The Difference Between Enjoyment and Fulfillment

Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m not a chocolate guy. I don’t like chocolate cake; I don’t care for chocolate chip cookies; brownies don’t really do anything for me. It’s classy, I know, but I’m more of a fruit-flavored candy guy. Given the choice between a bowl of Skittles and a piece of chocolate cheesecake, I’ll taste the rainbow any time. But despite what my consumption record of such candies might lead you to believe, I know that there is a difference between enjoyment and fulfillment.

I enjoy fruit-flavored candy, but I don’t operate under the illusion that my appetite is going to be fulfilled by it. In fact, on the few occasions when I have looked at Starburst jelly beans as fulfilling rather than for enjoyment, the results have not been pretty. Such is the case any time when we confuse enjoyment with fulfillment; the result is that we make ourselves sick. We get sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

For most of us, it’s pretty easy to draw the line of delineation between enjoyment and fulfillment in terms of food: we know that chips are something to be enjoyed, a steak dinner is meant to fulfill. One is about taste; the other is about nourishment and contentment. Now extrapolate that out with me for a second into other areas of life – areas beyond food. For it’s when we confuse enjoyment and fulfillment in other areas of life that we get into deeper trouble, because when we confuse those things, we find ourselves looking at that which might be enjoyable as something that will fulfill. And it never does.

Jeremiah captures this dynamic for us in Jeremiah 2:13:

“For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.”

See? Enjoyment versus fulfillment.

Can you imagine a more self-defeating, discouraging, maddening action than what the people are doing here? Instead of drinking deeply from that which fulfills, these people are trying to carry water in cracked buckets. No matter how fast they transport or how full it seems to be, it always leaks out. There’s never enough to do what they need it to do, so their thirst is never really quenched.

Such is the case any time when we take something that is meant to be enjoyed and treat it as if it were meant to be fulfilling. Plug in whatever you want – marriage, sex, football, money, vacation, whatever – they don’t ultimately hold water because they are here for enjoyment, not fulfillment.

Here, then, is the operative equation: When what is meant to be enjoyed is treated as fulfilling the result is slavery. We need more and more and more from that relationship, job, or activity because we find that it’s leaking water. We demand more and more from it until in frustration we eventually cast it away altogether believing that it holds nothing of value for us.

Conversely, you could also say this: Only those who are fulfilled are free to truly enjoy. And how do we become free?

We become free by coming to the realization that our deepest longings, our deepest needs, our deepest desires can only be fulfilled in Christ. When we are fulfilled in Jesus, we are free to enjoy other things without needing them to fulfill us. We are able to operate in moderation because our deepest needs have been taken care of. Once again, we are free.

So, friend, enjoy the Skittles. Or the football. Or the whatever. Enjoy these good gifts. But know that the only way we can enjoy them is when we are already fulfilled.

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