Stop Striving and Start Thriving
We live in an insanely fast-paced world. Most of us barely finish one thing before careening into the next. On top of that, there’s an awful lot of pressure to not only succeed, but to look amazing while you’re doing it. Like it’s no big thing. Pinterest-worthy baby showers with handmade everything, sweaty workout photos and your latest vegan creation proudly displayed on Instagram. There’s nothing wrong with those things of course, and they could be honest portrayals of a life well-lived and well-loved. But often, many of us are striving so hard to make it look that way, when behind the scenes, all we really want is to be thriving for real.
Is thriving even possible? I believe it is because the Bible tells us so, and it also tells us how. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. (Is anything good ever easy?) But it’s definitely possible–the key is to make the choices that will release you into more.
To begin with, let’s start with a couple of working definitions. According to dictionary.com, ‘strive’ means to struggle vigorously (as in opposition) towards a goal; ‘thrive’ means to prosper, succeed, grow, and flourish. Striving is pushing forward against the wind. Thriving is having the wind in your sails to propel you forward. Frankly, I’d much rather thrive!
But what does thriving look like?
Now, I’m not much of a plant person, but I’m going to use a plant analogy here, because I think it works really well. Let’s consider the attributes of a thriving plant:
First, it’s healthy. You can tell it’s healthy because it looks that way on the outside; it’s green (full of life), vibrant, and its leaves are broad and open to receive the sun and the rain.
Second, it’s growing. It is regularly watered and fed, and is protected from ‘predators’ like insects, weeds, and other obnoxious plants trying to get all up in its space. A thriving plant also needs an environment in which its roots can grow. Not only must the soil be healthy, but it must extend far enough beyond the plant for the roots to spread out. Potted plants stop growing if the pot is too small.
Third, it bears fruit. It flowers and makes seeds…it produces more of its own kind.
With this analogy in mind, let’s move onto those seven choices that will help you stop striving and start thriving:
- Choose to Pursue a Healthy Lifestyle. Your health matters. You are here for a purpose and a mission, and the Father paid a high price for you. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Take care of your body, your mind, your soul, and your spirit. Feed them all healthy stuff. I’m not saying I’m there yet, but I want to look alive, vibrant, like the picture of health, and like someone whose outward appearance reflects a whole and healthy person on the inside. Not everyone is blessed with good health. But even those with health struggles can nurture and encourage themselves to function at their own optimal level.
- Choose to Embrace Both the Sun and the Rain. Nobody likes hardship, sadness, grief, injustice, or pain, but the rainy seasons of life have the ability to teach and grow us just as much as (or even more than) the good times in the sun. And by ’embrace’ I don’t mean you need to love it or invite it in, but accept it as part of your journey and sharing your sufferings with Christ. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
- Choose to Protect Your Growing Process. There are all sorts of things out there that will stunt your growth. Temptation, sin, apathy, laziness, offense. Negativity–your own, or someone else’s–is a sneaky one, but it fosters an environment that makes growth nearly impossible. Discouragement, fear…you get the picture. These are all pests that will either eat you up or crowd out your ability to flourish. Be on your guard! (1 Peter 5:8)
- Choose the Healthy Soil. “Bloom where you’re planted”–thriving in whatever circumstances you are in–is great, but it does matter where you tap your roots. God alone must be your source. (Psalm 73:26) And you need to be in an environment that encourages growth. Not your physical address, per se, but the things and the people you surround yourself with–your support systems–should encourage you to grow.
- Choose a Bigger Pot. Regularly step out of your comfort zone. Try new things, go new places. Put yourself in positions where you can be challenged to go further and grow further than you have before, emotionally and spiritually. Allow yourself to dream more and listen to God’s voice. Chances are his dreams for you are bigger than your own!
- Bear Fruit! Fruits of the Spirit will inevitably be present in your life when you are thriving, but here’s a good example of how practicing and imitating something will eventually cultivate the real thing. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal 5:22-25)
- Plant Seeds! Make Disciples! This is really twofold–first and most importantly, we begin to thrive ourselves when we are sharing the Gospel message and leading others into new life. We thrive when we do this, and we do this when we are thriving. Secondly, when we are healthy, whole, thriving people, we can lead others into thriving as well. It’s the transformational, replicating power of Jesus. It’s sowing and reaping, reaping and sowing.
The relentless pursuit of knowing God alongside embracing who you are to him, who you are through him, because of him….that’s what thriving looks like. Ironically, the more and more we look like Jesus, the more we become our true selves, who we were meant to be. I’m so passionate about identity and thriving because I believe this is a key element of God’s Kingdom coming to earth–people thriving, living their lives to the fullest, being who they were created to be, doing the things they were created to do.
There is so much more I can say on this topic, but I’ll save that for another time. So how about you?
Are you ready to stop striving and start thriving?