It has taken having a kid for me to realize how much of my life has been characterized by striving. I’ve piled obligation after obligation onto my plate, and I’ve taken great pride in staying true to my commitments.
And there’s nothing wrong with having ambitions and dreams. But if they lead to mere striving and grinding, then maybe it’s time to take stock of what matters.
I’m just now realizing that I would rather thrive with less than to strive and have more.
I’ve lived much of my adult life squeezing as much as I can out of every minute and it’s pretty exhausting. In my attempts to balance all of the things, I’ve missed out on building meaningful relationships, enjoying unscheduled minutes, or experiencing spontaneous days to just have fun.
God has designed us to thrive as we stay connected to him and others. So why are we so set on striving to make something of our lives?
Here are a few things to consider as you aim to live a life of thriving instead of mere striving.
1. Focus on what matters.
Every now and again we need to step back, look at our lives, and see what matters the most. If you were to map out how your time is spent in a week, do most of your activities fall into the category of things that matter?
Many of us spend way too much time on things that aren’t incredibly important and less time on the very things that matter most to us.
Managing time isn’t an easy thing, at least for me. Because I want to do everything. And if I don’t do everything, then it feels like a lost opportunity. But for those of you out there that fear missing any opportunity, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to let it go if it doesn’t fit into the category of most important.
It might pain you to turn down an opportunity, because it feels like lost potential. But to accept every single opportunity is only a life of striving. Thriving looks a lot more like understanding what’s important in life and trusting that God will care for you.
You can do anything. But you can’t do everything. So focus on what matters most.
Our attempts to strive day-in and day-out lead to counterproductive results. We think that at the other end of striving we are going to experience joy and fulfillment. But instead, most of us end up with some success along the journey, but also lots of exhaustion, and many missed opportunities to focus on what matters most.
2. Let go of some stuff.
As you analyze what’s most important, you’ll quickly come to the realization that something has to give. In order to thrive you have to let go of some stuff. What you need to let go of might be physical, emotional, or mental.
Jesus once explained to a rich man that in order to inherit eternal life, he needed to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. For this man to invest in what really mattered he needed to let go of what didn’t really matter.
Now Jesus isn’t instructing everyone who follows him to be poor or to never own anything. But the main focus of what Jesus says about pursuing earthly greatness is this.
“But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” (Mark 10:31)
Our striving towards the things on this side of eternity won’t be all that important later on. So we should put the majority of our time, energy, and resources towards the things that will last. To really thrive, you have to let go of things that are not as significant as the things that truly matter.
This isn’t an easy ask.
We often see what’s in front of us as the most important. It’s hard to let opportunities pass us by or to decline a commitment that doesn’t fit in line with our purpose. People who live a life of striving often fear the unknown of every opportunity they could have pursued.
Realigning your life to what matters might mean letting go of some stuff and that’s okay. In fact, letting go is necessary to live the life of thriving that Jesus intends for you.
3. Know the difference between striving towards things that don’t matter and thriving in things that do.
Eliminating all effort in life isn’t thriving either. We ought to wholeheartedly pour our lives into certain things–the things that are most important.
And Jesus is actually pretty clear about what should be most important in our lives–him and other people. Now how you go about doing that is the part that requires wisdom and guidance.
Investing into your relationship with Jesus is of most importance. If something else that you’re striving toward pulls you away from him, then that’s a problem. No matter how good that thing may be.
I have been convicted of this more and more everyday. I love writing for Her & Hymn. But sometimes it seems to be a bigger priority for me than my time with God. My desire, love, and sometimes obligation to write should never take precedent over my relationship with Jesus. If somehow I can find time to sit down and write, then I need to be able to find time to spend with Jesus.
Our efforts need to be placed in the right area. We also need to be willing to check ourselves every once and awhile. What might have started off as something good and worthwhile to invest in might quickly turn into mere striving.
Jesus never desires for us to hustle and strive for everything in our lives. Usually our desire to strive for success, to make a name for ourselves, to earn a certain amount of money, is based out of fear that God won’t provide. It’s really rooted in a lack of trust.
A life of thriving is grounded in a trust that God will care for you in every way and that he will do it well. And a life of thriving in him will be far better than a life of striving.