Striving vs. Living

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Strive: 1. To make efforts; to use exertions; to endeavor with earnestness; to labor hard; applicable to exertions of body or mind. (Merriam Webster Dictionary 1828)

I think that I have spent a good part of my life striving – striving to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good wife, a good mother, a good neighbour, a good friend, a good employee, a good member of society, a good church member. I definitely strove to be a “good” Christian. I worked VERY hard at trying to please God – at least, striving for what I thought would please God.

Unfortunately, I never felt like my striving was enough – for anybody – especially God. The more I strove the more defeated and condemned I felt. The more striving I did, the less living I enjoyed.

This inner conflict was made worse by the fact that I was attending, what I now realize was, a very legalistic church. My “spiritual” life at that time seemed to be made up of a lot of “can’t do this” and “shouldn’t do that’s”. One would think that as a type “A” perfectionist personality, that type of living, all kinds of black and white rules, would suit me well. In reality, all it did was make me ever more conscious of the fact that, no matter how hard I  strove, I couldn’t do any of it on a consistent basis. That made me feel like there was no way I would ever be “good enough” for God, which in turn caused me to feel condemned and defeated. I eventually left that denomination.

My first breakthrough in this battle came after pouring out my concerns to a pastor from a home fellowship that I had started attending. He advised me that when I read the Bible, to take any verse that described who and what we are , and what we have in Jesus Christ, and make it personal and put “I am” into the verse.

For example:

Rom 3:24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; 

To get that into my thick skull, I would insert “I have been” justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;

Note to self – I have been justified (made righteous before God) by God’s grace through my faith in Jesus Christ, NOT by my striving to be good enough!

Romans 6: 1-14 talks about the fact that when we accept Jesus Christ, we share in his death and resurrection. Spiritually, this means that :

Rom 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 

Note to self – because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I share in his death and I am freed from sin – NOT by striving to obey rules and regulations.

Col 2:10 And you are complete in Him,

Note to self – I am complete (made full and perfect) in Jesus Christ, NOT by my striving to do everything perfectly.

I read and re-read these truths over and over again until The Truth of them took hold deep inside of me. Now I no longer walk around with the burden of striving to be good enough for God.

Although I was no longer under the bondage of guilt and condemnation for my sins, I remained under bondage worrying that I wasn’t doing enough for God. I kept hearing the verse from Matthew in which Jesus tells his disciples to “go and teach all nations…”. I would feel inadequate and guilty every time I heard a message about evangelism.

I involved myself in a wide variety of volunteer community service organizations as well as church ministry. I found that I loved teaching the rightly divided word of truth to believers but was very uncomfortable with approaching unbelievers with the gospel – no standing on street corners waving signs for me!

A personal crisis changed my life dramatically and everything that I had been striving to do for God was lost in the aftermath of the storm. I was left feeling COMPLETELY  useless in the Kingdom of God as well as in my own world. I REALLY struggled with a HUGE feeling of having no purpose in life – mine or God’s. I felt cast adrift with no sense of direction. I kept thinking “what is the point of life in this world if I am not using mine to serve God and humanity”??? For me, life without a worthwhile purpose, has no purpose at all.

I received a breakthrough in this struggle after participating in a group study of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life

Through that study I discovered the truth that the main purpose for my life was to have a close and loving relationship with my Heavenly Father, my Abba. This is something that I am able to do 24/7, whether or not I am attending church, carrying out ministry or volunteer work, or just staying at home.

I must confess though, that because I am a “do-er” type of person, and because I know the great need of this world and have a sense of urgency, I can still struggle with the feeling that I need/should be “doing” more. But I try to allow God to be the one to open up opportunities for ministry rather than me “chasing” them. I also try to remember to “bloom where I am planted”, which at this time, is looking after my beloved husband, and “being there” for my sons and mother, all of whom are struggling with various life’s challenges.

Now, instead of always feeling like I need to be constantly striving to carry out some sort of “work” for God, I spend much more time enjoying living with Him – no matter what I am doing.

I pray that you experience the freedom in exchanging striving for living.

 Joh 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 

Php 4:7 And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

 

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