You’re Not Thriving

You’re Not Thriving
Written by Liz Smith
 

That’s what my pastor said to me as I sat across the table from him one afternoon in his office. His question to me had been – “How do you think you’re doing in life?” and my quick response was “I function very well.” Thank you! I was super proud of that answer. Life had been hard and I thought functioning was good…much better than NOT functioning. But as soon as those words came out of my mouth, he was waving his index finger up at me as he leaned across the table saying “but you’re not thriving.” What? Who does this guy think he is telling me I’m not thriving? Doesn’t he know what I’ve been through? Geez Louise! Thrive? (Note self – find out what it means to thrive). So, I just stared out the window because I really had no idea what he was talking about, and no clue how to respond.

 

 

I don’t think any of us get out of this life without some hard times. But how do we deal with them when they come, and where do we place our focus? Children who experience trauma deal differently because they have have not learned coping skills. They can carry some long-term effects into adulthood, which makes living life to it’s fullest very difficult. That was me.

That meeting with my pastor was the beginning of my journey to thriving. I knew enough to know that something in me had to change, but didn’t know how or what. I had experienced so much hurt and loss and abuse throughout my life that I could not think or see clearly. I was in a fog. All of that early trauma manifested itself in insecurity, self-hate, neediness, and a need for approval (to name a few). I honestly did not know that there was more to this life than just surviving. I mostly just lived in a constant state of fight-or-flight. I couldn’t breathe. I had my guard up and all I could do was survive each day as I waited for the next trauma to hit (that was my mentality). I knew God. I believed in Jesus – He was already the Lord and Savior of my life. But, to be honest, I felt a little like maybe He had forgotten about me…maybe He was too busy…or maybe this was just the fate of my life and I simply had to endure it until it was my time to go to Heaven.

I cannot tell you the exact sequence of events that transpired over the years, but God started doing His miraculous work in me one little fix at a time. I had so many misconceptions about God. I didn’t understand Him. I didn’t trust Him. Yes, you read that right…I did not trust God to take care of me. I did not think God loved me. I begged Him constantly to help me feel His love – to know that He was there for ME! I was angry with God because He allowed so much pain and trauma to happen to me. I was angry that I had to fix the damage caused by others. That’s not fair. It’s really not! But this was my reality, and in order to change (in order to find my way out of that fog), I had to put in the time to heal from those past hurts.

I worked hard. I worked on myself through counseling, and I worked on growing closer to God through church. Slowly, I began to learn who God really is. Sometimes He showed me His love through a friend, sometimes He helped me understand Him better in the lyrics of songs, sometimes He gave me his promises through books, sometimes I had “aha” moments while listening to sermons, and sometimes He showed me healing through more pain (weird, I know. However, more healing came as I unraveled repressed memories of my past in counseling). God had a purpose and a plan for every step I took on this journey. It was truly a miraculous process.

I learned that God has some big shoulders – that He could take my anger and questions that I threw at Him. I learned that opening up and being vulnerable with God, myself, and trusted friends, led to years of burdens being lifted off my shoulders. I learned that God really does love me and that

GOD IS GOOD!

His love and goodness were things that I had to learn. It was really difficult for me to fully grasp and believe that was true for me, but once those realities started sinking in, life changed.

So, what does it mean to thrive? Well, I looked it up in the dictionary and found synonyms like flourish, and succeed and shine! I agree with all those. But, I can best describe thriving as loving the life I have been given – including all the bad! It means knowing that I have value and worth – that I am truly worth loving! It means trusting that He will provide all my needs in His time – I have a peace and a calmness where once there was panic and chaos. Do I think these things and feel them perfectly all the time? Noooooo! But I know this wonderful God of mine can ease my worry when I start trying to do it my way instead of with Him (when I can’t get out of my own head).

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. John 10:10 ESV God won!

I thought I was fine – functioning – but I was missing out on life and relationships and joy…I was not living – I was waiting to die.

Hmmmm….seems like my pastor did know a thing or two (insert winking emoji).

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m still working on this thriving thing. I’m not there yet (not sure we can ever get completely there this side of Heaven), but I’m so much better than I was. I don’t get derailed as often when the uncertainties of life hit, I don’t have full blown panic attacks when I feel out of control, and I don’t feel worthless and insecure and needy like I once did. I don’t just wander aimlessly through life waiting for the next “shoe to drop.” God has used different people and different circumstances at various times in my life to change me from the inside out (He still does). Setbacks happen, but I don’t stop! I don’t stop seeking God and His wisdom, I don’t stop learning about life. I don’t stop looking at all situations as moments in time where God is at work.

Casting Crowns has a great song called…you guessed it… THRIVE! We were made for so much more…


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