I recently joined an industry trade group and was asked what my hobbies were. I struggled to answer. I couldn’t think of a hobby, let alone multiple ones! Do working people actually have hobbies? With all the things that I have to do and a career to conquer, I cannot imagine having a hobby.
Aren’t hobbies for people with excess free time or years of retirement? I have neither. I recently moved to a new town. I’m building a new business. And I’m married with three children at home. Being faithful to the various callings of my life has me busy enough. Adding hobbies to the mix seems unnecessary, if not impossible!
Can you relate to my dilemma? And yet, there seems to be wisdom in having a hobby.
As a follower of Christ, I believe all areas of life are opportunities to serve Jesus, avenues of God’s grace, and experiences to commune with God. If having a hobby can be any of these things, then I don’t want to miss out—and I suspect you don’t either. In this article, let’s explore three questions about hobbies: What is a hobby? What are different kinds of hobbies? How can God use a hobby in your life?
What Is a Hobby? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a hobby is “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” There are three parts of this definition.
First, a hobby is separate from your paid work. It is not part of your job. If you work as a dentist, you cannot say that reading dentistry magazines after hours is your hobby. That violates the “separate from work” principle.
Second, a hobby receives deliberate attention and effort. It is a pursuit you engage in because you mean to. You set aside time, energy, and resources for your hobby. If you don’t spend any effort on your hobby, you are violating the “pursue and engage” principle, so it’s not really a hobby.
Although you don’t pursue your hobby accidentally, the way you discover a hobby may be accidental. For example, let’s say your family visits the county fair. You are intrigued by seeing horses up close, so you decide to make horses your hobby. The initial discovery was accidental, but horses won’t become a hobby unless you plan and purpose to be around them regularly.
Third, hobbies are meant especially for relaxation. In a performance-based culture, hobbies are almost renegade. You should pursue a hobby just for the joy of it. A hobby is supposed to help you unwind and enjoy yourself. If you’re experiencing anxiety, fear, the need for perfection, or anything else that keeps you from de-stressing, then the hobby violates the “relaxation and enjoyment” principle.
Now that we’ve explored the three components of a hobby, let’s look at different kinds of hobbies. There isn’t just one way to have a hobby. People find relaxation and enjoyment in different ways. For some, learning something new is relaxing, while for others, it is not. For some, being active is enjoyable, but for others, it brings pain and strain. Some people find it fun to create miniature models, but for others, the minutiae cause anxiety.
We are all made differently, so we will have different hobbies. The goal is to find one (or two) that meets the criteria for a hobby. To get you thinking about hobbies for yourself, I’ve made a chart of seven kinds of hobbies, their core purpose, and an example of each category. As you read below, pay attention to what appeals to you (some will not). You’ll want to explore the ones that sound interesting. Maybe they’re what your life needs.
|Kind of Hobby||Core Purpose of Hobby||Example of Hobby|
|Relational||Connecting with others||Neighborhood grill nights|
|Physical||Being active||Working out at the gym|
|Altruistic||Serving||Volunteering at a nursing home|
|Spiritual||Growing in God||Silent retreats|
|Vocational||Prototyping future work||Writers’ group|
Many hobbies can fall into more than one “kind of hobby” category and have multiple purposes. For example, you could say that learning to play guitar is educational because you’re learning new skills, but it could also be recreational because it’s fun and refreshing. And it could be spiritual if you’re learning worship songs that help you commune with God. That makes learning guitar a threefold hobby.
Hobbies don’t have to serve multiple purposes to be valuable. However, if you’re looking to maximize your commitment to a hobby, you may want to find one that serves multiple goals simultaneously. Maybe instead of teaching yourself to play guitar from online sources, you join a guitar class with several students. Now you can add the relational aspect, making it a fourfold hobby.
What’s most important, though, is finding a hobby regardless of how many lines it crosses because a hobby in the hand of God is a hobby that God can use. Let’s discuss six ways God can use a hobby in your life.
First, a hobby can be an expression of intrinsic design. You will find that parts of you cannot be expressed or fulfilled by paid work (and it is faulty to think that any job could fulfill all the parts of you). Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Being God’s workmanship means that he created you with certain “ingredients” and “materials” in order to perform good works. He planned out what he wanted you to do and then poured into you the necessary abilities and interests to accomplish those works. Of course, being faithful requires the power of God and Christian character, but the ways he designed you are tracks to run on.
