What's in a Word?

Maybe it's because it's January, with it's cold, drizzly days, and frosty winter mornings, but I have been in a particularly cozy mood. A mood which led me to download The Little Book of Hygge by Mike Wiking on my Kindle reading app, and see what all of this hygge (which you apparently pronouce something like "huuga," but which I continue to hear in my head as "higee") business was all about. In a nutshell, it's the coziness factor. Think candles, warm lights, fuzzy blankets, good friends, comfort food...you get the idea. These are all things that I already liked, but would have referred to as "cozy" instead, things that provided feelings of contentment and warmth. It's that sense that you get when your ice cold toes suddenly blaze with warmth while snuggled under layers of blankets and comforters. This is hygge.

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

It sounded all well and good, and whatever you wanted to call it, I saw nothing in the book that raised an eyebrow. But then I listened to an interview with the author, in which he said something that made me stop in my tracks and wonder if a Christian really had any right to get behind this particular word or idea. While explaining that over indulgence in decadent desserts, candies, hot chocolate, and alcohol was a facet of hygge, he mentioned that some might say that hygge is about "sinful pleasures." Woah. Say what? 

Let me be clear, I see absolutely nothing sinful in a warm blanket, in a cup of hot cocoa, or in enjoying the companionship of like-minded people, but when it becomes an idol...watch out. According to Wiking, hygge is not only a word that is unique to the Danish people, but it is incorporated into everything - the way you feel about a setting, the types of food you enjoy, and the people you choose to hang out with. Wiking even says that hygge is to the Danes what freedom is to Americans. And that is the danger point, isn't it? Because I know what the idea of freedom can be to Americans, and I know that it can quickly become an idol, just like safety or money or yes, even comfort.   

In Isaiah chapter 2, we see that God will not give up His worship to anyone or anything. He alone is worthy of praise, and He alone is worthy of our worship. If we want to walk in the light of the Lord (Is. 2:5), then we need to set aside anything in our lives that takes the place of Him. "The arrogance of man will be brought low, and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear." (Is. 2:17-18) When I began reading The Little Book of Hygge, the ideas seemed innocent, even good for supporting mental and emotional health, but the author's comment during his interview, tossed aside as if it was nothing at all, showed me that there was something deeper to this. And it wasn't necessarily something I wanted to embrace, as a Believer. 

It's the heart attitude that "sinful pleasures" are okay if it makes you feel good, that is the issue for me. In 1 Peter 1:14-16, the Lord is quite clear in what He expects from us, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" Can blankets be holy, or good smelling candles, or that slice of caramel apple cheesecake that you've been saving for later? No, but neither does it make them bad, in and of themselves. They are still just things, after all. God is looking for His people to seek Him in all things, and to find joy in His creation - but because they see Him in it, not because they worship the created things themselves. However, if hurting and broken people can find tangible warmth and comfort in our home, then those fuzzy blankets and good meals suddenly have a much bigger purpose than just a passing sense of hygge. They are a part of our worship, becoming a tool for contributing to the needs of the saints and practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Is it really as small as the nuance of a word (hygge vs. coziness), or is it something much deeper, that allows us to see a larger purpose in our candles, blankets, and large pots of chili? Am I hoarding blankets because they make me happy and warm, providing a sense of hygge, or am I willing to share them because I want those the Lord brings our way to find physical comfort, a listening ear, and words of Biblical encouragement? I know, I know...we're talking about a blanket, a hot drink, a silly candle, but even the smallest of items in our possession must be viewed as a tool for the Lord to use, and not merely a temporary earthly comfort, to be held for ourselves alone. What makes hygge - or anything totally focused on self - wrong for a Believer is the idea that it's all about us. John 3:30 is a continual reminder to me that Christ must become greater, and my selfish desires must become less. If being comfortable and cozy is more important to my happiness than breaking out of my comfort zone and obeying God, then we can begin to see where the problem lies. 

By all means, enjoy the cup of tea...while reading God's Word. Snuggle down in a fuzzy blanket...while chatting with a friend online about what God has been teaching you. Splurge on the slice of cake after your meal...but get a second fork for the friend who needs a listening ear (we can listen better with our mouths full, right?). Bottom line: It's not about the idea or even the application of it, but as Christians, it should be our goal to "live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God's will." (1 Peter 4:2)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!


  1. Such a good perspective, Carrie. I love how you tied this to that passage in Isaiah. Anything can become an idol, especially physical comfort! It's not bad in itself, but it's so easy to start making more of it than we should... to focus on protecting our comfort and convenience instead of sacrificing and loving and serving others. Hard lessons to practice sometimes!

    1. Very hard lessons to practice! It slips in so easily. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Elizabeth...it's hard to write when it's crickets. ;)


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