I’ve been wondering recently about abundant life. I mean, really, what is it? No one I know thinks it is material wealth, so we’ll just dismiss that out of hand. Is it happiness? Popularity? Beauty? I’m pretty sure that’s a no, nope, and nada respectively.
I know a 96-year-old woman who is living in a nursing home and is physically too weak to get out of bed. She grins when you visit and tells you how glad she is to see you and what Jesus is teaching her. When you leave, you feel—loved.
There’s a mother who used to come to my practice, a large African-American woman of strong opinions and the wife of a Baptist preacher. Their children are all grown now. I miss her and think of her often. She always treated me like I was the most important person in the world—not because she needed my help and skill as a physician but because her life was full of Jesus and it spilled out of her. One morning I saw three social disasters in a row and when I walked into room four and saw her there, I felt like I could release my burden for just a moment. I leaned back against the exam room door, closed my eyes and let out a long sigh.
“I’m so glad to see you.”
“Dr. Cooper, what’s the matter?”
“The world is broken and in need of redemption.”
She just smiled widely and said, “That’ll preach all day.”
I laughed and she hugged me before telling me about her kid.
I think these ladies have abundant life.
As I was thinking about abundant life, I thought I’d go to the source. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV. There is a duality in this verse that I’m sure has been pointed out by others many times before. Satan steals; Jesus gives. Satan kills; Jesus gives what? Life! Satan destroys; Jesus gives life how? Abundantly.
There’s another parallel that’s I’ve recently begun to see.
I come face to face with immense tragedy on a daily basis—clear evidence of the enemy coming to steal, kill, and destroy lives. This is not exaggeration. In the past week, I’ve had a very handsome 15-year-old teenage boy sneaking out at night to meet an adult man at Waffle House. He looked stunned when I mentioned that Atlanta was the center for child sex trafficking. I had a 17-year old whose first cousin and best friend committed suicide. He wept in my arms. I talked to another young man, a former-sort-of-still patient, who told me about the day his father left the family years before. He fought to hold back tears. There was the college student who is daily numbing the metaphorical gunshot wound to his chest with marijuana and the high school senior, six weeks from graduation, who is expecting to be kicked out of school on Monday. A family came into my practice Friday for their very first visit with no idea that their five-year-old daughter almost certainly has autism. I had to tell them the news and change the course of their imagined future. An hour later, a newborn came in for his first visit and I found Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. Another was sexually molested. There’s always ‘another’. It is my immense privilege to help these people, to love them.
I’m beginning to believe that abundant life is a life of walking with Jesus such that His life spills out of you and into the lives of others, but that’s not all it is. It’s also painful. It costs us something to walk with Jesus. It costs us something to help another human soul. In order to feel the joy of making a difference in someone else’s life, you must also feel their pain. Holding pain and joy simultaneously in your heart is not easy. It is difficult and it hurts and you wish it would go away; but in order to heal their hurts and pains, to rescue the perishing and care for the dying, we as Christians are called upon to dive into their wounds with them and show them that they are loved unconditionally. Yeah, it costs us something, but it’s necessary to pay that price in order to reap the reward of seeing Jesus change lives, to know that you were a tiny part of healing another’s heart-wound. It’s also beautiful and rewarding and abundant.
I don’t claim to know all the answers and there are certainly more aspects to the abundant life than this, but at least part of it is loving another human soul with the love of Jesus because it is spilling out of you. That is the abundance of Christ’s love overflowing.
Jesus, did the same for us, didn’t he? He feels our pain and sees our brokenness. When we go to him, he just holds us and loves us–abundantly.
Jesus, I feel sad today and I’m not sure why except for the overwhelming losses I’ve seen this week. How do I hold it all?
You don’t. You were never meant to hold it. Just like my life flows through you to them. Their griefs are to flow through you to me. Their pain and wounds are not for you to hold onto but to absorb and pass to me. It is too much for the human heart to bear.
“casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I Peter 5:7 NKJV
You can’t know the joy of loving others without Jesus; you also can’t bear their pain without Jesus.