Why Can’t I Have a Good Time Once in a While?
ON Friday evenings, Pauline* used to go to Christian meetings. She enjoyed the discussions, but she would sometimes resent the fact that she was there and her school friends were out having a good time.
When the meeting was over, Pauline would pass by a local teen hangout on her way home. She recalls: “Attracted by the loud music and flashing lights, I would press my nose to the window as we passed and longingly imagine the fun they must be having.” In time, her desire to enjoy herself with her friends became the most important thing in her life.
Like Pauline, you may sometimes feel that because you are a Christian, you are missing out on something. You want to watch that TV show all the others are talking about, but your parents say it is too violent. You want to go to the mall and hang out with the kids at school, but your parents call them “bad associations.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) You want to go to that party all your schoolmates will attend, but Mom and Dad say no.
Your schoolmates seem to come and go as they please, attending concerts and partying till the break of dawn without the interference of their parents. You may thus find yourself envying their freedom. Not that you want to do anything bad. You just want to have a good time once in a while.
Be assured that there is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy yourself. After all, Jehovah is “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) And through the wise man Solomon, He says: “Young people, enjoy your youth. Be happy while you are still young. Do what you want to do, and follow your heart’s desire.” However, Solomon then warned: “Remember that God is going to judge you for whatever you do.”—Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10, Today’s English Version.
Knowing that God holds you responsible for your actions puts recreation in an entirely different light. For while God does not condemn one for having a good time, he does disapprove of one who is a ‘lover of pleasure,’ a person who lives only for the next good time. (2 Timothy 3:1, 4) Why is this? Consider King Solomon. Using his vast resources, he tasted of every conceivable human pleasure. He says: “Anything that my eyes asked for I did not keep away from them. I did not hold back my heart from any sort of rejoicing.” The outcome? “Look! everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11) Yes, God knows that in the long run, a life of pleasure-seeking only leaves you empty and frustrated.
God also requires that you stay free of defiling practices, such as drug abuse and premarital sex. (2 Corinthians 7:1) Yet, many of the things teenagers do for fun can lead to one’s being ensnared in these practices. One young girl, for example, decided to attend an unchaperoned gathering of some schoolmates. “The music on the stereo was terrific, great dancing, neat refreshments and plenty of laughs,” she recalls. But then, “someone brought pot. Then came the booze. That’s when everything started to go haywire.” Sexual immorality resulted. Confessed the girl: “I have been miserable and depressed ever since.” Without adult supervision, how easily such gatherings become “wild parties,” or revelries!—Galatians 5:21, Byington.
No wonder that your parents may be very concerned about how you spend your leisure time, perhaps restricting where you can go and whom you can associate with. Their motive? To help you heed God’s warning: “Remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh; for youth and the prime of life are vanity.”—Ecclesiastes 11:10.
Envious of Pleasure-Seekers?
It is easy to forget all of this and envy the freedom some youths seem to enjoy. Pauline stopped attending Christian meetings and got in with a pleasure-seeking crowd. “I found myself practicing all the wrong things I had been warned against,” she recalls. Pauline’s pleasure binge eventually resulted in her arrest and placement in a school for wayward girls!
Long ago the writer of Psalm 73 had feelings similar to Pauline’s. “I became envious of the boasters, when I would see the very peace of wicked people,” he confessed. He even began to doubt the value of living by righteous principles. “Surely it is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself,” he said. But then a profound insight came to him: Wicked people are “on slippery ground,” teetering on the brink of disaster!—Psalm 73:3, 13, 18.
Pauline learned this—the hard way. After her worldly fling, she made drastic changes in her life in order to regain God’s favor. You, on the other hand, do not have to suffer arrest, contract a sexually transmitted disease, or go through the agonies of drug withdrawal to realize that the cost of a ‘good time’ can be far too high. There are many wholesome, upbuilding ways to enjoy oneself that are free of such risks. What are some of them?
Wholesome Good Times
A survey of American youths revealed that teenagers “enjoy occasional family outings and activities.” Doing things together as a family not only is fun but can enhance family unity.
This means more than simply watching TV together. Says Dr. Anthony Pietropinto: “The problem with television-viewing is that, while it may be done in the company of others, it is basically a solitary activity. . . . Yet, pastimes such as indoor games, backyard sports, cooking treats, crafts projects, and reading aloud certainly offer greater opportunities for communication, cooperation, and intellectual stimulation than does the modern family’s passive preoccupation with television.” As John, a father of seven, says: ‘Even cleaning the yard or painting the house can be fun when it is done as a family.’
