When the scene opens in Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, all living creatures, and man and woman. He then pronounces it all good. It was perfect.
The very best part of all that perfection was the in person, face-to-face, close relationship God had with Adam and Eve. He had no lists of rules for them to follow, no “to do” lists of work to do for Him, no lists of “shoulds” – just Him and them in relationship. He loved them immensely, and they Him.
But then something horrible happened. Satan told them God was withholding something good by telling them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that there was still one more good thing they could have, if only they would just take it, even though God had told them not to.
But it wasn’t something good – God never meant for them (or us) to have that knowledge of good and evil and to have to struggle with trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong. He intended for them to live in freedom and innocence, and to be in the kind of relationship with Him where He would tell them what to do, or not to do, as they needed to know it. He wanted them to eat from the Tree of Life instead and experience Abundant Life!
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from that tree, their innocence died. Suddenly they were aware of evil and they experienced shame – a feeling God never intended for them to ever experience. And now, since evil had entered their world and their very beings, God could no longer relate to them face-to-face. They had to leave their beautiful perfect Garden and live by lists of rules and work hard to survive, and no matter how hard they tried to be perfect, they knew they weren’t and they felt shame. The worst part was that they no longer had the kind of relationship with God where they could talk with Him in person, and He with them. They would struggle, doubting His love for them, questioning His actions – and then feeling more shame for their doubts and struggles. Sound familiar? Those struggles were passed down through the centuries right to us.
The Good News
The good news we are celebrating this coming Easter weekend is that Jesus died to pay for all that shame and evil that entered our world the day Adam and Eve sinned. He then rose from the dead to conquer the physical death that also entered our world that day. Although physical death is still a given, we will actually never die, as Jesus said in John 11:25, “The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” At the death of our physical bodies our spirits will be set free to again be with God in His physical presence, where we can talk to Him face to face!
But Jesus didn’t come just to restore this relationship after we die, or to just give us an extraordinary life after death. He also came to restore our direct access to God now, even if we can’t see His face, and to give us extraordinary life now. He told His disciples in John 10:10 that He came so that we can have life, and have it abundantly – to the full!
Why the Struggle?
If all this is true, though, why do we struggle so much with this life? Why do we get so bogged down with our lists – the lists of right and wrong, the lists of “shoulds,” the lists of things we need to do – all lists that bring us shame because we can never, ever check every item off those lists to perfection?
I believe it’s because we lose sight of the most important gift God ever gave to humans, and the gift Jesus came to restore: a close relationship with Him. We try to have abundant life through our human relationships, by our efforts to live for Him, by doing everything just right, or by filling our bank accounts. But all of that is idolatry because we’re trying to find abundant life through those things, rather than through Him. He wants us to simply bask in His presence and in His love and trust that He’ll provide all that we need, as we need it – even knowing what is right and what is wrong.
Some of the shame many singles struggle with, especially those who wish to be married, is wondering why they are still single. Is it because they haven’t trusted God enough? Is it because of sexual sin, past or present? Is it because they haven’t prayed exactly right? Is it because they haven’t figured out God’s “perfect will” and missed meeting the Right One?
I assure you it is none of these things. God has a plan and purpose for our lives, and the most important aspect of His plan He gives to all who will accept it – a close relationship with Him. Everything else pales in comparison – human relationships, careers, ministry, success, health, knowledge, recreation and pleasure. All these aspects of life vary from person to person in unique combinations that create frameworks for His purpose and plan to be fulfilled in our lives. When we allow our relationship with Him to grow and deepen, no matter what that framework is, we will experience the abundant life – life to the full!
Will the abundant life be free of struggles and difficulties? Of course not. But the closer we grow in relationship with God, the more we’ll understand those struggles and difficulties from His perspective, and when we don’t understand, experience the peace of simply knowing that ultimately they are His divine appointments for good.
No Shame, No Condemnation!
From your responses I know many of you are already living the abundant life, even without a spouse or family or the things that others think are of utmost importance to having a great life.
And from your responses I know many of you are struggling to find abundant life. I just want to leave you with this to ponder as we celebrate Easter: have you fully received the gift of a deep relationship with God that Jesus died so that you could have? Have you chosen to focus on your relationship with God above all else? That’s the only way to experience life to the full – fuller than any human relationship, ministry involvement, or bank account could ever give you.
If you’re not there yet, or struggle to stay there, remember this: there is no shame in not being there yet – just a loving Heavenly Father smiling and beckoning to you, inviting you into an ever deeper relationship with Him.
Have a most Blessed Easter, celebrating the Abundant Life – a wonderful gift from your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus, who willingly laid down His life for you.