Finding abundant life in our shifting circumstances

Written by Jenny Marcelene
Published on July 14, 2023

Fatima tugged her red scarf over her hair as she prepared a rice dish for lunch. She was the only Christian among a family of Muslims. Fatima hadn’t wanted to marry a nonbeliever, but as an orphan, her extended family couldn’t afford to care for her beyond childhood. While her husband and his family were considered modern in their culture and knew she was a believer, they made it difficult for her to spend time with any Christians. And after a couple years of marriage without producing a child, there was talk of a second wife.

Across the globe, while residing in Africa, I received a call with news no one wants. Cancer. The doctors said my mom only had five “quality” years to live. I was twenty-two. I fumbled with the phone as tears slid down my freckled cheeks. 

Around the world, Christian women face a myriad of obstacles—persecution, infertility, family illness—as they follow Christ. But one truth remains the same: all are offered abundant life in Jesus.

A Shepherd and his sheep

In John 10:27, Jesus explains how there are two people in the world: those who listen to his voice and those who do not. 

As faithful followers, Jesus gives us one job: to pay attention to his voice. Or to put it another way, we endure in our faith by clinging to God. As we persevere, we experience rest (Ezek. 34:15), taste his provision (John 10:9), and walk in his protection (John 10:28). 

Choosing to walk this path leads to an abundant life. But the only entrance to this life is through Jesus himself. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture,” (John 10:9 ESV).

But how does Jesus extend this promise to his followers?

The answer is the key to flourishing: Jesus sacrificed his life for his sheep to undo the brokenness of creation. With a world bent on exalting self over God, Jesus paid the price through his loving sacrifice. 

In the book of Revelation, only the slain Lamb—Jesus—is worthy to open the scroll and conquer Satan and his forces forever (Rev. 5:9). Through Jesus’ suffering, he opened the pathway to peace with God and will defeat the curse of sin and evil forever. Jesus blazes the way to victory through his death, and he asks us to do the same. 

This world is filled with those who wish to deceive and lure us away from Jesus, so we must train our ears to hear our Savior’s voice. Just like sheep, we must learn the voice of our Shepherd so we can follow him. As Psalm 66:12b (ESV) reminds us, “we went through fire and through water, yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” 

The offer of abundant life isn’t about comfort, wealth, or control. Jesus describes abundant life as receiving rest amid turmoil, spiritual protection, and provision from him. 

We can walk through any circumstance with confidence because we know our Savior loves us and will lead us to eternal security. Our Shepherd’s ultimate goal is to be with us forever in a redeemed creation (Rev. 21:3). 

Walking in the fullness of life

Sometimes abundant life will not look plentiful to outsiders. Sometimes it may even look like defeat to the world. But an abundant life will delight in Jesus and trust him despite the circumstances. 

In what feels backward, we experience the fullness of life through our suffering. Having a rooted trust in Jesus sparks hope for what is ahead. Victory is sure for those who listen to his voice. And as we die to self in pursuit of Christ, we taste the fullness awaiting us when one day we will lavishly feast together with him (Rev. 19:6–8).

Fatima didn’t want to be married to a nonbeliever. She was heartbroken to be unable to conceive. She didn’t want to live out her daily faith in isolation or have her husband take a second wife. But Fatima’s faith sparkled. An undeniable joy filled her face and marked her days—a joy her in-laws and husband couldn’t extinguish. They couldn’t take Jesus away from her and the rest, provision, and eternal protection he supplied.

God didn’t heal my mother’s cancer, but he deepened her faith and extended her years well beyond what the doctors expected, including watching me marry and have kids. And my mom uses her days to joyfully teach youth girls about Jesus each week.

Our geographic location and culture don’t determine whether we can experience a full life in Christ. We cannot measure fullness by whether our lives look like what we imagined, we have the marriage we dreamed, we possess a plump savings account, loved ones remain healthy, our kids are flourishing, or we’re making the impact we had hoped. 

Instead we can measure it by how we train ourselves to hear and obey our Shepherd’s voice each day. For in knowing and heeding our Savior’s voice, we find what our hearts most long for and need to flourish now and always: Jesus. 

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Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene helps families explore God’s greatness across the street and around the globe and is an aspiring children’s author. Her publishing credits include a variety of print and online articles, including The Gospel Coalition, Gospel-Centered Family, Lifeway’s ParentLife, and Truly. She works as a writer for Oakseed Ministries International. You can connect with her online by visiting her website.

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