It honors God when you express how you were designed. Sometimes a hobby is the only way to do that. Let’s say that God gave you the ability to communicate your beliefs clearly so that others understand them and even adopt them. But maybe your job doesn’t give you an outlet for that. Are you supposed to quit your job? Not necessarily.
For example, you could begin writing on your own. In time, you might start a blog where you can share your convictions with others. Later, it’s an email newsletter that you’re sending out to thousands of people who are being influenced for the glory of God—all because you paid attention to your intrinsic design and did something about it outside the bounds of your paid work. That’s the power of a hobby.
Second, a hobby can release you from workplace idolatry. As I said before, it is faulty to think that a job could fulfill all the parts of you. Sometimes when young people are new to the job market, they dream of finding their ideal position, one that will satisfy every interest, desire, priority, and ability they have. Or when disillusioned workers grow weary of their current job, they dream of some heavenly workplace that will take away their disengagement once and for all.
But I’ve got news for you, and it’s good news: God never intended the workplace to be our all in all! That expectation is unrealistic and unhealthy—even idolatrous. No one job is meant to satisfy every part of us. The only one who is meant to do that is Jesus Christ, in whom are incalculable riches, immeasurable love, and unending grace. Sometimes the quest for a dream workplace is really the quest for the living Christ, but we’ve misplaced the object of our hope.
Having a hobby can release you from workplace idolatry because when you engage in an interest outside of work, you are saying, “I don’t expect work to be my all, and I’m not going to make work my all!” You are acknowledging there are valuable pursuits outside of work that will never reward you with a promotion, higher pay, or company recognition. You are affirming that work doesn’t define you or own you. You are declaring you were made for more!
A hobby reminds you that you have a different master, so it is a defiance against workaholism. Instead of working in the evening, get your dog ready for the dog show. Instead of beating everyone to the office, meet a friend for breakfast. Instead of working on the weekend, go hiking with your family. Live a different way. Go against the flow. Beat a different drum. And if you make the latter a hobby, drum your heart out!
Third, a hobby can free you from the tyranny of performance. A hobby is for the sake of enjoyment, not performance. Some people will enjoy action sports, playing flute in a local orchestra, or acting in community theater. In these hobbies, performance does matter. But the rewards of a hobby are not dependent on results or outcomes. Instead, the greatest reward is the joy it provides. How many activities do you do just for the joy of it?
In our results-based culture, it is easy to focus on performance. We try hard, then we try harder, then we try our hardest! But hobbies can return us to loving to do something just because it’s fun—and not just a momentary, accidental blip of fun. Remember, we pursue hobbies on purpose, with effort and resources. And the result of that intention is fun for the sake of fun. The expenditures are worth it because we are reaping joy.
Pursuing performance-free activities aligns us with the gospel because the gospel frees us from believing we have to earn anything. We tend to return to trying to earn favor and position with God through our efforts. But the good news of the gospel is that the work of making us right with God was already done by Jesus. In him, we no longer have to do because what needed to be done has already been done! Now we can reap the benefits!
Instead of worrying about results or performance, we can simply be ourselves in the presence of God. He embraces us with a love from which we cannot be separated. We are free to enjoy God for the sheer joy of it because our standing with him doesn’t depend on our efforts. It depends on the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Let the performance-free nature of your hobby remind you of the gospel and what Jesus has done for you.
Fourth, a hobby can be a means of discipleship through which God makes you a better follower of Christ. The reformer Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” When I first heard this quote, I thought it meant that Jesus was the LORD over created space—like Jesus over Pakistan, Jesus over the Pacific, or Jesus over Punxsutawney.
Yes, it means this, but it also means more. Jesus reigning over the whole domain of human existence also means Jesus rules over all the parts of my life: my work time, family time, and free time. My values, passions, and strengths. My ambitions, weaknesses, and dreams. Nothing is outside of the reach and reign of Christ!
As LORD, Jesus is free to use whatever is in your life toward his good purposes. This includes the realm of hobbies. God can use your hobbies to disciple you into him. Maybe you pick up yodeling because it is something you have always wanted to do. But you are afraid that you won’t be able to do it. You bring your fear to him, and he comforts you with his love. He reminds you that perfect love casts out fear and you can trust him. As a result of your hobby, you grow in your relationship with God.
