A common hashtag on social media is #livingmybestlife. It is a way to let viewers know the image or post represents contentment, even if it is just in a simple moment on an ordinary day. The tag is still in use, even this year! It communicates gratitude and suggests that what we see is how life should be—at least for the author of that post in that moment.
As we move toward closing out this unusual year, we have to acknowledge that very little has happened “the way we want it” or even “the way we think it should.” On some level, we are all going to breathe a sigh of relief when we make it to 2021, and rightfully so! Surviving this year is no small feat but we also need to be ready to wake up on January 1, 2021 to a world that looks very similar to December 31, 2020.
Turning the page on the calendar won’t magically change our circumstances. Unlike Daylight Saving or Standard Time, there is no date on the calendar marked “normal life begins.” But if January 1 is not a date that will automatically make our lives better, then what are we waiting for?
For followers of Jesus: nothing.
We can already have the life we were made for. The Kingdom of God is in our midst (Luke 17.21) and defined by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14.17). It’s hard to see it in the world around us, but then again, we don’t look to the world for those things. To get a picture of how we were created to live, we only need to open to the first pages of the Bible and see the life God had in mind for us, the intimate relationship between God and humanity.
The Garden of Eden is just one example of life in the Kingdom of God. Some of the ancillary details are obviously different today: we have expanded our vocational options beyond horticulture and we now value fashion as a social norm. But what Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden—unhindered access to the Father—is what Jesus still offers us.
When Jesus tells us in John 14.6 that he is the life, he doesn’t just show us how to schedule our days or give us a flowchart for decisions. He is the primary example of Kingdom life that we should follow, but he isn’t the only one. What makes him stand out is that he actually gave his life so that we could live fully and abundantly (John 10.10). None of my other role models can say that.
At the risk of sounding mystical, Jesus is the only role model that lives within us. He is constantly available to guide our thoughts, actions, and words. His life lives in us (Galatians 2.20). When we study the gospels, we see that his life is a truly remarkable life!
Jesus talked more about the Kingdom of God than any other topic when he walked this earth. Unlike modern geopolitics, a kingdom in the first century wasn’t defined by geography; it was marked by authority. A kingdom was “the rule and reign of the king.”
That’s the paradigm for the kingdom Jesus was talking about and had already brought (Luke 17.21). The remarkable life that Jesus modeled for us—one of righteousness, joy, and peace—is the life of the Kingdom. It is one that operates by and under the authority of God. It is the life we were made for even in this world, as broken and dark and far from Eden as it may be.
We are far too easily pleased.C. S. Lewis
If we have been longing for our pre-pandemic lives to return so we can #liveourbestlives, maybe we are expecting too little from our creative and Creator God. C. S. Lewis wrote in his essay, “The Weight of Glory,”
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
What if our lives B.C. (before COVID-19) were equivalent to making mud pies in a slum? While the promises of God are certain, the only way we can partake of those promises is if we intentionally live them.
We have to be willing to stand up and walk away from our mud pies, get into the car, and take the required time to travel to a seashore we haven’t seen yet. The full and abundant life of the Kingdom is not meant to be passively observed. We are invited to actively participate, not just when we reach our destination but also on the road trip along the way.
Life in the Kingdom is far greater than our wildest dreams, but we enter it in the context of a dark and fallen world. The life God has for us comes at a cost. It has been paid in full on the cross by Jesus, but part of knowing his power is sharing in his suffering (Philippians 3.10). The same power that resurrected him is the same power he lived on while he was here in the flesh. And it is the same power we can tap into today to live our best lives.
What does this have to do with the worship songs we sing?
Depending on how you use the songs, maybe nothing or maybe a lot. But it has everything to do with living a life of worship.
The Psalmist tells us we enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise (Psalm 100.4). In a year that has felt overwhelmingly difficult at times, we may want to put an asterisk on it with the note, “worst year ever.” Some of us feel like we haven’t entered any place besides our own homes for a long time! For those who have lost loved ones due to illness or senseless violence, that footnote might even be a headline. “Grateful” is not our primary emotion. Yet . . .
There is a special kind of worship that God treasures when we thank him for being who he is while we are still in the middle of our grief. There is a unique depth and value when we worship from a place of pain, a depth and value that can not be manufactured when life is “as it should be.”
We don’t have to hurry up and heal up in order to worship him. He prizes our whispered sacrifice of praise when we are at our lowest points. He cherishes every step of the journey as we walk with him through the chaos and confusion. He rejoices with us when we choose to rejoice in him despite our situation.
Our best life on earth is not characterized by comfort, although there will be more of those moments than we expect! It is evidenced by the presence and power of Jesus overflowing from us to the thirsty world around us. Worship—regardless of what we are doing or how we are feeling—empowers us to be his ambassadors, inextricably yoked with him and often without trying . . . simply because our lives in him and his life in us speaks louder than our words.
And one day, we will fully live our best lives in his unveiled presence.
Worship with us
So take some time today to get ready in his presence for your best life here on earth and one day in heaven. Remind yourself of who is walking beside you. Set your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, and—for the joy set before you—join him to face any challenges ahead as you move closer to the life He created you to live: a life of unhindered access to God.