we’re somehow being cheated. It is all too easy to postulate that something’s wrong, our rights are being trampled, the world is messed up and treating us unfairly.
The same Jesus who came to bring us “life … to the full” (John 10:10) also said plainly, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). His disciple Peter took the long view when he wrote, “The God of all grace … after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
Our calling is more substantial than just to have a jolly time. A high fun factor should not be used to justify all else. E. Stanley Jones, the American missionary evangelist who invested more than six decades in colonial India with all its heat, disease, poverty and inconvenience, wrote, “You and I are made in our inmost being for positive achievement—to be outgoing, to master our circumstances, to create. If we are not positively creating and producing, the machinery of life will get out of gear.”
He told about a watchmaker who kept all his watches up and running whether they were needed to tell time or not. Why? “In order that they may be kept in better condition.” Jones followed with this advice: “Learn to be passive before God and active before people. Take in from God as you live in the passive voice; then give out to others as you live in the active voice. These are the two heartbeats of your life.”
No wonder his book was entitled Abundant Living.It sold more than a million copies—in the midst of World War II.
The abundant life we crave is found in doing what God put us here to do. When we fulfill his agenda, when we are productive according to his priorities, when we give and serve others, guess what: Most of the time, it actually turns out to be fun.