Most of us live very busy lives. No matter what stage of life we’re in, it seems like there’s always way too many things on our plate. When you’re a student, it’s homework and extracurriculars and part-time jobs. If you’re a parent, there’s always cleaning to do and dinner to prepare and someplace the kids need to be. Many of us work more than 40 hours a week, and when we get to do fun things after work, we’re almost too tired to enjoy them. Yet we are all still chasing a “full life,” as if something is missing.
The last year has gotten me thinking about this a lot, since for many months covid shut the world down and we were forced to stop. I personally took the time to evaluate what things were taking up my time and whether or not I wanted to keep doing them “after covid.” One of the biggest things I learned was that a full life is not the same as a full schedule. Satisfaction and fulfillment are not necessarily found in more activities, even if those activities are good. We can only do so much without becoming stressed trying to manage it all. And the things we choose to be involved in can change with the seasons of our life.
So what does a full life look like? First of all, I think the pursuit of a “full” life is missing the target. We shouldn’t be after a full life, but a fulfilled life. In John 10:10 when Jesus says that he “came that we may have life, and have it to the full,” he meant that he wanted us to live a fulfilled life. A fulfilled life is life as God designed it. Think about it; we say that something is fulfilling its purpose when it is doing what it was intended to do. A chair was made for sitting; it fulfills its purpose when someone sits in it. A shoe was made to protect our feet; you wouldn’t wear it on your hand. It’s the same with people; God created us for a specific purpose, so we are most fulfilled when we are living into that purpose.
What is life as God designed it, then? What is our purpose? For that answer, I’m going to go back to page 1 of the Bible. In chapter 2 of Genesis, God creates the first humans, and they enjoy a worry-free life in the Garden of Eden, walking with God. This is a picture of relationship, of humanity resting in the presence of God and relying on Him. But they aren’t just doing nothing; they’re actually working. Genesis 2:15 says that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden “to farm it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:18 also says “it is not good for man to be alone,” which tells us that we are meant to live life in community with other people. So from the first two chapters of the Bible, when humanity was living as God intended before the Fall, we can see that we are created to:
1) Enjoy a relationship with God
2) Enjoy relationships with each other
3) Do some sort of work in cooperation with God.
Some more insight can be found in the life of Jesus. Jesus’ typical activities included waking up early to spend time with his Father, spending time with his disciples (who were his best friends), doing the work of ministry, and serving those around him in love. I don’t think we’ll live a truly fulfilled life until some of our time and effort is spent serving others as Jesus did. This looks different for different people– some are in vocational ministry, others volunteer on the weekends, and others are in the full-time ministry of parenthood.
Today, I think living life as God intended looks like daily nurturing our relationship with God, living in peace with those around us, intentionally spending time in community, doing the work we have been given well, obeying God without delay, and giving ourselves freedom to enjoy the good gifts God has given us on this earth. Finally, I believe it includes regular REST. It’s clear that God intended us to rest on a regular basis– in fact, it was a commandment for the Israelites to take a weekly Sabbath. If we don’t rest, the work we do for the rest of the week will wear us down, and it won’t be fulfilling anymore.
So give yourself permission to take a break. Cut out responsibilities that aren’t a priority right now. Surround yourself with people you love on a regular basis. Meet with God every day. And I think you’ll find that the work and ministry God has for you become less of a burden and more of a joy– a life of fulfillment.