Do you ever feel like you are just drifting through life – being tossed around by waves – just reacting – just trying not to drown – just trying to survive most of the time?
I am confident that we will all go through periods of time where we are just surviving – I get that, and I am ok with knowing that. We, by nature of sin’s existence in this world, really should be happy to just survive sometimes.
But, that shouldn’t be the norm. Our lives should not be mere survival. Our Creator didn’t put us on this planet to just try to survive until eternity. We were created to thrive! We are made in God’s image. When you think of God, do you think of a survivor or a thriver?
Surviving means to continue to live or exist in spite of an accident or an ordeal. Sounds pretty sad doesn’t it? Is that how you want the entirety of your life to be portrayed when you die? Jason “continued to exist.” No, thank you.
Thriving means to prosper or flourish. We think of that in a very materialistic way most of the time, but I want to consider more than just prospering materially. Again, think of God.
So, how do we make the switch? Say you’re stuck in survival mode – how do we go from survive to thrive?
First of all, I think we need a better understanding of what keeps us from thriving?
Others Keep Us From Thriving
We let other people keep us in survival mode. Crazy isn’t it? We let other people control our lives – and they may not even know they are controlling us.
Others could be friends, non-friends, neighbors, family, people at church, co-workers, bosses, teachers, parents, the list could go on and on until we name every single person we know or relationship we have.
We get hung up so often on what others think and we’ve got to stop doing that. Whose opinion matters? God’s opinion matters. Your opinion of yourself matters. I’m not saying that we should totally disregard what others think, but their opinion shouldn’t be the loudest in our heads and hearts. Those opinions shouldn’t hold us back from thriving.
I think we have to be OK with disappointing other people. People are going to hold you to a higher expectation than God does. Have you ever read the New Testament? Have you ever read about those Pharisees? Those are the kind of people I am referring to. People will hold you to higher expectations than even they are willing to assume.
People have not walked in your shoes. Jesus has though. He knows what you’re going through. He get’s you. Listen to Him. We all have hypothetical answers to situations that we have not encountered. We judge others based on what we think we might do in a particular situation, but it’s easy for us to judge, because we’ve never encountered it ourselves. Take yourself out of survival mode when it is based on what others think or do. Worry about what God thinks.
We are afraid to speak our minds or have our own opinions, again as a result of fear of what others might think. We are afraid to act, because someone may not approve. We need to get over that. Disapprovers only get loud when you do things that matter – you have to know that they won’t bother you if you don’t stand up. And a lot of times, we are willing to stand up! I urge to stand up. We could be drowning (surviving) in water that only comes to our waste, but we won’t know it until we stand up!
Don’t give the power to control and ruin your life to people that don’t deserve it. Don’t rely on someone else to provide what it takes to have a life that is thriving. You are in control of your life.
There comes a point when you have to realize that you’ll never be good enough for some people. The question is, is that your problem or theirs? What God knows about you is more important than what others think about you. Life is too short to stress yourself with people who don’t even deserve to be an issue in your life.
Don’t let others keep you from thriving.
We Keep Ourselves From Thriving
Many times we are guilty of keeping ourselves from thriving, too though. That almost sounds stupid doesn’t it? You keep yourself from thriving.
What? Why in the world would we do that? You mean we purposefully keep ourselves in survival mode?
Yeah! We do!
We like to play the victim. It’s so much easier to lower the expectations so we won’t disappoint anyone else or ourselves. I can set my goal for survival and pretty much hit it all day long without even thinking.
Maybe we have given in and just let everyone else control our lives. We let our kids dictate our schedules with their busyness. We let work consume us. We let our friends and their desires overtake our own. We let a few select individuals at church tell us what we should do and believe.
You see the common denominator in all of that though? WE LET! It’s our fault. We are in control of our own lives, yet we give up that control.
We also just fail to act sometimes even when we really believe in something or are greatly moved by something in our hearts.
I know I struggle with what I believe is a strong desire to do something that makes me feel like I am headed towards a life of thriving, yet I don’t act. Sometimes we get caught up in feeling and the feelings are so strong that we get confused and start believing we are actually moving in the right direction, when really, we aren’t moving at all – just feeling.
I feel many different things, but not many things lead me to actually do something.
I feel like I am out of shape – overweight – that doesn’t lead me to action. I’m actually sitting here drinking another can of Mountain Dew while I’m writing. I feel like I should work out – it ain’t happening. I would really like to thrive in this area, I am in control of this area of my life, but I am still in survival mode, just hoping one last cheeseburger doesn’t push me over the edge. Strong feeling and no action. Crazy isn’t it?
You might feel love towards someone, a desire to do something for someone, but it doesn’t always lead us to action.
I feel horrible that billions of people in this world don’t have enough to eat – why don’t I act? Why did I spend more on lunch yesterday than the majority of this world’s population could ever spend in a month on food? I want to help people, but I’m not acting like it.
For some reason I stay in survival mode, even when I have strong feelings about something. To thrive, we must act.
Sometimes we are discouraged before we act, because the problem feels too big for us. Well you know what? Most of the problems we want to solve probably are too big for us, but it’s not too big for God.
I can’t. We talk ourselves out of thriving, before we even get started. But, we have the ultimate thriver on our side.
