As you think of what it means to thrive, what is one thing that you would change about your life that would allow you to truly thrive? It might be something to do with relationships or finances, maybe a change in your habits or your personality. We all have ideas of what we would change and many of us are actively pursuing change! What if God’s plan for us is that we would thrive? This may sound a little strange at first, but let me explain.
God created us (humankind) in a context where we were thriving, the Garden of Eden. That was the beginning of the story, the end of the story is actually quite similar to the beginning in that we find ourselves now in a city with that same garden in the middle of it. I sometimes think of this place as the Garden of Eden version 2.0. In this city, technology will continue to advance, we’ll work, go fishing, laugh, and have meaningful conversations. We won’t experience other people making us feel small with their words or actions, we won’t be anxious about the future, we’ll truly belong wherever we go, and we won’t have to try to be something that we’re not. It sounds a little like the best parts of life here on earth and heaven combined doesn’t it? That’s exactly how the Bible describes what happens at the end.
But what happens in between?
Right off the back, we find the first two humans rejecting their humanity and rather than finding life in God, they find life where there is no life. As they began searching for life on their own (and ultimately not finding it), they turned to stuff that God created to be good and because it felt nice, began to depend on those things for life. Though they may have been made as good things, they were never made to bring life. Throughout the Bible, we see people becoming addicts to all sorts of things, groping around for the life they left behind at Eden. God in his kindness mourned for mankind, he couldn’t stand to see us like this, so he put into place a plan to restore us to what we were created to be.
The climax of this plan is when the Son of God makes a permanent transformation into the God-man, being born into the world just like the rest of us. The God-man sought none of the things the rest of us long for externally, but internally he experienced all the things we long for. One might say he was internally thriving.
It was like he was from a heavenly culture and he came down to earth, it must have been a little like culture shock. I imagine that he looked around, saw a leper on the side of the road and was a bit perplexed maybe even thinking to himself, “this would never happen in heaven, why is nobody helping him?”, so he reaches out and heals him. Then he goes to a wedding and they run out of wine and he thinks to himself, “a party in heaven would never run out of wine!” so he turns water into wine. Then he meets a woman that has been bleeding her whole life, she touches him in hopes that he can heal her and she’s healed. He says to her, your faith has made you well.
Jesus’ coming initiates the breaking through of heaven into earth, that the reality of the Garden of Eden version 2.0 has started. The word that Jesus uses for “well” when he tells the bleeding woman her faith has made her well can also be translated “whole”. The Greek word for this word means salvation. Jesus in moving people towards wholeness or thriving calls this process salvation!