A: Buddy…all these rules are so confining. How can we have any happiness, if we can’t ever get up to “stretch our legs,” or to “get some fresh air,” so to speak?
B: One of the problems with this attitude towards God’s commandments is the focus on what we can’t do, rather than on what we can do, when we attempt obedience to them. It’s a bit like how P.G. Wodehouse’s well-beloved character Bertie Wooster (portrayed by Hugh Laurie) assesses America in this humorous clip, wherein he contemplates permanent residence in the U.S., enumerating as some of its “advantages” the absence of several people he’d rather avoid. Needless to say, he neglects the vast array of possibilities others may find more intriguing about the place.
In analogizing God’s rules, let’s think of a playing field, where the boundaries are clearly defined, even roped off, so’s to better discourage any trespassing. If ever you go beyond the boundaries, you can no longer enjoy participation in the game, since you’re “out of bounds.”
A: Yes, but the whole time you’re confined to a relatively small space, able to do only a few things.
B: Hold it! Is the boundary keeping people in…or out? You’ll notice I avoided specifying that in particular. In fact, it’s my belief that God’s playing field is far bigger than the dinky, muddy, potholed, polluted mess of a swamp full of divots, pits, quicksand, and other muck that His rules rope off. And yet it seems like the solid majority of mankind would rather choose to be huddled around the outskirts of this area, staying outside only because they at least superficially believe, or have been told, that it’s for their good, yet longingly watching those who have decided to jump the ropes and appear to be happy but in reality are doing little else besides soiling their clothes, injuring themselves, and getting stuck in the mire. In the meantime a relatively few are off choosing instead to enjoy the vast world of other pursuits that God has prepared for them, enabled by staying miles clear of, and in general not even considering, the restraints of the forbidden area.
A: Wait a minute…you’re saying that the so-called “frivolous” lifestyle is actually more restrictive than the religious kind?
B: Have you ever noticed that chain smokers have to excuse themselves every so often to go satisfy their habit? Or that alcoholics are generally unreliable in the mornings after binges? Perhaps you’ve experienced yourself how one little lie compounds itself as other fibs have to be manufactured to cover up the inconsistencies that the original lie implies. As I indicated in that story I shared a while back, the more we indulge in sin, the easier it becomes to do it again and again until we are verily addicted to it. The sin becomes our debtor and begins to claim not just our time, money, and other resources, but also possibly our families, friends, faith, and our very character. The saddest part about it is that unlike in my aforementioned analogy, getting out of the forbidden area isn’t a matter of simply hurdling a mere rope – it seems at times more like scaling a maximum-security prison wall capped with barbed wire, all while shackled with heavy chains. Or perhaps it would be best to compare it to a deep pit – easy to fall into, but hard to get out of.
Contrast that, on the other hand, with the freedom obedience to God’s rules give to us: all that time and other resources are freed to us, for just one thing, giving us in themselves plenty more we can do to help others and ourselves be happy in the way God intended. If we’re not entangled in sin, we become more able to raise stronger families, reach our lifelong goals, and keep God’s commandments, which, recall, lead us most efficiently toward His happiness. Really, a large portion of God’s laws are to warn us away from behaviors and substances that compromise our freedom, so that we don’t have to be enslaved by anything; in general, I believe God would have us avoid any and all addictive practices for this very reason. If we just took some time to dream up all the things that we could do, for ourselves and others, once we eliminated all our addictions and time-wasting activities – the sky’s the limit!
A: What about outer space beyond that?
B: It’s just an expression, ya goob. I guess I should say that our imagination really is our limit. Although that may not even be true itself, since we can always get ideas from others and even directly from God Himself through His Spirit, which may include things we would never have dreamed of ourselves. Indeed, potentially anything that God can do we can ourselves, as long as He allows us to. Only God, then, is our limit. Ironic, isn’t it then, that the world should label a life devoted to keeping God’s rules as “restrictive,” as opposed to its alternative?
Just remember, though – if you’ve been spending your whole life thinking only of doing those things inside the forbidden area, it may take you a while to come up with some things to do outside of it, so you may have to be fairly patient. And if you’re inside the forbidden area and you feel stuck, always remember grace, which gets you “out of jail” – not quite free, but at the more reasonable price of repentance.
Because of this freedom, one can see that obeying God’s laws gives us far more happiness than the world could ever guarantee. The same, by the way, goes for purpose. What can atheism, or the world for that matter, offer us for a purpose, in comparison to the incomprehensible glory that God offers instead? All atheism can do is say that “you can find satisfaction in this life while you’re living it,” which can last only a few decades, after which the satisfaction cannot affect you anyway; God, however, says that “you can experience the immense joy I have by doing the same things I do, and being the Being that I am, for eternity!” Isn’t that a far better hope to have than the relatively meager one the world offers? With this glorious hope, why would anyone choose to not believe in God?