God is on our side – nothing is too big for Him.
God doesn’t ask us to solve the whole problem, just what we can.
We also stay in survival mode, because we stop focusing on what is truly important. We get caught up in the not-so-important stuff and it distracts us. We allow the Devil to distract us even with other good things, but not the important things. Again, WE LET.
It so much easier to just not react at all.
We’ll be disappointed by people, we’ll disappoint ourselves, so let’s just not do anything. Even if we have a desire to thrive.
Maybe it’s too hard. Maybe it seems impossible. Everything was impossible – until someone did it. Scaling Mt. Everest was impossible – until someone did it. Sub 4-minute miles were impossible – until someone did it.
We have lots of excuses – other people, us, evil in the world, time, money, blah, blah, blah…
So, we continue to survive when we could have moved onto living a life that is thriving. It’s all in our control.
I’ve decided to break this article down into five “smaller” daily articles this week, and not just because my wife hates it when my articles get so long, like usual. 🙂 I don’t want to give you, too much to chew on at one time so that you choke and feel paralyzed to act or change. So, we’ll take it in smaller bites. This one will be a little longer of course, because it has the introductory sections that you just read above, but stick with me – I want you to live a life of thriving!
We’re going to cover five areas in our lives that need to go from survive to thrive…
For today, we will talk about family. Check back tomorrow for another article.
Our Families Need to Thrive
If you are a “typical family,” husband and wife, with a couple of kids – you’re probably in survival mode most of the time. Maybe the only time we come out of survival mode, when we have children, is when life forces us to. When life reminds us that surviving isn’t what we were made for – our lives were meant to have a thriving purpose.
As I am writing this, my wife literally just sent me a text a few minutes ago telling me that a girl that is in my son’s 5th grade class, that we have been praying for with friends and as a family, died last night from cancer. Our son has known her since they were in kindergarten together.
I cannot imagine the pain her parents have been going through this last year and the roller coaster of emotions they are going to experience this week. I am praying for their family, and I ask that you please do the same. I am confident that this young lady served a purpose and inspired and reminded a lot of people about what is truly important in life. Her family has been going through a lot of survival lately, but they have also taught us some crucially important lessons about thriving, too. Life has a cruel way of reminding us about what is truly important when we lose focus.
I have less than 5 years left with my daughter before she goes away to college. I am starting to panic. I have spent 14 years with her – mostly just surviving. We have had our thriving moments as a family, but to be honest, I have just been trying to keep her fed, in school, and going to church most of the time she has been alive. My son is only 10, but I am already feeling the same pressure of time coming quickly with him, too.
I hope I am not, too late. I hope that I can get out of survival mode with my family.
What does it mean to thrive as a family?
It’s not about how many times we’ve been to DisneyWorld (the crappiest place on Earth). It’s not about how big our house is or isn’t. It is not about what school my kids go to or what electronics they get to play with. That is not thriving. In fact those are some of the main reasons that we have just been surviving. The more we spend, the more we get trapped in the hamster wheel of survival.
Thriving is about making lasting memories, together. Thriving is about learning life lessons, together. Thriving really is about quantity and quality time, together. Are you seeing the theme with this one, too? TOGETHER!
Thriving as a family is largely about God and how our family shines His light. Have we had some thriving moments as a family, spiritually – absolutely. Do I have more to do – you better believe it. The thriving moments are too few and too far between.
I am the head of my house and my responsibility is to help my family thrive spiritually. My responsibility is to help my family see God. I want to thrive together as a family.
We need to be teaching our children about the loving God we serve. I spent a lot of the years of my youth being afraid of God. I hope I am not projecting the same image of God on my children that I grew up focused on. I never really saw God as loving, even though that is the story of the Bible (even in the Old Testament). We need to help our families see the God that wants them to thrive with Him, because He loves them.
We need to live spiritual purposeful lives with our families. I know we say God is the priority in our lives, but would you ever be able to tell it based on my day to day living and what I emphasize with my family? What about in your life?
We need to teach our families what is truly important in this life – it isn’t about college, and work, and money, and stuff. It’s about serving others, pleasing God, and loving one another. That’s it – that’s what a thriving life as a family is made up of.
I really don’t care what college my kids go to. I don’t care if they ever become rich, famous, or successful in business. I don’t even care if they have an easy life financially. I care that my children become Christians and serve God faithfully their entire lives. That will bring more joy to me than anything else. That’s it! That’s a successful thriving family. A family that is focused on God.
This life is too short – we need to spend time as a family preparing to serve our Father in Heaven for eternity. That’s what matters.
Matthew 22:36-39 says, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
You want to know what a thriving family looks like – that’s it – love God, serve God, love man, serve man.
Love God and love your neighbor, as a family.
Who is your neighbor? Man, it’s weird how this works out sometimes, right? Just yesterday, I heard an excellent sermon from Ben Hall on who my neighbor is from Luke 10:25-37. If you get some time, please give it a listen – you and your family.
Friends, we have got to take control of our families and live intentionally. We are in control. We have no one else to blame. We should be thriving in this world and we can! Stop the survival act, live purposefully and thrive as a family! Love God and love your neighbor, together, as a family.