We moved into our home here in Virginia during the middle of winter. And it was cold. We had spent the previous six months on the coast in Florida, so trading flip-flops and shorts for winter coats and gloves was quite a shock. I have always preferred being barefoot, but that winter I wore slippers everyday for the first time in my life. We experienced several days of snow–an exciting gift for our southern raised children. Nothing was blooming, the ground seemed dead, and every tree had bare branches.
There’s this one tree in our backyard, tucked into a corner near the back gate. The leaves are always green, the kids love to climb its low-hanging branches, and it provides a good bit of shade. I love it. And during those cold frosty days, when everything else seemed void of life, this tree was fully alive.
She not only sported beautiful dark green leaves, but after a few short weeks, little pink buds started to appear. I watched those buds almost every day. I wanted to witness the first open flower. Sure enough, just as winter was making her way out, this tree burst open with the most gorgeous pink flowers.
There was extreme cold, frost, and barrenness when suddenly an abundance of life and beauty appeared.
This tree depicts beautifully what I have found to be true of the Christian life. We experience pain, heartache, troubling relationships, exhausting circumstances, loss–even death at times–and yet in the midst of the brokenness of this life, we are still able to experience vibrant life.
We are able to dwell in abundance.
Abundance isn’t a place or a condition. Abundance is found in a Person: Jesus.
Realizing that abundance comes from Jesus isn’t usually an easy road. That would be nice, though, right? “Give me all the wonderful things, and Jesus comes with them, right?”
Psalm 66:12 says:
You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
For the Israelites, the abundance came after the hardship. They were slaves in Egypt and then spent forty years in the wilderness before God brought them to the Promised Land. The psalmist recognized that even though God had allowed difficult circumstances, He brought them out.
Sometimes we have to walk through dark times and deep waters before we’re able to know, accept and dwell in the abundant place. I have experienced the closeness of Jesus most clearly in the valleys. In the face of weakness and inadequacy, I have come to know the precious presence of God. He showed me His power, His love, and His nearness to me in the midst of my brokenness. He brought me through troubles and out to a place of abundance because He brought me Himself.
In John 10, Jesus says,
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus came to give us an abundant life, but He had to give up His life in order for us to experience the abundance found in Him.
Perhaps this is why Jesus said that we have to lose our life in order to find it. It’s in losing–both when things are taken from me and through willful surrender–that I realize what I have gained. Not earthly possessions or comfort or an easy way. But in losing all that I hold dear I gain the One who is to be valued, esteemed and treasured above all else.
Remember that tree in my backyard? She holds brilliant pink blooms and wow, is it gorgeous. But she doesn’t stop there. Eventually the petals drop as she surrenders herself again to the changing of seasons. The winter is coming with its cold and harshness. But even as the petals give way, falling to the ground to be crushed and eventually die, an abundance of beauty covers our backyard.
Just as this tree provides an abundance of beauty as its losing its leaves, we can experience abundant life in the midst of brokenness. We can walk with purpose and joy even while wiping fresh tears from our eyes. We can have the hope of life in the face of death. We can experience fullness in Christ regardless of our circumstances. Loss is gain and when we grasp that the presence of Jesus is worth far more than any other thing, we have found the abundant place.