Alright God, I’m saved. Can I die now?
I stood out on the street at 10 p.m., across from the house where a Christmas party was still humming on inside. My sister and her boyfriend had followed me when I escaped out the door, suddenly overwhelmed by a thought process I feared would overtake me that night:
This seems so empty. None of this matters. It’s like we’re all trying to fake happiness with decorations and gifts and lights.
It was supposed to have been a good night. I had been looking forward to spending time with friends, but now I was standing in the freezing Michigan cold, explaining to my sister that I wanted to die, but she should let me walk home because I’d be fine.
Here’s the thing: I was and am a Christian. I love Jesus Christ. He infuses my life with redemption and purpose. But that night, I wanted to get out of this world as soon as possible.
It was a mindset I’d been fighting for years, and it culminated that evening. It was encapsulated by the teacher in Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Everything is meaningless,” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, ESV). And it was dangerously close to nihilism, the belief that this life has no meaning.
How did a Christian like me ever reach that point?
Over the past four years, it had been fueled by verses in the Bible that demanded I scorn the world I was living in. 1 John 2:15, NIV charged me not to “love the world or anything in the world.” It warned that “if anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This terrified me. I wanted to be full of love for the Father. And I thought I’d found the key to it: hating my earthly life.
More Bible verses like this enforced my cynical mindset. John 12:25, NIV declares that “anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” James 4:4, ESV asks, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”
If that’s true, I thought, I need to be as escapist as possible. I must mentally remove myself from this earth and bide my time until the Lord calls me home. The only thing left to do while I waited was to share the news of salvation with others. But anything besides that in my everyday life— eating, working, sleeping, studying, even talking with friends—felt ultimately pointless.
And that night outside the Christmas party, I reached my breaking point. Where had I gone wrong?
My friend Caroline ultimately woke me up from the false narrative I’d been adopting in my attempt to follow Scripture. I’d been completely misunderstanding the Bible’s commands. I wasn’t just scorning what was worldly—I was hating everything about the world.
1 John 2:15 never asks Christians to hate everything about the world. In fact, the following verse clarifies what we must shun: the sin that taints the world. 1 John 2:16, NIV reads: “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Ephesians 2:3 also explains that loving the world in the wrong sense is “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.”
I had failed to make the distinction between the world and worldliness. And sadly, I don’t think I’m alone. So often I hear of Christians falling into this trap, identifying so much as “foreigners and strangers” on earth that they completely check out, neglecting the gift that is living in this world (Hebrews 11:13). They hold so tightly to their heavenly citizenship that they let go of their earthly joy.
Jesus himself addressed the difference between living in the world and guarding against its sin. Praying for his disciples, he said to the Father: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one,” (John 17:15, NIV John 17:15).
There’s a reason why God desired humans to live on earth and not in heaven. He created the world for them—His special gift. And He declared it good. Has sin tainted parts of it? Absolutely. But is all beauty and meaning in the earthly realm lost? Never.
As I began to grasp this, God further opened my eyes to realize that seeking the kingdom of God first not only involved sharing the Good News but finding ways to love and glorify Him by celebrating this incredible world (Matthew 6:33).
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, NKJV encourages: “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.”
Appreciating the mountains of the Coloradan landscape? That’s meaningful. Making homemade pizza with friends? That’s meaningful. Listening to an exquisite piece of music? That’s meaningful.
These bring God glory. These have a purpose. These little things—these pearls of life—they aren’t just distractions. They are part of the entire point.
These everyday jewels help us look forward to heaven, and maybe just as importantly, they help us appreciate the now.
So, we praise God—for the touch of a hand, the nodding of a sunflower towards the sun, the humming of the bees, the taste of chocolate. We praise Him, and we thank Him that we can love earthly gifts that no work of Satan can spoil.
Taryn Murphy is a summer intern with the Creative Services department at Focus on the Family. She is a California native and currently studies Philosophy and Religion at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Taryn is a singer and songwriter, releasing two singles “Polaroid” and “Oh Darlin’” in 2017. She is passionate about analyzing and discussing the deep problems facing humanity, and treats these issues in her upcoming poetry collection due to be published by the end of 2019.