What does Jesus mean when he says he has come not only to give us life, but to give us life abundantly? I've pondered this question more times than I can count. Life is filled with pain and destruction and loss and so many tragic, traumatic things. How can your life possibly be abundant when you've just lost a son to suicide, or you find yourself pregnant and alone, or your daughter has entered into a life of substance abuse, or you find out your husband has a porn addiction, or your wife leaves you for another woman, or you suffer daily with chronic pain or fatigue or a strange illness nobody understands, or you've suddenly lost your home to flood or fire, or you have to forgo medical treatment in order to buy food, or you wake up one day and realize you're neck deep in an abusive marriage and wonder how you got there? I could fill a book with scenarios of evidence displaying lives seemingly filled with anything but abundant living. So why do Christians suffer such atrocities when Christ promises abundant life?
In one of my sociology classes, we studied cultures all over the world. As my view of the world expanded, I began to see a very clear trend. In every culture void of the Gospel, a culture of domination and subservience, of abuse and death thrived. Sometimes the cultures were ruled by the matrons - the female heads of house. But usually, the cultures were male dominant to the point that women and children were possessions. (Bear with me. This is not an anti-male rant.) Women and children were not cherished. They were not respected. They were not protected. They were not human. They were possessions to be used up, abused, and discarded as garbage. However, cultures in which the Gospel was brought in and embraced, women and children were freed from slavery and domination. They became regarded, protected, and even cherished. The culture became safer for all to live. People thrived, communities were built up, and progress flourished. Could this be at least in part what Jesus was talking about? No longer does hatred and arrogance and the evils of men prevail, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ frees us all from such bondage.
Jesus brings a culture of life where once there was only a culture of death. Jesus brings freedom where once there was oppression. Jesus brings fullness of heart where once there was poverty of the soul. Yes, we still suffer the ravages of sin. Yes, death still takes away our loved ones. Yes, people still get sick and deal with devastating illnesses. Yes, people still commit adultery and still abuse the ones they should love most. Yes, people still suffer hunger and deprivation. Yes, tragedy still comes through the ravages of nature. Yes, people still die at the hands of evil men and sometimes BECAUSE OF Jesus. But with Jesus there is the strength and ability to embrace life in the midst of all its devastations. With Jesus there is hope of a better day. With Jesus there is the ability to conquer in our adversities. It is the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But in the midst of all our trials, distresses, tribulations, and persecutions, Jesus' love gives hope when we would otherwise have none. He frees us from the sin and evil of our own hearts. He gives us faith to believe when there seems to be nothing in which to believe. He gives us love to conquer when hate would otherwise destroy. Jesus gives us life and he gives it abundantly.
what seems to be
not always is.
I know the character of my Savior. I trust that he never makes empty promises even while I too often struggle to believe his promise over my circumstances. Do you find it difficult to believe Jesus gives you abundant life in the midst of your adversities? What does abundant life mean to you and how do you believe Jesus fulfills this promise in your life?