The Secret to Thriving Instead of Striving

What if you knew you were acceptable right now, just as you are, and lived like you knew it? Did you just start making a mental list of all the ways you miss the mark, fall short, and fail to achieve what you think you should. That’s what we do when we believe what the world says. So, how can we know with certainty we are good enough, and thus quit striving to measure up?

A shift in our thinking unlocks the secret to thriving instead of striving. My friend Marian is a real-life example of someone who has discovered the secret and in the process impacted the lives of hundreds of children in her town. 

Poured Out But Not Drained

During her Lenten journey of 2013, Marian worshiped God through the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Throughout Lent, Marian fasted from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning.  She was overwhelmed by both her physical and emotional response.  While she relied on God to sustain her during those times, she felt called by him to empathy and action. Marian responded by starting a non-profit to help feed hungry kids in her hometown of Frisco, Texas.

In the months that followed, she devoted countless hours transforming Frisco FastPacs from idea to reality. She labored to get volunteers involved, acquire donations of food and money, as well as navigate the logistics necessary to get bags of food into the backpacks of needy kids. Without that food, those kids likely wouldn’t eat between lunch at school on Friday and breakfast at school on Monday.

All of this was outside Marian’s comfort zone and required a leap of faith. It was not only physically grueling, but it demanded emotional, psychological, and spiritual exertion as well.

As we talked about her adventure of stepping out on faith in response to God’s call on her life, she said, “There is such a difference between being poured out and being drained.”

She isn’t doing all of that hard work to earn God’s love and acceptance. Rather, she knows her cup is so full of his love that she can’t help but pour it out to share with others. She believes God and lives like she believes him! That, my friends, is the secret to thriving!

I hope Marian’s story inspires you to stop striving and start thriving! But since we need more than just inspiration, we need some practical information to discover how we rest in the knowledge we are good enough.

Believe God

Notice I didn’t say believe in God. That, alone, won’t do it. We must believe what he says about us. We are acceptable to him, not because of our efforts, but because of what Christ did on our behalf.  If we accept that and live out of that truth, we will rest from the grind that results from thinking we have to do enough to be enough. Unfortunately, too many of us tend to strive, when God wants us to thrive.

Striving is Draining!

When we think our efforts are what make us loved and accepted, we chain ourselves to the treadmill of toil. There is always something more we must do, some way in which we must improve in order to earn the love and acceptance we crave. Despite constant exertion, we never seem to be any closer to our goal: love and acceptance. It’s draining!

The problem with this way of thinking (aside from  ignoring the revealed truth of God) is we have the steps out of order and the shoe on the wrong foot. We think our accomplishments lead to acceptance which leads to love. But, with God, it goes like this: his love led to his accomplishment on the cross, which made us acceptable.

He loved us so much he sent his son to do what was necessary to make us acceptable. Accept that and rest, knowing when he looks at you he sees Christ’s righteousness. (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Want more verses about this? click here.)

Don’t Strive. Believe and Thrive!

Believe what he said is true. In the Bible, belief is so much more than intellectually knowing something is true. It is living like you know it is true. When we do, we flourish rather than fail.

When we respond out of the confident knowledge we are accepted through Christ, our efforts transform from acts of striving into acts of thriving worship.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:1-2, NLT

I purposefully made that reference link to the full chapter on because I think it is important for you to read the rest of that chapter. It helps us understand how we thrive rather than strive. Go ahead, click over and read it. I’ll wait.

Paul described how important it is for believers to live out of God’s reality rather than the distortions of this world. When we believe God’s truth, our effort is transformed into worship.

If you read Romans 12, you probably noticed it was one big, long call to action. But did you also notice, everything we do is a response to God’s grace and mercy. Our efforts are not to gain his love, but instead, are in response to believing he loves us.

I pray we would believe God and live like we believe him!

Your turn: How have you experienced being poured out versus drained? OR What makes it easier for you to believe the world on this issue rather than believe God? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Pete A.

    For our 2 kids, the biggest part of the answer has been helping a ministry that reminds me much of Marian’s, except that Melissa’s is helping orphans in Africa. For my wife and I, it’s partly getting ready to encourage more people to do that sort of ministry through the book I’ve been writing, and partly through working on being able to help ministries like that more ourselves. It HAS been thrilling to see how God’s moved that closer step by step. That’s where our heart is.

    • It is thrilling that God invites us to participate in His activities of bringing His kingdom and His will to be present on earth as it is in Heaven. Thanks for sharing how you and your family are being poured out.