From Striving to Thriving

Blog – July 1, 2015

From Striving to Thriving!

What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?    Ecclesiastes. 2:22

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God has been putting a word in my heart over and over the last few months…striving. He keeps showing me that all the striving I’ve been doing is not what He is asking me to do. One definition of striving is to “try hard,” which I believe we are all called to work hard and try to give the best in all we do. Another definition of striving, however, is to “compete.” That’s where I run into trouble. Sometimes what I try to pass off as working hard is actually competing…trying to be the best! I don’t usually have a clear picture of who exactly I’m competing with, but I know usually it’s myself. I tend to set the bar very high, and it’s typically just out of my reach. There’s always one more goal to achieve, one more gig to get, and one more mountain I want to climb.

If you’re an overachiever like me, you’ve realized the striving never ends and never gives any sense of satisfaction. Doing more and filling schedules to overflowing only makes us irritable and unforgiving when things like I talked about last week get in our way, things like blown tires and rainy days.

I love how the Bible gives us direction on this issue. King Solomon is said to be the wisest man who ever lived, and here’s what he has to say about striving. “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23. He doesn’t pull any punches and flat-out says that striving is meaningless. God is not impressed with our constant activity.

Solomon goes on in the next chapter to say, “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:9-13

The words that jump out at me are, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” So often the striving that I go through is caused by me running ahead of God’s will. Instead of patiently waiting for things to happen in God’s perfect timing, I think if I work “that much harder” it will come to pass quicker…in my timing! That kind of pushing and clawing and scraping only leaves me exhausted. Suddenly my work becomes all about me and I lose focus on the truth that the fruit of my labor is truly a gift from God.

So how do we find satisfaction in all our toil? How do we go from striving to something so much better…thriving? I think for me it’s going to involve a whole lot of letting go of my own agenda and focusing on God’s agenda. The time I’ve spent in solitude and silence that I talked about last week has already given me a sense of peace I haven’t felt for quite some time. I know I have a long way to go, but it’s been wonderful to simply spend time alone with my Heavenly Father…not “doing” anything but simply “being” in His presence. There’s a huge difference between those two little words.

I’m hopeful that as I dig deeper and deeper into this truth and move farther away from striving and closer and closer to thriving that I will unwrap God’s gift of satisfaction in all my toil that Solomon talked about. I pray you will join me on this journey from striving to thriving!

~ Jill

Heavenly Father, forgive us for keeping so busy. You have not put us in this world to do, but to be people who let your light shine through us to touch others. Busyness does not win others for Christ. Taking time to pray and witness to others does. Those are the moments that matter. Show us how to move from striving to thriving. In Your precious name we pray, Amen.

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