Alright…raise your hand if you’re thriving! You know, your money’s good, and your hunny’s good. You are quickly checking off those goals for the year. Your plans are on point, and your dreams are becoming reality. You’re blessed in the city, in the country, and in the field. As Rev. Nacho Libre said so succinctly, “My life is good, real good.”
First of all, congratulations! I’m very happy for you! We all love those times of life when our minds are clear, and we have a song in our hearts. The birds are singing, the sky is blue, and they’re having a 50% off sale at Goodwill.
Now…what about those of you who are just surviving? Anybody there? Barely making it, one thing hits right after the other. If it CAN go wrong, it HAS. The blows just keep coming. Your money’s funny, your kids are acting crazy, and your spouse has lost their mind.
Just a reminder, God has you in His hands, and you are going to come out victorious if you put your trust in Him! “We went through fire and flood, BUT GOD has brought us into a place of abundance” (Ps. 66:12). It WILL PASS! It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!
And sometimes, we can thrive and survive in the same day! If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you will know that we are just about always in a trial, coming out of a trial, or about to head into a trial. Why? Because the trying of our faith causes us to persevere and eventually become mature in Christ (Ja. 1:3-4). Thriving and surviving are just two sides of one coin called LIFE. So, it’s very important that we honestly talk about both and know that God uses both thriving and surviving for our good and for His glory!
I just came out of a season of trauma. I mean, yeah, for years I was thriving: planting a great church, working on a new building, losing 25 pounds, holding a successful women’s conference…. But then, survival mode hit me like a Mack truck. Out of nowhere came sickness, death, loss…. Anybody remember that little pandemic called COVID? Political tensions, racial injustice, people leaving the church if you had church services, and people leaving the church if you didn’t have church services. We couldn’t win for losin’. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel, and this time, it wasn’t a train. I got a new word for ’23 – “reclaim,” and I set about climbing out of the hole I had somehow gotten myself into.
I don’t know what you may be going through, but I know this – HE SEES YOU. He knows the dark path that you are on, and He is walking alongside you every step of the way!
But, what happens after the trauma? We all deal with difficulty in different ways, healthy or unhealthy. We have crutches that we lean on in tough times, and we get dependent on them supporting us through our day. However, as we come out of those dark times, we have to “transform our lives by renewing our minds” (Rom.12:2). We can no longer respond to life the way we did in our survival times. That muscle memory that tells us to react the way we have been reacting has to be retrained. “An object at rest will stay at rest.” We have been surviving in a certain way for so long that it takes a powerful retraining of our thought patterns to get us back on a track of growth and progress.
Pain has a purpose in our lives. It strengthens us, humbles us, and postures us at His feet in desperation. But, we must stand strong on the Word of God! Christ is our firm foundation when the wind blows and the rain pounds down on us. I encourage you today to reach out to people you can trust when these difficult situations bear down on you. Don’t walk this path alone. A lot of times, we are under too heavy of a burden to pray and fast as we should, so we need others to carry the load for us. We simply cry out like Peter did as he was sinking under the waves, “Jesus! Save me!”
We have to learn to rename our pain. When Rachel died giving birth, she named their son “Ben-oni,” which meant, “Son of my suffering.” Yet his father renamed him “Benjamin,” which means, “”Son of my right hand.” He determined not to live life constantly reminded of his pain and Rachel’s suffering.
What we did to survive is not what we need to do to thrive. We must reclaim our faith, our voice, our identity. We have to lay off those survival mindsets of, “Oh, if I can just make it through this day,” or, “I feel like a nobody going nowhere.” I believe God is lenient in those times we wallow in self pity, but we don’t want to stay there! God has given us big dreams. We have to stretch ourselves out of the posture we’ve been sitting in for so long and start reaching forward! Don’t let triggers, survival tactics, and coping mechanisms keep you from stepping out in faith! God is not condemning you for what you went through.
Look at the people God used in the Bible for great exploits: Moses, David, Paul. Our low times do not have to keep us from great victories.
Joseph is a great example of thriving and surviving. He was favored. His father spoke words of life over him. He had huge dreams. You know what happened, don’t you? Thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, sent to prison, forgotten. But when his time came, all it took was a quick shower and shave, and he was in the throne room advising Pharaoh and becoming second in the kingdom. In a short time frame, he was able to set aside his survival mechanisms, mindsets and mentality and thrive.
How? He reveals the secret later in his life when his brothers, (the ones who started his season of struggle), came to him for food. When they found out who he was, they just knew he would kill them after what they had done. But, he had learned that to be fruitful and to thrive, he had to forget those awful times of survival. He names his first son “Manasseh,” which means, “to forget,” and his second son “Ephraim,” which means “to be fruitful.”
He renamed his pain when he proclaimed that the “evil” done to him had actually brought about “good” in the lives of so many, (Gen. 50:20). We turn our mess into a message, and our testimony becomes a prophecy that others can make it through, because we did. When we rename our pain and realize that everything that has happened to us is for our good and His glory, then we can truly say we have persevered and grown in our faith.
Stephanie is a passionate Christ follower and Kingdom builder. She and her husband, Jonathan, have ministered all over the world for 35 years and are the founding Senior Pastors of Oasis Church in Austin, Texas. They also just launched a new ministry called OMNI – Oasis Ministry Network International – that is a network providing access to ministry for all. Writing, leading and visioneering are her passions, and her favorite places to be are chilling with loved ones, being outside on a spring day, and leading worship in church. Stephanie just released the 20th anniversary edition of her book My View from the Kitchen Sink, available on Amazon.
This article was originally published in the 2023 Fall Edition of the Destiny Magazine. You can find the online edition here.