If your family is not already doing such things together, take the initiative and suggest them to your parents. Try coming up with some interesting and exciting ideas for family outings or projects.
You do not always have to be with others, however, to enjoy yourself. Mary, a youth who carefully watches her associations, has learned how to enjoy her times alone. “I play the piano and the violin, and I spend some time practicing them,” she says. Melissa, another teenage girl, similarly says: “I sometimes spend time writing stories or poetry for my own enjoyment.” You too can learn to use time productively by developing skills such as reading, carpentry, or playing a musical instrument.
From time to time, it is also enjoyable to get together with friends. And in many areas there are any number of wholesome activities you can enjoy. Bowling, skating, bicycle riding, baseball, and basketball are popular activities in North America. You might also branch out and try visiting a museum or a zoo. And, yes, there is a place for getting together and simply playing records or watching a wholesome TV show with fellow Christian youths.
You might even ask your parents to help you plan a more formal gathering. Make it interesting by arranging for a variety of activities, such as party games and group singing. If some of your friends have musical talents, perhaps they can be coaxed into performing a bit. Good food also adds to an occasion, but it does not have to be fancy or expensive. Sometimes guests can bring different food items.
Is there a park or an outdoor area nearby that allows for activities such as playing ball or swimming? Why not plan a picnic? Again, families can share in bringing food so that no one is burdened financially.
Moderation is the key. Music does not need to be at ear-splitting levels to be enjoyed, nor does dancing have to be vulgar or sensual to be fun. Similarly, outdoor games can be enjoyed without cutthroat competition. Yet, reports one parent: “Some youths at times argue, almost to the point of fighting.” Keep such activities enjoyable by following the Bible’s advice to avoid ‘competing with one another.’—Galatians 5:26.
Whom should you invite? The Bible says, “Have love for the whole association of brothers.” (1 Peter 2:17) Why limit your gatherings to peers? Widen out in your associations. (Compare 2 Corinthians 6:13.) One parent observed: “The elderly, though often not able to participate in some of the activities, enjoy coming and watching the goings-on.” The presence of adults often helps prevent things from getting out of hand. It is not possible, though, to invite “the whole association” to any one gathering. Besides, smaller gatherings are easier to control.
Christian gatherings also present the opportunity to build one another up spiritually. True, some youths feel that adding spirituality to a gathering takes the fun out of it. “When we have a gathering,” complained one Christian boy, “it’s, ‘Sit down, get your Bible out, and play Bible games.’” However, the psalmist said: “Happy is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of Jehovah.” (Psalm 1:1, 2) Discussions—or even games—that center around the Bible can thus be quite enjoyable. Perhaps you simply need to sharpen your knowledge of the Scriptures so as to be able to participate more fully.
Another idea is to have several relate how they became Christians. Or add a dose of warmth and laughter by inviting some to tell humorous stories. Often these teach valuable lessons. Some of the chapters in this book may even form the basis for an interesting group discussion at a gathering.
Keep Recreation in Balance!
Jesus Christ was certainly not above having a good time once in a while. The Bible tells of his attending a wedding feast in Cana, where food, music, dancing, and upbuilding association no doubt abounded. Jesus even made a contribution to the success of the wedding feast by miraculously providing wine!—John 2:3-11.
But Jesus’ life was not a nonstop party. He spent most of his time pursuing spiritual interests, teaching people the will of God. Said he: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Doing God’s will brought Jesus far more lasting pleasure than some temporary diversion would have. Today, there is still “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58; Matthew 24:14) But when, from time to time, you feel the need for some recreation, enjoy it in a balanced, wholesome way. As one writer put it: “Life can’t always be jam-packed full of action and excitement—and you’d probably be exhausted if it were!”
Not her real name.
Questions for Discussion
◻ Why do some Christian youths envy youths of the world? Have you ever felt that way?
◻ What caution does God give youths regarding their conduct, and how should this affect their choice of recreation?
◻ Why is it foolish to envy youths who violate God’s laws and principles?
◻ What are some ways to enjoy wholesome recreation (1) with family members, (2) by yourself, and (3) with fellow Christians?
◻ How did Jesus Christ set an example in balance when it comes to recreation?
[Blurb on page 297]
“Attracted by the loud music and flashing lights, I would press my nose to the window as we passed and longingly imagine the fun they must be having”
[Blurb on page 302]
“Someone brought pot. Then came the booze. That’s when everything started to go haywire”
[Picture on page 299]
Do youths who follow Bible principles really miss out on a good time?
[Pictures on page 300]
Taking up a hobby is one wholesome way of using free time
[Pictures on page 301]
Christian gatherings are more enjoyable when various activities are planned and different age-groups are represented