We live in the most transient time history. People are less and less settling down, establishing roots, and finding a meaningful sense of community. If we do, it either only lasts for a short time, or we wait until later in life to look for these things. Even if we are remaining put, there is still that pervasive feeling of unsettledness in our society that affects us all. I am not saying that transience in and of itself is a bad thing. Life events, career changes, and the need to just start fresh are sometimes necessary. What I am saying is that we are living in a strange time and territory where we are informationally more connected than ever before, but we are also more relationally disconnected, lonely, depressed, and anxious than ever before.
We are twenty-first century nomads, not wandering in a dessert in search of provision but rather in the wilderness of superficial-connectivity and distraction. We find ourselves continually let down and disillusioned with the world around us. It makes me ask the question, “What are we really looking for?” I think Jesus has some helpful insight regarding our search for significance, satisfaction, and security. It can be summed up in one word: abide.
The word “abide” is hard to define because it implies both movement and stillness. It means to remain, to stay, to continue on, to dwell, or to be permanent. My personal description is that it does not imply not doing nothing, but rather moving along with a settled spirit. The Greek word the New Testament is menō, and how it's used is really dependent upon the broader context (this will be important to know). One Greek dictionary says that this word menō means “to be in a state that begins and continues, yet may or may not end or stop.” So…it's complicated, but I think it's complex because it deals with our whole spiritual condition that shapes our daily movements in life.
The Gospel of John has a lot to say about the nature and necessity of abiding in Jesus in order to find that sense of wholeness that we all so deeply crave. We are told to abide in Jesus, his word, and in his love, just as a thriving and fruit-bearing branch must remain and stay (abide) in the well-rooted vine in order to have and give life (John 5:38, 6:56, 8:31, 15:4–16). There is one passage, however, that I feel is also important in considering what it means to abide . It deals our longing to be rooted and growing in something beyond ourselves. John 1:37–39 reads:
“The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and noticed them following him, he asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come and you’ll see,” he replied. So, they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon (CSB).”
These are Jesus’s first words in the Gospel of John, “What are you looking for?” He has a way of asking straightforward questions that get the heart of the issue of our longing and looking for something more. Equally as interesting here is the response of the disciples, “Where are you staying?” Guess which Greek word is used for the verb “staying” in this verse…yep…menō. The disciples are essentially telling Jesus, “Look, we are seeking to be with you wherever you are going. We want to abide with you. So, that’s what we want. Now, Jesus, where exactly is that because that’s where we want to be?” Jesus responds with a call movement, “Come and you’ll see.” Jesus gives an invitiation to movement, but movement with him.
I think a lot of our discontentment in life comes from the fact that we are constantly moving without a confident stillness in our hearts because we have simply not found what we are looking for — and we don’t really know what we are looking for. I am proposing that search begins, contiunes, and ends in Christ. This sense of stability, wholeness, and authentic joy is only found when we stay (abide) with Jesus as we are moving along life.
My goal is not to tell you how to abide. We naturally want clear instruction and directions, but as you have realized by now, abiding can be complex. I simply want you to allow Jesus to ask you a question and offer you an invitation that extends to eveyrone wrestling with an unsettled heart in a unsettled world.
What are you looking for? You should come and see what Jesus is up to. Staying with Jesus satisfies our soul’s craving for significance and security. It was designed to be that way.
We are all looking for something, and Jesus says, "Come. Seek. Find."