I’ve been struggling to thrive lately, pulled in every direction by life’s constant changes. I’m thankful and content one minute, then discontent or afraid the next as I remember all the unknowns and ‘what ifs’ of the new year ahead.
Meanwhile, I keep thinking of the apostle Paul – a man who’d been through shipwrecks, prison, and all sorts of things, yet learned to be content in every kind of situation. I want to learn the same.
What does it mean to thrive when life is good, but my soul is still restless and discontent – hungering for something more? How do I thrive when life constantly fluctuates from one extreme to the next – full of joy and redemption; loss and grief; deep friendship or loneliness, and daunting unknowns? Circumstances are ever changing. I cannot thrive while I’m focused on my surroundings.
When I start grasping for hope and stability in the world around me, I come up short, floundering through every change and disappointment. But when I take my question back to Scripture, Jesus draws my eyes away from my fears and back to himself.
“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Over and over again, I see the same answer: Remember Me. Seek Me first. I am faithful.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk describes a day when the fruit trees will not produce, the crops will fail, and the stables will be empty; nothing is left. In an agricultural society, this could mean starvation. Habakkuk’s basic survival is on the line. And yet his trust in the Lord is so deeply rooted that he can rejoice. Just like the apostle Paul, his eyes are firmly fixed on God, above his circumstances. His hope is not in his surroundings, but in the God who shaped the earth and put breath in his lungs.
This begs the question, where is my hope? Can I look beyond today’s uncertainty and rejoice in the God who holds the entire earth together? Whether today brings laughter, tears, or exhaustion, it makes all the difference to stop and remember whose world we’re in. What is it worth to depend on our own strength or the outlook of our circumstances? God is the one who puts breath in our lungs and sustains us moment by moment. He sees us, He cares, and He holds each situation we face.
Rachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.