Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


Thriving: When Just Surviving is Not Enough

Oct 20, 2015

It was one of my most embarrassing moments.

Like you, I had laughed when I saw this video of a woman who had fallen into a mall fountain while texting. Then, just a few weeks later, I was walking in downtown Phoenix with some friends (including my wife) on our way to see a baseball game. As we hurried to make it by first pitch, I wasn’t watching where I was going…and I was texting at the same time.

I walked right into a fire hydrant!

thriving - fire hydrant

Photo Credit: zozolka via Compfight cc

Miraculously, I caught myself before I ate it into the pavement and my phone remained intact. The only thing I shattered was my pride. Now, if someone I know does something stupid while texting, I do my best not to judge. Been there, done that, I’m no better!

We all have moments like my encounter with that fire hydrant. Maybe you’re strong-willed and can resist the urge to text while doing something else. But we’ve all made fools of ourselves and shattered our pride. If we’re honest, we’re all a mess. None of us are perfect; in fact, we’re far from it.

Social Media and Failure

Sadly, social media makes our failures much easier for others to see. And everyone gets an opportunity to comment on our worst moments. Just this weekend, a punter for the University of Michigan experienced the worst of humanity when his mistake turned the outcome of a football rivalry game with Michigan State University.

Knowing how we could be hurt, we are tempted to put on a show – online, at church, and many other places. We edit our posts, filter our pictures, tweet only the best phrases, and share our best moments. But when we feel safe enough to drop the mask and pause the show, we admit to others our brokenness, insecurity and struggles.

How do we make the shift from living with masks and filters to living vulnerably and courageously?

I believe the shift looks like moving from surviving to thriving.

From Surviving to Thriving

When faced with scary options and overcome with fear, we often move into “survival mode.” We hunker down and move forward, convincing ourselves this way of life is “just for a season.” While we often simply survive for a season or an important reason, we were not made to survive. We cannot endure an unending season where we are simply surviving.

I love how Jon Foreman says it Switchfoot’s song “Thrive,” when he sings, “I wanna thrive not just survive.”

I was recently asked to officiate the memorial service of an older man in my church. I am good friends with his son and grand-daughter and I spent some time with this man as well. He left a legacy of generosity and service in our church. While I knew it would be a sad celebration, I was pretty nervous because this was my first memorial service to officiate.

As I was thinking about a passage of Scripture to read to begin my message, I was drawn to the words of Psalm 1, verses 1-4. These words summed up this man’s life as I observed it and others recounted it to me.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

When I look at this Psalm, I see what takes us to a place where we are living in survival mode.

Survival Mode

We stop thriving and begin surviving when we…

-Listen to the wrong voices. The writer of Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.” It is imperative that we listen to the right voices because who we listen to will shape who we become. Consider this question – whose voice is loudest in your life? If that person’s life and character do not match where you are, then you can switch from surviving to thriving by tuning in to someone different.

-Walk with evil and selfish people (“nor stands in the way of sinners”). It is impossible to avoid contact with people whose intentions are selfish and destructive. But we do not have to spend the majority of our time with them, nor do we have to orientate our direction in sync with theirs. Someone once said that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If that’s true, what does that say about you?

-Speak and judge with cynicism and condemnation towards others (“nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”) My friend refers to this place (the seat of scoffers) as the head table in the cafeteria. Think back to your days in high school. Who sat at the “head table” at lunch? Were they the most humble, generous, selfless folks you knew? Or were they arrogant, indulgent, self-absorbed?

Our battle with fear, insecurity, and masks is exacerbated by the people whose actions and attitudes drive us deeper into habits that look more like survival mode than thriving. It seems the voices we listen to, the people we walk with, and the attitude we choose matter more than we realize.

When we stop thriving, we miss out on the life we were created to live.

Thriving Mode

Well, if those 3 areas are NOT thriving, then what is?

The writer gives us a charge and a picture.

He says (speaking of the blessed man), “his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.” Thriving is completely dependent on our responses and attitudes regarding what happens to us. What we focus and fixate on determines the level of thriving we experience. I call this “reframing.” I once wrote, “reframing doesn’t change our experience; reframing changes our perception of our experience.” The writer of the Psalm calls us to reframe life through lens of God’s PLAN and how God has created the world to flourish.

The writer then moves to painting a picture of a tree that is thriving and flourishing. Planted near a river, it is nourished by the water, bearing fruit. It does not wither; instead, it prospers.

Earlier, I shared the image of “surviving”, which involved listening to the wrong voices, walking with evil and selfish people, and speaking and judging with cynicism and condemnation towards others.

I wonder if this tree is a picture of “thriving”, where we…
-listen to the right voices
-walk with generous and unselfish people
-speak with hope and humility to others

The difference between surviving and thriving is the voices we listen to, the people we walk with, and the attitude we choose.

Thinking about Carl’s memorial service, I’m reminded of the brevity and power of life. We shouldn’t waste it. Like Switchfoot, I don’t want to just survive, I wanna thrive! And I believe you do too. 

Your life today is a gift. May you thrive in it!

If you struggle to think outside of survival mode, I wrote a post about a chart that helped me make this shift from a survival mindset to an abundant, thriving one.

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