Welcome I had never given much thought to the word “striving” until recently. This word just seems to be popping up everywhere in my life–songs, books, Bible verses, and casual conversations. So I set out to gain a better understanding of the word, to be informed for when I should be striving and when I should not. Thank you for joining me today.
Food For Thought I have always been very goal-oriented, a planner by nature. I thought the act of “striving” was simply part of my personality type and necessary to make my life work. But I started to question this belief once I listened to the lyrics of the song By Your Side, by Tenth Avenue North. This wonderful song opens with the lines, “Why are you striving these days? Why are you trying to earn grace?” and followed by, “Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?” The words left me pondering pretty much the entire decade of my thirties. If I’m going to be honest with you, and myself, I have spent the past ten years of my life striving. Striving for recognition. Striving for the “perfect family.” Striving for success in my career (in education). Striving to look better. Striving to keep up with co-workers or extended family members. Striving to be a better, more spiritual person. Striving to find peace and joy, but looking in the wrong places. All the striving left me feeling worn out, disappointed, and spiritually empty. With all of this striving, why am I not reaching my goals?
Let’s start by taking a look at the definition of the word striving, or to strive. Oxford Dictionaries defines striving as “making great efforts to achieve or obtain something.” It can also mean to struggle or fight vigorously. Synonyms for the word include aim, aspire, seek, or venture. By definition, striving is not a bad thing or necessarily a negative behavior. Many times in life we have to make “great efforts” to achieve or obtain something. I was striving to obtain my education degree 20 years ago. Many kids, and adults, strive to finish any education program. It’s not easy and it takes effort. Likewise, I strive to have a good marriage and I strive to be a good mother. Achievements that I consider both important and rewarding, but at the same time, not without hard work. Putting forth effort to reach a goal or make an accomplishment is not a bad thing. I would even argue that it’s necessary. We have tried to help our daughter learn that just because something doesn’t come easy, doesn’t mean it’s not worth working for, whether it be her equestrian sports, academic skills, or learning photography. But there is a flip-side to this coin of striving.
When I think back to how hard I was striving to find peace and happiness, I realize how much I missed because I had become too goal-oriented. Please don’t misunderstand, goals are a wonderful part of life. But I made the mistake of thinking I couldn’t be happy until I obtained what I was striving for, whether it was a goal weight, a magazine-worthy home, or a “spotless” Christian lifestyle. Well, I can tell you right now, striving for perfection will leave you empty and depressed. That is probably the best lesson I have learned in my forty-year life. I wish I could also tell you that I am completely over my perfectionism (read more at A Recovering Perfectionist), but in certain circumstances, I still succumb to striving for better or more or perfect.
Here’s the other great lesson I have learned: I don’t really need to strive. Goals, achievements, and success make life interesting and enjoyable. For some of these, there is a logical series of steps to complete, such as obtaining necessary degrees for a desired career. But when I think of striving, I think of putting all my efforts into something with the idea that I’m in control of all aspects of the situation. I think of working harder and longer with a single focus. I think of missing out on the trees of happiness because I’m so focused on the forest of success. I think of finding my joy and peace in places other than the Heavenly Father. Striving makes me tense, anxious, and stressed out. So instead of striving, I’m going to work hard, pray, and trust. God has an amazing way of helping things work out when we follow these three key actions. And in the midst of these three things, I will allow myself time to be happy and at peace with the journey I am on. Think about it, would you rather strive, or THRIVE?
Today’s Scripture I was looking at “striving” from a more worldly approach in our discussion today. But the Bible does provide text to outline when striving is the right thing to do, in regards to our faith. Here is our verse of the day:
The Bible is clear that we will have to work hard to achieve spiritual “success.” I am particularly interested in the word choice from the NIV translation of Col. 1:29, “strenuously contend.” Here are some additional verses to read about these efforts, and if you are able, I recommend cross-referencing with multiple translations. I found it interesting to find other words or phrases meaning “to strive.”
Luke 13:24; Romans 15:30; Colossians 1:29
Today’s Recipe is for Meatless Monday! After a weekend of family events that left us full of rich foods and sweet treats, I decided my family needed a lighter supper. But lighter doesn’t have to leave your belly with an empty feeling, either! This wrap is packed with filling fiber, from the high-fiber tortillas to the beans to the brown rice. This recipe is great for a simple summer supper or a perfectly packable lunch.
Spinach, Black Bean, and Rice Wraps with Homemade Guacamole (makes 4 wraps)
- 4 high-fiber tortilla wraps (I use Xtreme Wellness wraps available in most supermarkets)
- 1 container jalapeno-cilantro hummus (available at Aldi stores, or you can substitute your favorite hummus flavor)
- 1 8-oz bag baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup brown rice (instant is fine)
- 1 15.5 oz can black beans
- 2 ripe avocadoes
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 lime
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
- 1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
For guacamole, place diced onion and jalapeno in medium bowl. Scoop the insides of two ripe avocado into the bowl. Add juice of half a lime and a teaspoon of salt. Mash and mix with a fork until you reach desired texture. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Set aside. Bring 1 cup of water to boil. Add 1 cup rice and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until rice is tender. Heat black beans over medium heat.
Spread 1-2 tablespoons of hummus on each tortilla wrap.
Place about 2 ounces of baby spinach leaves on each wrap. Top with 1/3 cup rice and 1/3 to 1/2 cup black beans.
Top with guacamole and roll up, burrito-style, for a wrap, or simply fold over to eat taco style.