It’s been a long day, so you get home (or off your work desk) and the first thing you do is plop onto the couch and reach for the remote (hey, that’s us too, no judgment). Just a few episodes, we tell ourselves. I just need a breather.
It’s okay to relax, really. Not only did God make us for rest, He also gave us the creativity that’s enabled us to come up with all these entertainment choices. We love a good story that inspires us, a fun game that helps us relax and connect with friends, upbeat songs that put us in a better mood – all these are good to have and enjoy!
As we think about all these interests, let’s dig deeper and talk about what’s really driving us to seek entertainment – what are some of the real needs and desires we have, and what they might say about the way God created us.
Here are three needs we’re trying to meet through entertainment:
1. We need a break
This is really the obvious one. Life is tiring, and we just want to take a break from thinking about all the things that we need to do. We also want a break from the boring sameness of our everyday, and from the endless stream of bad news we get from around the world.
So we run to our entertainment options just to hide for a little bit. When done in moderation and with discernment, entertainment can allow our minds to temporarily rest.
We can forget about work (unread messages, unwashed dishes, laundry) even if just for a couple of hours by tuning into reruns of our favourite sitcom or a few episodes of the latest trending series.
1 Timothy 6:17 tells us that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, and Ecclesiastes lists quite a few verses that tell us to enjoy what we have (Ecclesiastes 8:15, 11:8-9).
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in an episode or two of the latest show to unwind. The important thing is to not let entertainment replace all the other things we need for physical rest – sleeping well, eating right, exercising, spending time with loved ones.
Because the truth is, many of our entertainment options do have an addictive quality to them, which is why it’s hard to stop when we need to (Netflix doesn’t even give you more than five seconds between episodes).
It can also be tempting to keep resorting to entertainment when we’re avoiding something difficult.
When that happens, we need to ask ourselves what it is we’re running from, and ask God to give us strength to face whatever is troubling us.
So as we watch our shows, play our games, or scroll through our feeds, perhaps we can learn to be aware of God even in these moments and invite Him to help us unearth what’s eating away at us and making us perpetually tired, bored, and/or anxious.
Our entertainment can give us a temporary break, but remember that true rest can only be found when we look to and depend on Jesus (Matthew 11:28).
2. We want to feel, but also not feel alone
We have a whole range of emotions, but we don’t always get to “feel” and explore all of them through the things we do.
Which is why entertainment is so attractive – we can get a much-needed laugh from a comedy film, or even a funny reel or meme; we can feel like we’re on cloud nine with romance; we can cry and feel relieved while watching a touching drama; we can get a thrill/rush from action movies, which can help ease some of our pent-up stress.
And then there’s music, which is a wonderful gift we get to enjoy! We not only get to praise God through music, we get to feel all our emotions (and feel alive!) through it. How many of us love bopping our heads to K-pop, or brooding while listening to our “emo” playlist on sadder days?
More than just giving us the “feels”, entertainment allows us to see our hopes and fears played out on screen. We can feel empathy for the characters in a show when we see them go through the same struggles we have – stuck in a boring job, getting rejected for the jobs we want, dealing with annoying friends or colleagues, dating the wrong people and feeling tired and sick of it. Entertainment helps us feel that we’re not alone, and gives us a release for our emotions.
And knowing that our Father created these emotions and welcomes them, we can bring all that we feel to Him and ask Him to help us examine them in light of His truth.
In our laughter, we can thank God for the gift of humour and levity, while also asking Him to teach us to be discerning in what we find funny. In our tears, we can ask Him to reveal the deeper pains in our hearts and how He might heal them. In all our longing for romance, we can pour out to God our loneliness and/or struggle with purity.
As John Piper puts it: “Seek to bring every act into connection with the Lord—to see every entertainment as a gift from God and a revelation of Himself, as a path of worshipful enjoyment . . .”
3. We’re yearning for something more
Many of us also go to entertainment to be somewhere else (or even someone else). We’re fascinated with a world (or worlds) beyond what we see or know, ones that are wonderfully different from ours. This is also why fantasy appeals to a lot of people. Deep within us is this sense that there’s a world that’s bigger and truer than our reality.
This yearning for elsewhere, for more, is also why we find stories so compelling (and is a big reason why entertainment appeals to us). We love stories because they transport us to another world and enable us to explore possibilities and new perspectives (which also explains why there are so many multiverse stories these days!).
Ultimately, the best stories are the ones that move us and help us see meaning in life, especially in people and relationships.
Compelling stories give us glimpses of what’s good, beautiful, and true. We want to be reminded of all the inspiring things people can do, how they overcome their difficult circumstances, how they persevere in their relationships and make them flourish.
That’s also why endings matter – especially happy ones. We want to know that the “pain and suffering” we go through makes sense somehow, that they fit into a bigger picture. And seeing these on the screen gives us hope that what we’ve gone through is “not for nothing”.
Even for stories with not-so-happy endings, we’re moved to think about how “it’s better to have loved and lost”, or “it’s not the destination but the journey”; we want to believe that the story as a whole says something more than just the final outcome.
In its purest form, our deep longings – for elsewhere, for more, for meaning – really point to our soul’s longing for heaven, to be one with God.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 talks about how God has placed eternity in our hearts – that deep-seated desire and drive in us to make sense of life and our place and purpose in it.
Romans 8:19-25 also hints at this deep longing – our hope for redemption, for all of creation (ourselves included) to be exactly how God meant for us to be.
The truest and greatest story that we cling to is that someday, wrong will be made right, and all that we’ve lost will be restored to an even greater beauty when we’re reunited with our Saviour.
The tricky thing about entertainment is not the entertainment itself but the condition of our hearts. The problem comes when our hearts use entertainment to fill the gaping holes in it (Romans 1:25), instead of looking to the only One who can satisfy.
But if we let the good stuff in entertainment point us to God and enable us to see more of His truth, then we can praise and thank Him, even as we ask Him to help us keep our eyes fixed on Him each day.
We have all these desires and longings that You’ve placed in us and that are meant to be good, but we also know how the evil one twists them around and turns our healthy needs into unhealthy addictions.
Help us to always choose to go to You first and ask You to meet our deepest needs, so that we can enjoy entertainment with the right minds and hearts.
This article was first published on YMI and is republished with permission.
- Which part of this article struck you or stood out to you? Why?
- What are you looking for in entertainment?
- What is God saying to you today when it comes to leisure?