by Jennifer A. Miskov (originally written while living in England in 2009)
What is this abundant life that Jesus talks about?
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, TNIV)
It seems my whole life, or at least my whole adult life, I have spent in search of that abundant life Jesus talks about. Is it to be found in learning about Him? Serving the poor? Giving possessions away? Getting a career doing something that I love? Pursuing my dreams? What exactly does this abundant life look like, and why, even though I have put myself in places where I should experience it, have I seemed to elude it altogether?
After 29 years of searching, just before my 30th birthday, I discovered a satisfying answer. I have come to find that the answer to the questions above is both yes and no. Yes, many of the things I have done have brought me life because I am engaged with God’s heart. When I put myself in a place where I can use the gifts God’s given me, I experience fulfillment. When I have the chance to help others learn, it recharges me. Building this into my dreams and lifestyle will fulfill me in certain ways and also glorify God.
Yet at the same time, if I am not happy now, then an amazing job, a husband, a role in ministry is not necessarily going to change that fact. What needs to change is a new perspective in my own life. Running after my dreams is great and wonderful and important, yet that can never be the sole source of my satisfaction and happiness.
Determining to find and live that abundant life has taken me to many places. The thing I am realizing now is that to find the abundant life Jesus talked about, I don’t need to go anywhere—rather, I need to go to Someone. In Jesus alone will I find that abundant and satisfied life that I have been longing to find in other things, all of which are great but need to complement my satisfaction and fulfillment in Jesus, not replace it.
What does the abundant life actually look like, anyway? I recently had an epiphany: Jesus lived the abundant life. The full life might be a good way of describing it. Imagine 30 years of ordinariness. For the most part, Jesus lived an ordinary and routine life His first 30 years. I would never think to classify the ordinary as abundant. Nevertheless, Jesus lived the most abundant life possible, and the majority of it was just ordinary.
The 3 "Wow" Years
Then He had three “wow” years thrown in there. Now that’s what I think of when I think of the abundant life: being the life of the party by turning water into wine, casting out demons, raising the dead, offering forgiveness to prostitutes. Twelve people followed Him around wherever He went, and He helped them grow in their faith. He spoke to the multitudes. These three years of His life were fantastic, ecstatic, marvelous and abundant. His previous 30 years seem normal in comparison, but because Jesus is our example, we must identify and include those years as part of the abundant life.
Suffering is Abundance?
To top it off, after His eventful miracle season, His final days were filled with rejection from His closest friends, being mocked and ridiculed by people who didn’t understand His great love. He was whipped, beaten and crucified, feeling the absence of His Father when He needed Him the most. So this, too, is part of the abundant life? Am I still sure I want that?
What made Jesus’ life abundant? It wasn’t a life without suffering, a life of pure bliss. But He was always in tune with His Father. This is what brought Him great pleasure and fullness despite the heartaches. Jesus came and fulfilled His destiny, but it wasn’t in fulfillment of His calling that He found the abundant life—it was in His relationship with His Father.
I have spent so many years searching for and coming up empty and less fulfilled in my quest for that abundant life. I have come to the realization that the abundant life isn’t an unending state of bliss and eternal happiness, but rather a full life lived with great joys and deep sorrows, filled with the mundane and the exciting, filled with intimate love and pain. It’s a life that has its source in the Father’s love.
May you be inspired to dive in even deeper to the heart of the Father today, knowing that the life you've always dreamed of is found only in Him.
To learn of a surfing encounter where I experienced the full measure of the abundant life, check out Water to Wine: Experiencing God's Abundance in the Canary Islands