Recently I picked up a book written by a Christian singer called Barefoot on Barbed Wire. In it, the author recounts her struggle with issues such as fear and inadequacy. It’s a fast read, written simply, and I knocked it out in an afternoon. But it’s a fascinating look at how fear can suffocate even the most outwardly successful of people. The part that really grabbed me came near the book’s end in a chapter called "Bible Thumper."

Here, the author revealed that for most of her life she has been unable to find enjoyment in something as simple as reading a wonderful novel or taking a walk with a friend. Because such things didn’t focus directly on God, she thought, to find pleasure in them was somehow sinful. "I lived with the burden of feeling that every waking moment must be focused only on God and His Word," she wrote. "If I didn’t live with this attitude, I assumed that God would be unhappy with me. If I was enjoying life, I had come to believe, I was probably in sin."

Reading that broke my heart. I know there are thousands of people out there who hold that same misguided belief; I’ve met them in church, on the street, in chat rooms on the internet, in coffee houses—everywhere. If you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you.

Ours is a sovereign God, a God who created everything in the universe, knows everything, is everywhere present, and by His very nature is good. Who else could have sent us such simple pleasures as good friends or a delightful novel, except for God?

God has blessed us all with so many gifts in this life, for us to turn our back on them must break His heart. Imagine a beautiful fall day, with the sun shining, the air crisp and the leaves a brilliant yellow and red—surely our Father has created such a masterpiece so it could be enjoyed by His children!

Can you imagine Michaelangelo toiling on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, only to have visitors see it and respond, "Eh, it’s not so hot." Would that not have crushed his spirit?

Two pieces of Scripture that I just love are John 10:10, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly," and Luke 12:32, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." I think Jesus is talking about the here and now, not some far off time or place. He makes that clear when He says "the Kingdom of God is at hand" and "the Kingdom of God is within you."

We live in a wonderful, richly abundant universe, created by a loving, sovereign God. Imagine if we treated everything—friends, family, entertainment, the forests and fields—as the gifts from God that they are. Wouldn’t you treat them differently? I know I would.

Christians love to use lingo, and "free in Christ" is a phrase tossed around quite a bit. But what does that really mean? If we’re really free, why are so many of us miserable, sour people, unable to enjoy God’s great expressions of love for His children?

The author of this book writes of the worst kind of bondage: "sitting with a knot in my stomach and a Bible in my lap, trying to be pleasing to God and feeling so very unhappy." Would you want such a life for your child? Of course not—and surely God wouldn’t, either.