Discipling you in your hobby is a way that God moves beyond the walls of a church building and exerts his supremacy over every facet of your life. He uses the traditionally sacred means to grow you, but he also uses the ordinary and mundane. You can grow in Christ while canoeing and sense the Spirit when spelunking. There is not one inch over which Jesus is not LORD.
Fifth, a hobby can bring vocational guidance. In the definition of a hobby, we learned that a hobby is separate from paid work. So, the dentist who reads dentistry magazines after hours is not enjoying a hobby but rather doing professional development. He is not looking for vocational guidance because he is already working in his vocation.
However, hobbies can shed light on a possible future vocation. That’s how hobbies can be valuable for vocational discernment. Let’s say you currently sell real estate but feel there may be a different career path for you. You’ve always been interested in teaching children, but you don’t naturally cross paths with students during your workday. How are you going to test out this profession?
Try starting a vocational hobby. For example, make volunteer tutoring at an afterschool program your new hobby. See if you enjoy teaching one-on-one. Then, as you progress, ask to teach a group of students. Part of vocational discernment is trying out types of work. Throughout the course of your hobby, you’ll also interact with teachers. Interview them, observe them, and study them. Having this hobby puts you in contact with the ones doing the job you’re wondering about.
If you get into it and realize that teaching really isn’t for you, then you’ve gained a valuable lesson, kept your day job (for now), and learned discernment skills you can use next time. Plus, you probably impacted kids along the way and reaped other benefits of having a hobby mentioned above. That is a big win!
Sixth, a hobby brings rest and renewal. Hobbies are meant to be performance-free, but they’re also meant to deliver refreshment. They’re not just the avoidance of striving but the addition of peace and rest. Hobbies make you feel new and fresh, rested and relaxed. If rock climbing is your hobby, it may challenge you physically, but you feel more alive doing it. As a result, you’re ready to return to the world as a new person.
Eric Liddell was a missionary to China who eventually died in an internment camp. He literally gave his life for his vocation. But before that, he was also a competitive runner who won an Olympic gold medal in 1924. He is known for his famous statement, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
He made that statement before he won his medal, before the Olympic stands cheered him on, and before the newspapers printed his exploits. Liddell felt the cool breeze of God’s pleasure when he ran. Running alone on the road—sometimes in the rain, sometimes in the dark—Liddell knew he was pleasing God when it was just God and him in his hobby. This is what it’s like to be refreshed by your hobby in the hand of God.
In a hobby, you surrender your need for perfection, performance, and position. They don’t have a hold on you anymore. You allow Jesus to be your savior, the Spirit to be your guide, and God to be your father. You receive his invitation to friendship and his permission to surrender. And after you’ve been refreshed, you’re ready to return to the world where performance and position and perfection do matter.
After stammering through my lack of hobbies, I’m convinced I need one. The next time someone asks me what my hobbies are, I want to have an answer. How about you?
Hobbies, in the hand of God, help us to express our intrinsic design, release us from making too much of the workplace, and free us from the need to perform. They can grow us spiritually, direct us toward future vocations, and provide rest and renewal. Hobbies can even align us with the gospel.
The real question is not, “How can I afford to have a hobby?” but rather, “How can I afford to not have a hobby?” It is a way to open an extra avenue for God to work through. So, as you’ve read this article, which hobbies have been on your mind? What kinds of hobbies are worth looking into? How can you move ahead? Who can help you?
Whenever we try to set an intentional goal, obstacles can get in the way. In this case, we may worry about finding the time, making arrangements, or having the energy to start a hobby. Or perhaps which hobby to choose isn’t clear. Whatever your obstacles are, ask God to help you to know his will for you concerning hobbies. I believe he’ll make a way.
Bring your desire to him and ask him to remove the barriers. Also, enlist the support of accountability partners. Share with others that you’d like to have a hobby and explain your reasons why. Then ask them to help you be faithful to the commitment you’ve made to your hobby, not just to work more and let it crowd that hobby right back out. That may even give them a desire to begin a hobby for themselves!
Remember, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” May God use every part of your life for his ultimate glory, including your work and hobbies.