I’ve been striving for as long as I can remember.
As a teenager, I struggled to lose the right amount of weight so that I would feel less invisible and fit in with the popular kids. As a young adult, I pushed myself to take more classes in undergrad than I should have while working full-time. I was disappointed in myself for taking nearly 7 years to earn my bachelor’s degree. One would think that I would feel proud and relieved to have actually earned the degree. Nope. I beat myself up for taking too long.
I wish I could say that my breakthrough came when I earned a Master’s degree in social work and settled into my career. Or, that I was finally satisfied when I became a first-time homeowner at the age of 31. How about when I accomplished a major career milestone: passing the social work clinical licensure exam?
The truth is that none of these accomplishments was enough. Instead, I continued to strive, chasing after the next job, seeking the next big accomplishment.
After years of struggling, chasing, and striving, I have discovered, and live by, three Biblical truths that have helped me change my perspective, moving from striving to thriving.
1. Worrying Adds Nothing To My Life
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
– Matthew 6:25-27
Like many people, I often worry often about the things in the scripture above that Jesus advises against worrying about. I sometimes fear that, as a single woman, something will happen to cause me to lose my job which will, in turn, cause me to not be able to take care of myself.
Can you relate?
Notice that Jesus points out that the birds don’t really have to do anything for their food, other than look for it and enjoy it when they find it. They don’t have to wonder where it is going to come from, or if it is going to be there. Jesus says that the Father values us much more than birds. So, it would stand to reason that if God takes care of birds, creatures who hold some value to Him, how much more will He take care of us who are infinite times more valuable?
This verse also illustrates how fruitless worry truly is, and how it adds nothing to our lives. I can attest to this; in all of my years of striving and worrying, I have never reaped any benefits from it. On the contrary, it has often caused me more pain and heartache than the thing that I was actually worried about. When I remind myself of the futility of worry, I am compelled to replace it with prayer and trust in God.
2. God’s Plan Is Better Than Mine
We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go. – Proverbs 16:9
I mentioned in a previous post that I have a history of being a job hopper. Each time I started a new job, I did so thinking, “this is going to be the one…I’ll be happy here.” But, often times I wasn’t, and ended up changing jobs again soon after. What was going on with me? Why did I often find myself in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction?
I had gotten into the habit of making a plan (i.e. changing jobs whenever things weren’t going my way) without praying about it first. Often times, we’ll pray to God to bless our plans, instead of asking God for His plan to be revealed. You know why you do this. It is because you are afraid that God’s plan is not going to line up with yours. Well, yes, that does happen. But, His plan is still better.
Looking back on those job-hopping days, I am convinced that there were several times when it was not God’s will for me to leave one job for another. God wanted me to be still, to strengthen my ability withstand tough situations instead of following the urge to run away when the going got tough. Still, I followed my own plan, which turned into a cycle of frequently changing jobs and being unhappy.
Now, to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with having a plan. It is wise to think ahead and plan for your future. However, leaving God out of your planning is the worst thing you can do. It is infinite times wiser to pray to God, asking him to guide us in making the best choices for our lives.
3. Life Is Meant To Be Enjoyed
So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 8:15
I love how King Solomon’s statement is the very definition of work-life balance. Think about it. He says that there is nothing better than a life that includes both hard work and fun. For many, striving has become a way of life. We are often on a constant quest to do more with our time, make more money, acquire more things.
As I shared earlier, I adopted a striving mentality early in my life that I carried into adulthood. Although I have had many accomplishments, I cannot recall a time when I ever really enjoyed life during the process of reaching my goals. At times, I was able to convince myself that I was happy with constantly hustling for more but, in reality, I was not.
Today, I am much more interested in thriving right where I am. Sure, there are more goals that I want to accomplish. However, I have realized that life doesn’t begin when I hit a milestone or accomplish a thing. Life is meant to be lived, and I am meant to thrive, during the process of seeing dreams realized.
I encourage you to take a look at your life. Are you really living? Or, are you so busy striving to accomplish the next big thing that you cannot truly enjoy the journey? Sister, you are not meant to live in a perpetual state of striving. No! You are meant to thrive, where you are, no matter how far away your dreams may seem to be. Make a commitment to you, and to God, that you are going to start thriving today!